Can I Get Spousal Maintenance?

Posted on: 7 mins read
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Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

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If you and your former partner can’t reach an agreement when you divorce, it will be up to the Court to decide if you need spousal maintenance so that you can continue to meet your needs. Alternatively, the Court may decide that this isn’t necessary and that you and your partner could both benefit from an entirely clean break.

A clean break means ending the financial ties between you and your former partner as soon as it is reasonable after your divorce or dissolution. Where there is a clean break, there will be no spousal maintenance payments.

In some cases, there’s enough money to ‘buy out’ a person’s maintenance claim. This is done by calculating an amount of money that the receiving person can be given. They can then invest and receive an income from it, instead of getting maintenance payments.

However, this is a complicated area so if you’re thinking about doing this, it’s important to get advice from a Family Law Solicitor.

A lump sum payment doesn’t have to be paid all at once, although it often is. It can be paid in more than one instalment. For example, a part payment when the court order is made (or very soon afterwards) followed by other payments when the house is sold.

If the court decides that you need spousal maintenance, they will essentially tell your former partner to make regular maintenance payments to help with your living costs. This typically happens if your former partner has a higher income than you do.

Should you choose to opt for spousal maintenance instead however, this is made by way of a regular payment instead. Spousal maintenance can also be referred as a ‘maintenance order’ or a ‘maintenance payment’.

 A maintenance payment can be set for a limited period of time or until one of you either dies, marries or enters into a new civil partnership. Additionally, the payment can also be changed if one of you loses your job or has a significant pay rise through either a promotion or a change in job which pays far better than before.

You might be more likely to get spousal maintenance if you changed the course of your life for your marriage. For example, if you gave up a successful career to stay at home and raise the children. It’s important to know that the Court will always put the children’s best interests first.

The Family Courts in England and Wales usually see the ‘homemaker’ as having just as important of a role as the ‘breadwinner’ so if your divorce is going to leave you struggling with your finances or if your former partner has sufficient assets, the Court could ask them to pay you regular sums of spousal maintenance to top up your income.

You’ll need a Spousal Maintenance Order if the Court decides your former partner should continue to financially support you. If the Court thinks that spousal maintenance isn’t right for you, then it may put a clean break Consent Order in place to cut all financial ties between you and your former partner.

A consent order is a legal document that confirms your agreement. It explains how you’re going to divide up assets, such as pensions, property, savings and investments. It can also include arrangements for maintenance payments, including child maintenance.

You can get legal advice or you can ask a solicitor or divorce specialist to draft a consent order for you. You can ask the court to approve your draft consent order when you apply for your divorce or dissolution, or at any time after that. The consent order will only take effect after you get your final order or decree absolute.

Getting spousal maintenance depends on your situation, so it’s always best to get expert legal advice before you make any decisions or applications. Our expert team of Divorce Solicitors here at Simpson Millar can be contacted for specialist initial legal advice.

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Who Qualifies for Spousal Maintenance?

Everyone’s marriage is different and the Court will consider if you need maintenance based on your own unique circumstances. Some things that the Judge might take into consideration include:

  • How much each of you earn
  • Both your and your partner’s contributions to the marriage
  • Pre nuptial agreements
  • Your mental and physical health
  • If there are children involved - although it’s important to remember that spousal maintenance is very different from child maintenance

If the marriage or civil partnership is short – less than five years – it might not be paid at all or only for a short period. This is called a ‘term order’.

However, where a couple has been together for a long time, or where a former partner is unable to work, it can be paid for life. This is called a ‘joint lives’ basis. It means either until the person paying maintenance or the one receiving it dies. It should be noted however that spousal maintenance on a joint lives basis is becoming more rare.

If spousal maintenance has been granted, it doesn’t necessarily stop if your former partner goes on to live with a new partner without marrying or entering a civil partnership. In these circumstances however, the person paying the spousal maintenance could try to use this as a reason to apply to the courts in order to get the amount reduced.

If you do get spousal maintenance, it’s worth considering insuring the payments. This means that you’ll continue to receive an income if your former partner who is making the payments dies. To do this, either you or your former partner can take out a life insurance policy on their life. It doesn’t need be expensive and the policy can provide a lump sum or monthly payments if they were to die while you were still receiving spousal maintenance.

Our expert team of Family Law Solicitors are experts at handling divorce cases whether there are children involved or if the divorce just concerns both you and your former partner. We can advise you on what you’ll be entitled to from your marriage so that you can prepare for your future whether your former partner is supporting you or not.

How Long Will Spousal Maintenance Be Paid?

Normally when the Court puts a Spousal Maintenance Order in place, it will have a clause saying how long the maintenance should be paid for. Spousal maintenance generally stops needing to be paid when one of the following happens:

  • The person receiving maintenance remarries
  • The person receiving maintenance dies
  • The youngest child of the family turns 18 years old

If you have received a lump payment sum instead of regular payments of spousal maintenance however, you’ll need to consider how to manage these funds and keep them safe.


Unless you already know exactly what you want to do, it’s worth putting the lump sum in a savings account while you weigh up your options. It’s important to keep a ‘buffer’ in your current account or in an easy access savings account to pay for unexpected expenses.


Further Order of the Court

If your circumstances change and you don’t need spousal maintenance anymore, then you or your former partner could request a variation on your Spousal Maintenance Order. However, if your partner remarries, they will still be responsible for paying your maintenance and it’s unlikely that much would change.

It’s important to remember that lifetime maintenance payments are rare and the Court generally puts maintenance in place for a fixed period of time to allow for the person receiving maintenance to become self sufficient.

The Court could leave open the possibility for you to apply to extend the terms of the maintenance payments, for example if you can’t find employment to support yourself. Alternatively, the Court will close off that possibility by stating that you can’t apply to extend the term at the time of your divorce.

Is Spousal Maintenance Taxable?

Spousal maintenance will be paid out of your partner’s already taxed income. This means that you won’t be taxed on any spousal maintenance payments that you receive.

How Much Spousal Maintenance Can I Get?

This will depend on both yours and your former partner’s incomes and what your future needs might be, as well as any earning capacity that you may have.

When you apply for spousal maintenance the Court will ask you to create a schedule of your future financial outgoings, so that it can fairly decide if you need maintenance to keep you financially stable. The Court will also need to consider the standard of living during the marriage and the paying person’s ability to pay.

We can help you complete and submit any forms the Court request from you during the divorce process. We know how legally complex divorce can become when things are up to the Court’s discretion, so it’s important that you seek legal advice from an experienced Divorce Solicitor.

Our Divorce Solicitors can just advise you where you need it or complete all applications on your behalf. And with years of experience, our specialist Divorce experts can support you every step of the way so you won’t have to worry about your finances in your new start.

Our expert team can be contacted on 0808 239 3465 to listen to your circumstances and concerns before providing some initial legal advice to you. Alternatively, you can request a call back by clicking here.


Simpson Millar LLP. (n.d.). Family Law Solicitors. [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

Simpson Millar LLP. (n.d.). Divorce. [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

Simpson Millar LLP. (n.d.). What is a Consent Order in Divorce UK? [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

UK Government. (n.d.). Money and Property When a Relationship Ends: Maintenance Payments. [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

MoneyHelper. (n.d.). Clean Break or Spousal Maintenance After Divorce or Dissolution. [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

MoneyHelper. (n.d.). What is Life Insurance? [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

MoneyHelper. (n.d.). What to Do with a Lump Sum Payment After Divorce or Dissolution. [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

UK Government. (n.d.). Money and Property When a Relationship Ends: Apply for Consent Order. [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

Areas of Expertise:
Family Law

Lorraine is a Partner at Simpson Millar, specialising in Family Law for over 20 years.

She handles middle to high net value cases, including pension claims and complex trust, and also advises on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

Lorraine has unrivalled knowledge of public sector pensions, in particular police pensions, having advised police officers on pension claims for two decades.

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