Spousal Maintenance Changes Some Way Off For Now
The Law Commission, charged with making the law "fair, modern and simple", may publish recommendations that suggest a new 'formula' for spousal support
. Although this is expected, no "immediate statutory change" is anticipated just yet.
Does Spousal Maintenance Have a Time Limit?
The Commission is set to propose that pre-nuptial agreements should become automatically binding in law
, but it's expected they will also produce a separate report with proposals
to limit lifetime maintenance payments.
Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 the court has the power to order periodical payments (maintenance)
from one spouse to the other. This is usually from the bread-winning spouse to the spouse who has acted as homemaker, and has perhaps sacrificed a career to bring up the children of the family
. The court can order such payments to be for a fixed term, for example 5 years, until children reach the age of 18 or for 'joint lives', which is until either the paying or the receiving party dies
. England & Wales have a more traditional approach to spousal maintenance than the rest of Europe. Scotland generally restricts spousal maintenance to 3 years, after which the spouse is expected to be independent
More Research is Needed Before Things Change
The Law Commission paper makes it clear that there was no attraction to the idea of transplanting the Scottish system
into English law. This is due to the potential harsh consequences it could have on women
who were not married to the 'super-rich'. Other countries have only made changes to their laws on spousal maintenance after extensive research – we can assume that this is the type of research needed before changes to the law are made in England & Wales.
There is already variation across the UK
, especially outside of London when it comes to maintenance, for example Manchester is giving more time-limited orders. Prolonging contact through financial means can cause tensions between the parties involved, resulting in resentful husbands, unhappy wives and children that have to live witnessing such damaging emotions. If you believe your split will cause you unnecessary hardship, your solicitor can argue on your behalf that spousal maintenance should be considered
in your case.