Can I claim maintenance from my ex-partner?

The answer is yes, if you were married and no, if you weren’t. Unmarried couples are not entitled to bring a claim for maintenance against their ex in their own right whereas married couples are. This is known as ‘spousal maintenance’.

The Court has the power to make a spousal maintenance order on divorce but has a duty to consider whether a ‘clean break’ is appropriate in all cases. In the event that the Court does make a spousal maintenance order, this will automatically come to an end on the death of either party or the recipient’s remarriage. If you are the party receiving spousal maintenance and are dependent upon it to meet your needs, you can make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 in the event that your ex-partner dies before the period of maintenance has come to an end.

Either party can bring a variation application during the period over which spousal maintenance is ordered. The payment level can be varied upwards or downwards. An application can also be made to extend the term over which maintenance is paid unless there is a specific bar in place. The Court will assess how much maintenance should be paid and over what term by analysing both parties’ incomes from all sources against their outgoings. The court will look at if there is any shortfall between income and outgoings that needs to be bridged by the payment of maintenance as well as any surplus income over outgoings of the paying party.

Child maintenance is different. Every parent has a duty to maintain their children financially and upon separation, the non-resident parent has a child maintenance obligation. Child maintenance is dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service (“CMS”) in most circumstances, although there are exceptions For example, child maintenance that is agreed as part of an overall financial settlement and which is expressed in a consent order although please note that either party can opt out of the arrangement twelve months after the order is made and approach the CMS for an assessment. The CMS does not have the power to recover child support if the paying party is living abroad. Child maintenance through the CMS is based on a statutory formula, i.e. a percentage of the non-resident parent’s income depending on how much they earn, how many children they have and how often the children stay with them.

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