When a marriage or civil partnership fails, the courts use their discretion to decide how a family’s finances and property are divided up. This means that they look at all the circumstances of the case but will put the welfare of the children first.

In particular the courts will look at:

  • The welfare of any children in the family
  • Your respective financial positions now and in the forseeable future
  • The standard of living you each enjoyed during the marriage or civil partnership
  • Your ages and the length of the marriage or civil partnership
  • Any physical or mental disabilities
  • Contributions made or likely to be made to the welfare of the family
  • Conduct if it would be unfair for the court to ignore it but it is very rare for conduct to be taken into account
  • The value of any benefits you would lose on divorce or dissolution of the civil partnership

Maintenance FAQs

I have my Decree Absolute, but the divorce finances have not yet been finalized. What should I be wary of?

Firstly, you are no longer your partners’ spouse, and as such, would normally no longer be entitled to a spouse’s pension or other benefits from a final salary pension scheme. The timing of a Decree Absolute can be crucial, particularly in conjunction with a Pension Sharing Order. You may need to rewrite your Will

My other half is having an affair – will this be taken into account?

The fact that your other half is having an affair will never affect the size of the financial settlement. It is very unusual for any conduct or behaviour to be taken into account and this generally only happens in very exceptional circumstances.

I can no longer afford to pay the maintenance stipulated by our consent order. What can I do?

You can apply for a downward variation of the maintenance. You should explain your change of circumstances to your ex to see whether a variation can be agreed by another ‘consent order’. If not you can apply to the court to decide. You will need to provide the court with full details of the change in your circumstances. You should deal with this as soon as possible in order to avoid accruing large arrears. Be aware, though that on an application to vary maintenance, the court can order that the balance of the maintenance be “capitalised”, meaning that a lump sum may be payable. Your solicitor will advise you on the likelihood of this occurring, before you make the application.

My ex has stopped paying spousal maintenance. What can I do?

Provided you have not remarried, you may be able to apply to the court for an order that your ex pay you maintenance. If your ex is ignoring a court order you can apply for an Attachment of Earnings order so that the money is taken out of his/her earnings at source and paid to you.

What happens to my maintenance payments if my ex spouse dies or becomes ill?

Unless there is provision for you in your ex spouses Will or through their employer’s life assurance benefits, your maintenance will normally cease. Relying on a Will is not watertight as it could be varied. You can take out life assurance on your ex spouse’s life, normally in the form of a Family Income Benefit policy, which would protect your maintenance on death.

There are also critical illness and income protection policies which may be available, as well as specific maintenance protection plans.