I was speaking with a person last week on the telephone and he was rendered speechless when I informed him of his potential liability for spousal maintenance. The fact is that ending a long marriage with children where one party, usually the wife, has stopped working in order to look after the children can become very expensive. This question is, like many problems associated with ending relationships, intractable.
Looking at it from the perspective of the person that is working, it seems unfair that they will have to continue paying for the upkeep of their former spouse even after their children have become adults. This is the substance of a recent story in the Evening Standard titled How Divorcees get a ‘meal ticket for life’ (http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/how-divorcees-get-meal-ticket-for-life-8610478.html).
The matter, however, becomes more complicated when you look at it from the perspective of the person who stays at home. In the early days, whilst a marriage is going smoothly, it is often the wish of the earning spouse to have the other available to maintain the household. When the family is confronted with the day-to-day pressures of raising children and the enormous costs of external childcare it can be an obvious choice for one spouse to stop working. And although we hear of more and more men staying at home it is still predominantly women who stop working or “take a career break”. For many of them these career breaks can be fatal at least to their careers. In all fairness to the legal system the courts have long recognised this situation and have robustly defended the non-financial contributions that the non-earning spouse makes to the family.
As unfair as it seems to the earning spouse to require them to continue to pay maintenance, it is also unfair to leave the non-earning spouse vulnerable following a divorce. When relationships end these are often the most difficult issues to resolve and the most emotionally draining.
The solution starts with what each party needs, usually broken up into housing, income and pension. Once these are established, then whatever is left, often nothing, is divided in as fair a manner as possible, according to the unique circumstances of each family. The Courts do expect the non-earning spouse to re-enter the workforce but, considering the unpaid role she (usually) plays in the raising of the children and maintaining the household, the Court also expects the earning spouse to be obliged to provide a safety net, often in the form of spousal maintenance.
If you feel that any of the above might apply to you now or in the future and would like to talk to someone aboout spousal maintenance then please contact Randal Buckley for expert legal advice and . You can ring Randal on 020 8956 2655 or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.