Frequently Asked Questions
Here we can give you some helpful scenarios which can assist you with some of the more common questions we are asked.
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My wife and I have been married for three years, though we have lived together for 15 years. We separated last month, and I have moved out of our house. We are both 55 years old and have no children together, though we both have adult children from previous relationships. I earn substantially more than my wife, who works part-time.
When I moved out, I agreed to continue to pay the mortgage of £1,000 per month on our house, but now my wife is saying she needs more money. I make £80,000 net per year, whereas my wife earns £20,000 net per year, working three days a week.
We have only been married a short time – do I have to pay her more?
Most likely, you will have to increase the amount of money you are paying your wife, at least while you go through the divorce process and financial matters are being addressed through negotiation (and, if necessary, the Court). The issue of interim maintenance is often a point of contention between a divorcing couple, as where one party earns substantially more than the other, there is understandably a tension between the financial obligations that arise during the marriage, as against the contributions each party perceives that they have made and continue to make to the family.
The Court has a wide discretion generally, with regard to financial orders on divorce. When considering the principle of whether interim maintenance is payable, a number of factors are taken into account by the Court, including the immediate income needs of the parties, the income available for division, and the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage. It is possible for the Court to consider the length of the parties’ marriage as a factor when determining whether and how much interim maintenance should be paid, but in your circumstances, where you have had 15 year cohabitation relationship, the Court would find it difficult to treat your relationship as anything other than akin to a 15 year marriage. Therefore, if you are earning £60,000 more than your wife, it is entirely likely that you are going to have to pay more than the equivalent of £12,000 per year in interim maintenance, to assist her in making ends meet during the divorce process.
There is no strict formula applied by the Court to calculate interim maintenance (or ongoing spousal maintenance generally). However, it is the case, particularly in terms of a 15 year marriage/relationship, that neither party should, alone, have to suffer a significant reduction in the standard of living otherwise enjoyed by the parties during the marriage. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for your wife to live hand-to-mouth, while you continue to enjoy dining out several times a week, for example. The actual figure you have to pay will largely depend on what shortfall your wife finds she has been her reasonable immediate income needs and the amount of money she currently takes home from her employment, as against the surplus of income you have each month, after payment of your reasonable immediate outgoings. What is considered “reasonable” will be by reference to general liabilities, as well as the standard of living of you both. Therefore, it would be unacceptable for your wife to suggest that, although perhaps previously she spent £50 at the hairdresser each month, all of a sudden she now needs to spend £100 per month.
As maintenance, both in principle and in quantum, is case-specific, it is important that you obtain more detailed legal advice, taking account of the entirety of your personal circumstances.