Spousal maintenance is quite separate from child maintenance. When it comes to child maintenance it is usually a simple case of applying the Child Support Regulations and if necessary contacting the Child Maintenance Service (formerly the Child Support Agency). A specific formula is used to assess what amount of child maintenance should be paid and the legislation sets out for how long child maintenance should be paid. Spousal maintenance is quite different.
The starting point for a divorce court when determining how long spousal maintenance should be paid for is whether it should be for a specific period of time. There has been a discernible shift away from maintenance orders being made on a “joint life” basis - in other words for maintenance to have to be paid following a divorce until one of the party dies or the receiving party remarries. A recent case highlighted the situation with regard to ongoing spousal maintenance Wright –v- Wright EWCA Civ 201. In this case the wife in 2008 had originally been awarded an order for maintenance for the rest of her life. She was not working at the time and the then ex husband subsequently applied to court to vary the term of the original order. The subsequent court determined that the maintenance should be for a specific term. It determined that the purpose was for maintenance to be paid during a period of time in which the wife was expected to retrain, gain employment and become self sufficient. In this case the wife was aged 51 years at the time of the decision earlier this year. The court then was not prepared to allow the wife to receive ongoing maintenance for the rest of her life and the term of her spousal maintenance were determined as reasonable at 6 years, this giving her time to readjust.