Why maintenance is no longer for life

Why maintenance is no longer for life

It used to be a given in divorce cases where one party – usually the man – had been the family’s only or main breadwinner that the other party would be awarded maintenance for life. That is no longer the case.

Today, the courts take a needs-based approach to who gets what and for how long. They have a duty to ensure that financial settlements are fair to both parties, and that now means trying to avoid people being inexorably linked to a maintenance order.

Even if one party – again, usually the wife – has not worked, or not worked full-time, during the marriage, there is no reason (assuming they are fit and of working age) why they cannot seek employment. Similarly, just because the marital home was palatial doesn’t mean the wife should expect to move into a capacious property after the divorce.

She might want certain things from a divorce settlement, but courts now consider what she needs. Often these are very different.

Lawyers and the courts are increasingly minded to broker clean-break settlements wherever possible (quite apart, it should be noted, from any arrangements made for children of the marriage). This allows both parties to know where they stand in terms of financial obligation and the realisation of assets. It also makes it easier psychologically for both parties to move on.

Times have changed; the courts’ approach has changed too.