10-15 years ago the Courts regularly made Orders providing that spousal maintenance should last for ‘joint lives’. This meant that maintenance could potentially be paid until either the payer or the recipient died.
That is not the current approach. Rather, in every case the Court will assess the recipient’s need for maintenance to meet their reasonable income needs and, in every case, ‘must consider a termination of spousal maintenance with a transition to independence as soon as it is just and reasonable. A term should be considered unless the payee would be unable to adjust without undue hardship to the ending of payments. A degree of (not undue) hardship in making the transition to independence is acceptable.’ It is not unusual for the Court to make maintenance orders that last for a defined period of time, such as a few years to give the recipient an opportunity to re-train or until the children complete their secondary education.
When The Supreme Court handed down their Judgment in the case of Mills v Mills on the 18 July 2018. The Court made it clear that a recipient cannot expect a former spouse to bail them out in the event that they make poor financial decisions.
The Court have power to vary maintenance Orders, both in relation to the quantum of payments made and the duration of such payments. A recipient of maintenance on a 'joint lives' basis is at risk that on an application to vary it a Judge could well follow the current judicial trend and impose maintenance for a fixed period instead.
The Courts clearly expect parties to be financially prudent and do what is reasonable so that in due course they can stand on their own two feet.
To read more details of the case here is an article by the Law Society Gazette.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.