It is periodical payments (usually payable monthly) for a limited period of time while the overall finances are resolved between the parties. Once the finances are resolved MPS then ends and either no order is made for periodical payments due to the capital division, or spousal maintenance is ordered.
Who can apply?
The lower earning party to the marriage.
How do you apply?
By way of a Form A. The Form A can be filed on the same day as the divorce petition, but there must be a divorce petition filed to apply. If you haven’t filed for ancillary relief you may as well apply for that at the same time to save a further application fee.
You will get a court date for the MPS hearing fairly quickly. Both parties have to file a sworn statement of their income and out goings so the court can assess if MPS should be paid.
What is it for?
To meet the short term financial needs of the applicant while the wider finances are resolved.
How does the court decide to make an order?
It simply looks at the income of the receiver and determines if there is a need. If there is, MPS is likely to be paid as a priority over any other outgoings of the payer, especially if there are children and there are housing costs to be paid. It is the rare case when it is not ordered, and only usually when the potential payer is on a low income. The receiver will be expected to have applied for any benefits they are entitled to if not working, and for tax credits if they are.
Should there be an order at all?
In many cases yes, and the court will err on the side of caution of making an order rather than not, as it is a time limited order in any event. The court is very liberal on MPS applications, especially when there are children and the housing costs of the parent with care needs to be met.
As with spousal maintenance there is no formula. The basic calculation is the receiver’s outgoings minus any income he or she receives. If there is a gap there is a need, and that forms the baseline figure. Then one looks to the resources of the payer, and if there is an ability to pay that baseline figure. If so, it is awarded. However, that is not the end of the calculation. One then looks at the lifestyle the parties enjoyed during the marriage. If the payer can afford to pay more so that the receiver can continue to enjoy a similar level of lifestyle, then that will be so. The court adopts a very liberal approach to MPS, particularly as it does not have to balance the calculation against the wider capital division as that comes later.
How long for?
The usual duration is until further order. In effect it is usually until the financial matters have reached a conclusion, when the MPS will become spousal maintenance or be dismissed.
Are there any tax implications?
Very simply, no. The receiver does not pay tax on spousal maintenance received. Until 2000, tax relief was available to the payer, however, this has now been abolished.
You can apply to vary an order for MPS, however, more often than not it is more beneficial to concentrate on settling the overall finances than varying an order which is effectively time limited.
Again, you can apply to appeal an order for MPS, however, given the time it takes and the costs involved, it is again better to focus on resolving the overall finances than appealing a time limited order.
MPS and benefits
Interim Spousal maintenance does Universal Credit, income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit, so one has to consider the wider implications of maintenance on the whole income of the receiver. For the purposes of UC, spousal maintenance is classed as "non-working income".