Maintenance for a spouse or civil partner is usually paid monthly and part of the overall financial settlement (see Maintenance for children for details of how their needs are met) and is designed to:
- Cover any shortfall between the income (including earning potential, bonuses, dividend, state benefits and from any other source) that one of you has and your needs.
- If there is any income left over after both of your needs have been met, extra maintenance can be ordered if the judge thinks that the person receiving maintenance should benefit from that extra, for example to compensate one of you for giving up a highly paid career to bring up the children.
Maintenance is paid until the first of you dies or for a fixed period of time, which in some cases can be extended. It is variable upwards as well as downwards. For example, it might be increased if the person paying it has a significant rise in income or reduced if he or she loses a job or retires. Maintenance can be reduced if the person receiving it gets a job or increases their own income.
Maintenance automatically comes to an end if the person receiving it remarries. It can end or be reduced if the person receiving it lives with a new partner for a period of time.
A drawback of maintenance is that you have a continuing connection with your spouse or civil partner after you have parted, rather than a 'clean break'.