Financial questions following divorce or the end of a civil partnership – spousal maintenance and clean break settlements

At the end of a marriage or civil partnership, one of the things that have to be looked at is how financial questions are to be addressed. Typically, this will include decisions about houses, pensions, other property, assets and debts. This is a very common topic of discussion in family mediation and at Hampshire Mediation we have extensive experience of working with people to come up with the settlement that is right for them.

Following the end of a marriage or civil partnership, the better-off spouse or partner often makes regular payments known as spousal maintenance to the less well-off partner to help them adjust to their new financial circumstances. Alternatively, they might make a lump sum payment – either all in one go or by instalments – to provide a source of income or to allow the less well-off partner to find somewhere to live. It is usually only paid for a set period, but in certain circumstances, the Court can decide that it should be paid for life.

The payment will end automatically on the death of one of the two individuals, on the receiving person remarrying (although not cohabiting) or on reaching the end of the specified term.

The disadvantage of spousal maintenance is that it maintains a financial link between the two former partners which neither is likely to want and so the Court will usually prefer to make what is known as a clean break order if it is at all possible.

In addition to immediate needs, a divorce does not end the financial relationship between spouses or civil partners unless the Court has approved a clean break settlement. Without a clean break settlement, either spouse could make a claim on the other if, for example, they were to come into a large sum of money or do very well in business. There have been examples of former partners making very significant claims years or even decades after the divorce was declared final because they did not have a clean break agreement approved by the Court.

A clean break arrangement is preferred by the Courts and usually by the individuals concerned, but at Hampshire Mediation we recognise that it is not always practical and so in our family mediation sessions we will work with the participants to determine what the best option is for both parties, and work with them in the mediation sessions to come up with a proposal which is acceptable to them both and which the Court will have no difficulty in approving.