What is maintenance pending suit?

Very often when a marriage breaks down one spouse will cut off financial support from the other, leaving the less well-off spouse in a perilous financial position.

Obviously, a financial settlement will be obtained in the subsequent divorce proceedings, but this could take many months. How does the less well-off spouse manage in the meantime?

The answer is that they can apply to the court for maintenance pending suit.

As the name suggests, a maintenance pending suit order requires one spouse to pay maintenance to the other for the duration of the divorce proceedings, i.e. until a final financial settlement is ordered.

A maintenance pending suit order can be made at any time after divorce proceedings have been issued.

By its nature a maintenance pending suit application is urgent, and therefore the court considering the application will not go into great detail regarding the means of the parties. Instead, it will adopt a broad-brush approach, concentrating upon the applicant’s immediate needs and the respondent’s readily available income and resources.

The applicant’s needs do not include their legal costs for the proceedings, but the applicant can make a separate application for an order that the respondent contribute towards their costs.

The court will try to make an order that it considers to be fair, and a very important factor in determining fairness will be the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage.

Both parties will be required to make full disclosure of their means, and if the respondent fails to do so then the court is entitled to make ‘robust assumptions’ about their ability to pay. 

If it later becomes clear that the maintenance pending suit order was too high or too low, then an appropriate adjustment can be made in any final financial remedy order.

As indicated above, a maintenance pending suit order comes to an end when the divorce is finalised. However, if the court considers that the maintenance should continue after the divorce, then it can convert the order into an interim maintenance order, which will last until such time as the court makes a final financial remedies order.

If you need to apply for a maintenance pending suit order you should seek the advice of an expert family lawyer, at the earliest possible stage. We can find you an expert that works with you on our digital platform. For more information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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