Interim maintenance, also known as maintenance pending suit, is a monthly sum of money which is payable by one spouse or civil partner to the other on a short-term basis, until a permanent financial settlement is agreed. Maintenance payments can either be agreed between the parties themselves or ordered by a court following an application.
A spouse or civil partner in matrimonial financial proceedings who feels that they need regular income support on a short-term basis can make an application for interim maintenance.
How to apply for Interim Maintenance via the Court
To make such an application, divorce proceedings must have been initiated. Either spouse or civil partner may apply for interim maintenance on the basis of need, or, less commonly, to redress what they believe to be an unfair balance of incomes.
Both parties will typically be asked to provide a detailed breakdown of their monthly income and expenditure as evidence in support of their application. The Court will then fix a hearing for the application, usually for one to two hours, during which the Judge will decide whether the respondent is to pay maintenance to the applicant, at what amount and for how long.
How Court ordered maintenance payments work
The Court tends to assess the application on the basic interim needs of the parties rather than expected outgoings after a financial settlement is reached. Any expenditure which is seen to be a “luxury” will likely be disregarded.
A Court may order one spouse or civil partner to pay maintenance to the other ‘pending suit’. This means that any Court ordered maintenance payment will often run up until the date of the resolution of the financial matters and conclusion of the divorce, being the pronouncement of Decree Absolute. Equally, maintenance pending suit can run until a further order is made by the Court.
It is usually advised only to bring an interim application if the paying partner is being very unreasonable or “mean” as interim awards tend to be modest and the costs of such an application could outweigh the benefits.
Once Decree Absolute has been made and the financial settlement concluded, in some circumstances, interim maintenance will be converted to a substantive ongoing maintenance payment.
Agreeing Interim Maintenance without the Court
Of course, it is possible for parties to agree interim maintenance between themselves.
Often the higher earner in the marriage or civil partnership will agree to pay a mutually agreed amount of money each month to their spouse or civil partner until the resolution of the finances and Decree Absolute, and possibly after that point if “need” requires.
However, it is important before agreeing to pay or agreeing to receive a certain amount of ‘maintenance’, to take legal advice. This is because any sum agreed between the parties themselves could set an unfortunate precedent.
Any maintenance payment should be based on the financial circumstances of both parties, their respective needs and a variety of other factors. Any agreement should be clearly recorded in correspondence between solicitors, making it much more difficult for the spouse to renege on the agreement.