Indeed, an understandable question to ask a family solicitor at a first meeting. The answer will always depend on the overall finances of the parties and full case preparation can make the difference whether you are the prospective receiving or paying party.
By virtue of marriage, a spouse or an ex-spouse is entitled to make a claim at any time for income payments (unless they are barred from doing so and the bar only applies in very limited circumstances).
These income payments can become payable during divorce and after the marriage is dissolved. The payments can be short term or until the death of the paying party and anywhere in between. It all depends on if and when the payments were wanted in the first place and how it was finalised.
Such payments do form part of resolving the overall finances of a marriage and can take the form of a short, medium or long-term remedy for the receiving party and depending on, for example, the ages of the parties, if there are young children of the family or still in education.
So where to start with the finances?
You look at:
- What you need; and
- The ability to pay; and
- Can the paying party afford what you are asking for?
The answer and the sum can very much depend on good case preparation. The focus is often needs must! Don’t understand this – needs must what? The first step is to always prepare a schedule of needs or an income budget. This has to be done correctly and for both the receiving party and the paying party – current and future. All outgoings will need to be correctly listed based on the amount spent during the marriage.
Individual items will be examined and so will the overall proportion of the payer’s available income and what is fair in view of any existing debt payments which must be met. Some hardship is accepted but funds need to be there.
How much will I get?
This is considered on a case by case basis. There is no science or formula, unlike for child support which is dealt with by applying a formula fixed by the Child Maintenance Service based on the paying party’s gross income. The legal principals are lengthy but the starting point is: (i) what the receiving party actually needs and (ii) available finances and how they can be allocated.
Consideration will also be given to: discretionary bonuses; any reckless expenditure; complex remuneration schemes, the earning capacity of the receiving party (career path), available welfare benefits and more.
If capital exists, there is potential to invest some capital, now, from the marriage to generate long-term income for the recipient to create an income clean break for both parties.
How long will I receive this income?
The longest term is joint lives for the rest of the party’s natural life. Or there can be a “clean break” i.e. no income term. Anything between is possible so, think carefully and, from my experience, deciding which terms and agreements are best for you and your family almost always involves lawyer’s advice, negotiations and input.