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Getting Financial Support after Separation

Ending a relationship can have a significant impact on the finances, such as when one partner relied on the other for household income.

This help guide explains the basic steps for arranging financial support after a separation and what to do if you're unable to agree maintenance payments.

How to Arrange Spousal Maintenance (UK)?

Spousal support is a type of financial support paid by a former partner after a marriage or civil partnership ends.

Nonetheless, the money you receive would be on top of any payments that they may be making because you have children.

Another section explains how to use the Child Maintenance Service (e.g. after getting divorced or separating).

The rules for getting financial support from an ex-partner differ if you were not married or not living together in a civil partnership.

In this case, you would need to share the costs of taking care of any children that you have. Furthermore, there would be no legal requirement to support each other on a financial basis after ending the relationship.

Being Married under Islamic Law

If you got married in a country that recognises Islamic marriages (e.g. Pakistan) you would be able to ask a former partner for financial support.

But, you would not usually qualify if the marriage took place under Islamic law in the UK. Exceptions may apply for couples who also had a civil marriage in the United Kingdom.

Making a ‘Voluntary Arrangement’

After ending a relationship you can arrange financial support with an ex-partner without having to go to court. In most cases, making a ‘voluntary agreement’ between yourselves is easier and cheaper.

Working out maintenance payments can be a challenge. Hence, using mediation to help you separate (e.g. from an independent source) can also help you reach an agreement about child support.

In some cases, going to court to ask for financial support may be the only option left. If so, it may be necessary to prove that you already tried with mediation (unless you suffered domestic abuse).

Note: The main section contains more advice and information about divorce (e.g. taking care of children) in the United Kingdom.

Is Your Partner Acting Aggressively?

You can get help from several organisations if your partner is making you feel anxious, worried about your personal safety, or threatening you.

  • Refuge or Women’s Aid: 0808 2000 247 (24/7).
  • Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327 (Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm).

Important: Speak with someone about your options after breaking up (e.g. Citizens Advice) before trying to arrange financial support with your ex-partner.

Calculating Your Financial Support

There is no set formula for working out costs of maintenance payments or for how long they should continue. As a rule, it will be a matter for you and your ex spouse or civil partner to decide.

Applying for a Financial Settlement

As a rule, maintenance payments stop if you marry again or start a civil partnership if you are getting ancillary relief (e.g. a court order for financial support).

In some cases, the money may also stop if you decide to move in with a new partner. But, the ex-partner would not be able to change the court order unless they can prove your income had increased.

Using the Services of a Solicitor

Solicitors base their legal fees by the hour in the United Kingdom. Thus, couples who are separating can reduce the costs by agreeing the financial arrangements before hiring a solicitor.

Some solicitors will offer half an hour of free legal advice. It gives you an opportunity to get a basic idea of how complicated your case will be and how much you would need to pay.

Which leads us to…

You may find a legal advisor who will work for a fixed fee – even though there is no legal requirement for them to agree to this kind of arrangement. But, it would be helpful to know the total charges in advance.

Increasing the Maintenance Payments

What if you are struggling to manage on the financial support that you get from an ex-partner? If so, and if you have a voluntary agreement, you might decide to talk to them about the situation and why you would like to get more money.

As a result, your partner may tell you that they can’t afford to pay more money. In this case, check to see if you qualify for any benefits entitlements or try to get help with your council tax.

Note: There may be other ways to maximise your income after separating. You can contact Citizens Advice for free and impartial information.

Going Back to Court for more Maintenance

The process of ‘varying’ the court order allows you to go back to the court and ask for more maintenance. As a rule, there would need to be some change in circumstance for you or your ex-partner.

Typical examples include:

  • One of you lost your job (e.g. got made redundant).
  • The ex-partner (either):
    • Moved in with a new partner and the income of their household increased.
    • Received a substantial amount of money (e.g. they were the beneficiary of an inheritance payment).

A court will want to see proof of a change in circumstances before they will grant an increase in maintenance. A legal adviser can help you decide whether going back to court is the best option.

It is worth noting that a judge might decide to amend the original court order in the wrong direction (e.g. lower the maintenance payments).

Note: It is not uncommon for the legal fees to finish up being more than any financial increase awarded by the judge.

Paying Financial Support to an Ex-Partner

The one paying out the financial support does not have to split their income at a ratio of 50-50. But, the amount paid out should be a significant contribution towards the ex-partner’s living costs and monthly bills.

In simple terms, any financial agreement made when you separate should be a fair one for both individuals. So, paying too much financial support to an ex-partner should not put you into debt yourself.

What if You Cannot Afford to Pay?

Always try to reach an amicable agreement with an ex-partner if you are struggling to make the payments. You should never stop paying without giving some notification!

They might be willing to seek mediation to help you find a solution. If not, you should discuss your situation with a solicitor.

Varying a Court Order

A judge may decide to vary (change) court-ordered payments to an ex-partner if you are unable to keep up the installments. But, they would need to see evidence of why you can’t afford them (e.g. you lost your job).

It is possible to change a court order because an ex-partner needs less money than before. But, you would need to provide some evidence of a change in their financial circumstances.

Related Help Guides

Note: This short video explains more about payments made by one spouse or partner to their ex-partner when they are unable to ‘adequately’ provide for themselves.

How to Arrange Spousal Maintenance in the United Kingdom