Financial pressure can mount up quickly in the immediate aftermath of a separation. How does a financially weaker spouse or a spouse who has depended on the other for financial support during the marriage meet his or her income needs in the period between separation and a final financial settlement?

Section 22 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1973 enables the court to make what’s known as an order for ‘maintenance pending suit’. The legislation explains that this is an order,

requiring either party to the marriage to make to the other such periodical payments for his or her maintenance and for such term, being a term beginning not earlier than the date of the presentation of the petition and ending with the date of the determination of the suit, as the court thinks reasonable.’

The word ‘reasonable’ at the end of the section suggests the power of the courts to make a maintenance pending suit order is a broad one. In the 2021 case of Rattan v Kuwad discussed below this approach appears to be confirmed.

Meeting ‘short-term cash flow problems’

By their nature applications for maintenance pending suit (or ‘interim maintenance’) are usually urgent. To a degree they are a stop-gap measure intended to tide the financially weaker party over until the full financial picture is clear and a final order is made. As one judge remarked in a 2009 case on the subject such orders are designed to deal with short-term cash flow problems, and the calculations made are ‘sometimes somewhat rough and ready’. Remember that these applications are heard at the beginning of a divorce when financial information is frequently in short supply.

What is reasonable interim maintenance? Rattan v Kuwad, 2021

The 2021 case of Rattan v Kuwad provides a useful illustration of the way the courts approach cases where a spouse asks for maintenance payments before a final order.

The case was not particularly complex, and it did not involve the large sums of money sometimes associated with divorce cases heard by the Court of Appeal. The wife had initially been awarded interim maintenance of £2850 per month, an order that the husband appealed on the basis that the judge had failed to adequately scrutinise the wife’s budget. The husband argued it had included items that were not appropriate or ‘reasonable’ for interim maintenance.

Items the husband objected to included dental fees, home insurance premiums and house alarm costs. The judge in the lower court had also, according to the husband incorrectly included school fees in his maintenance pending suit order.

The husband succeeded in this appeal but the wife then appealed that decision.

Moylan J in the Court of Appeal found in favour of the wife, deciding that:

  • The only factor to be taken into account when assessing interim maintenance is ‘reasonableness’ as stated in Section 22. The power to make an order is very broad. What is reasonable may be equated to what is ‘fair’.
  • Court guidance limiting interim maintenance to ‘immediate needs’ doesn’t limit payments to items of expenditure that are only incurred on a monthly or periodic basis as the husband had argued. What is immediate and reasonable must be decided in the context of each individual case. Here for example there was no reason why school fees should not be included as part of the interim maintenance order.
  • It wasn’t necessary in an uncomplicated case like this for the wife to prepare a separate maintenance pending suit budget. (This had been suggested in previous cases). Instead if it was expedient the wife’s budget for interim maintenance could be gleaned from her Form E without her needing to go to additional expense of preparing a separate budget. (Form E is the form used to make full financial disclosure in the main financial proceedings.)

Comment

A close reading of the judgment in the Rattan case highlights the leeway the courts have in these types of cases to take decisions that, above all, are practical in the circumstances. The wife for example suggested changing the mortgage over the family home from repayment to interest only. This would have the effect of reducing her income needs by £2500 a month. The husband objected saying such a change to the mortgage product would incur a penalty charge. The court however did a quick calculation and figured out that overall it would be cheaper in the short term to change the mortgage repayments to interest only. This was a decision with an eye purely on the best short-term way to alleviate a cash flow problem. The judge was not primarily looking at the best financial solution for the long term.

While such a pragmatic approach is to be welcomed it’s worth acknowledging that the Rattan case was beset with delays – both in the family court system and as a result of the way the parties managed the case. With two appeals in what was a relatively straightforward case it’s not hard to imagine how urgent the maintenance pending suit application had become by the time it reached the Court of Appeal. Moylan J’s decision was given added significance because of a substantial delay in getting a date for the final financial remedy hearing. It’s a reminder, if one were needed of the benefits of trying to agree issues like interim maintenance privately without embarking on lengthy and costly court applications. At the end of the day hearings like these only serve to distract from the key issue of reaching a final settlement.

Got a question? Ask us now…

Kindly complete the form below to send an enquiry. Your message will be sent to one of our solicitors. Discretion is guaranteed.

Your Information

  • Consider including information such as: the name of your spouse (if relevant), the country you live in, the background to your problem.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Over 2000 FREE
consultations and counting…

Our free consultation can help you more clearly understand the legal issues relating your case and what your options are to move forward.

Request your free consultation

Or send us an enquiry

I had applied for a free consultation and I was contacted in a very short timeframe. Thank you so much for the insightful and thorough consultation, Kevin Danagher. You made me feel at ease and you provided clear expectations with the initial info I had provided... I have now a much better understanding on my query.

Feb 2024   Sonia Accardi

We had a very useful first consultation with Amber Matheson today. Amber took the time to understand our (somewhat complicated) set-up, and offered good, understandable advice on next steps. She followed up with a very thorough email clarifying what we had discussed. Highly recommended.

Feb 2024   Lucie

Lovely friendly experience. All questions were answered so that I understood completely.

Dec 2023   Ali Catlin

Very balanced, fair and pragmatic advice. Thoroughly recommend!!

Nov 2023   James Elliott

Henry graciously provided his time for a consultation. I found him to be highly knowledgeable, empathetic and he provided excellent advice which put my mind at ease. Would highly recommend Henry and his firm.

Oct 2023   Allan Ang

Henry Brookman went above and beyond during the free consultation, and even overran the allocated time. He provided invaluable professional advice in a courteous manner. I recommend his firm without reservation.

Sep 2023   Mario Ignatov

I only had my initial free review with Amelia yet I already feel much more strengthened in my legal and financial position. I am currently reflecting on the steps I want to take to negotiate my desired outcome of the financial settlement but, when I am ready to use the services of a lawyer, Amelia is definitely the top on my list.

Sep 2023   Nahid Toubia

I had a zoom consultation with Lauren Moir and she was incredible. Very patient, insightful and reassuring. She also advised me based on my previous conversations with another firm and also clarified various positions I am in. Highly recommend.

Aug 2023   Gary Hawes

I was very impressed with the friendly, helpful and professional service offered by Brookman Solicitors. The generous advice and knowledge offered during the initial free consultation has enabled us to have a much better understanding of our case and plan a way forward.

Jul 2023   Peter Jackson

I had a first consultation with Kevin, who very diligently and professionally provided an exhaustive overview of the divorce process and the best approach for my specific case.

Jul 2023   Giulia Matteo

Great service and excellent advice at the initial consultation. I would certainly recommend and use in the future.

Jul 2023   Tom James

Spoke to a kind solicitor this morning who took an hour of her time to talk me through some advice relating to a difficult separation.... She was clear and helpful with her advice, leaving me feeling much more confident with the process ahead of me.

Jun 2023   Luke Taylor

Mr Brookman provided very clear advice that left me with no doubt about the options and next steps. Getting specific advice with the requirements in the different jurisdictions was particularly useful so I won’t need to consult another lawyer outside of the UK

May 2023   Julian Anthony

From initial contact I found all staff extremely helpful and professional. My options were made clear, my query was dealt with in a sympathetic way. Would highly recommend Brookman Solicitors.

Mar 2023   seamus mcguinness

The initial consultation I have just completed with Henry Brookman was very informative; he was very open and honest about my situation, the legalities of the matter and the extent of how his firm could help.

Nov 2022   Kimberley Noakes

Google Reviews
Ask A Question

Contact Us

If you have questions, contact us now, we can help you.

Enquire Now

Or call us on +44 (0)20 7430 8470