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

Today I had my free initial consultation with partner Henry Brookman over the phone. He had a clear understanding of my situation based on the info I provided in advance and provided me with sound advice and guidance to move forward. Many thanks.

Aug 2022   H. J.

Really appreciated Brookman's advice and support. Most lawyers charge extortionate fees just for an initial conversation but not Henry. Thanks for all your advice and time.

Jul 2022   Chloé

I had a consultation with the partner Henry Brookman. I can absolutely recommend him, he seemed knowledgeable, up to date and patient. I have found him to be straightforward in the answers he gives and down to earth. 100% recommended.

Jun 2022   Michael P

I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending Henry Brookman. His advice came in promptly when solicited, and was excellent. He is a thoughtful and very professional lawyer. He understood perfectly well the issue I presented him with, and gave me excellent advice in a family law related matter.

May 2022   Philip Hands

From my first contact with the firm I was treated courteously and promptly. I was offered a pro bono meeting shortly after making contact. Mr Brookman is clearly a very experienced professional and in our meeting he gave me some well considered and objective advice about my rather complicated situation which spans more than one jurisdiction.

May 2022   Julian Peachey

I had an initial consultation with Henry Brookman regarding prenuptial agreements and found him to be very helpful and knowledgeable.

Mar 2022   Simon Brooks

I had a free telephone consultation yesterday with Gavin Yeung. He could not have been more helpful and reassuring as he calmly and patiently worked through my situation to provide me with clarity and piece of mind at a time it was really needed and emotions are running high.

Mar 2022   'K M'

I spoke with Aziz at Brookman Solicitors on the phone for an initial consultation and he is one of the friendliest lawyers I have met. He is clearly very experienced as he patiently explained me all the concepts and processes which are quite daunting for someone in my situation, and then focused on the actual questions I wanted to ask... I would highly recommend Aziz and Brookman Solicitors.

Feb 2022   'R'

I am grateful for Henry Brookman and his team for support they provided to me during very frustrating time of divorce. They respond promptly to any request. I felt more confident after I started the process with them. Henry listened carefully to me and took quick actions on my case. I highly recommend this team of real professionals even for non-UK citizens.

Feb 2022   Sezim Beksultanova

I had online consultation with the partner Henry Brookman today. I was very happy with the service. I found him to be very insightful, knowledgeable and provided sound advice, as well as being kind and patient. It was a very comfortable discussion and he sent an email detailing our discussion very quickly discussing in our meeting in depth. I am amazed by the service we got just from a free consultation. I would highly recommend these solicitors!

Jan 2022   Shirley Christopher

We spoke at length and at no point felt like he was rushing us and we felt very comfortable. After our discussion we were also quickly sent an email detailing everything we were discussing in our meeting in depth. I am amazed by the service we got just from a free consultation. I would highly recommend these solicitors!

Dec 2021   Tina

I was fortunate to spend an hour running through a few questions with Natasha Slabas. She was quick to grasp the points raised and proposed a sensible way forward. Would recommend

Dec 2021   Nick Powell

I cannot praise the professionalism and courtesy too highly. The advice given in a very complex divorce matter, was clear, concise, enlightening and inspiring.

Nov 2021   Mary Barn

I contacted Henry Brookman because of the complex international aspect of my divorce and I’m very glad I did... Henry took his time explaining all the pro’s and contra’s... I now have a much clearer view over the situation and feel more confident going forward. I’m very grateful for the excellent advice I’ve received and not feeling rushed during the meeting.

Nov 2021   'A B'

Talitha offers sound advice, asks the right questions and advises you with what you need to know not just what you want to hear. I have no hesitation in recommending her services.

Sep 2021   Anu Vidyarthi

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