What is nominal spousal maintenance and in what circumstances might it be appropriate?
This is often the question I am asked by separating couples in mediation when the time comes to look at their spousal maintenance options. I always refer them to the Compass Guide on Spousal maintenance and explain the various options available to them, in their circumstances.
As usual, there are often many factors to for them to consider, from a number of different perspectives, when they attempt to decide whether or not a nominal spousal maintenance order is appropriate.
These factors may have their roots in the legal principles and factors as well as morale and emotional dimension. The important point here is that when the couple reach a decision they feel that it belongs to them both integrating factors important to them both.
So, what is a nominal spousal maintenance order?
As the name suggests, it is a nominal amount, usually £0.05 a year with the purpose of keeping open the possibility of an application to vary this amount by the recipient of maintenance, providing the main home and main care for the children. This person is often the mother, but not always, whose ability to earn an income is limited, to some extent, by the need to provide day-to-day care for the children.
It may be the case, for example, as in a recent case I mediated, that the father and mother both and similar incomes so were able to support themselves, but the children lived with the mother who provided most of the care.
In these circumstances, the couple decided that, as well as paying child maintenance (according to the Child Maintenance Service online calculator-see my guide on child maintenance) the father would pay the mother a nominal spousal maintenance order, providing her with security, as the main carer, just in case, due to some unforeseen circumstances, her own income significantly drops, requiring her to seek further support from the father.
You might ask why she couldn’t, in those circumstances, apply to increase the child maintenance.
Unfortunately, unless the father is willing to do this, the court has no jurisdiction to hear child maintenance applications and the mother would be stuck with the child maintenance formula calculation.
Therefore, in these circumstances, a nominal spousal maintenance order would provide her with the security of being able to apply to increase her spousal maintenance maintenance if she and father could not agree an increase to her maintenance whilst the mother gets back on her feet.
All this said, as always, it will be a question of the mother and father exploring how much she and the children need, balanced against the father’s ability to pay.
If the mother and father both adopt a fair approach and attitude to a maintenance, calculating what they each need by way of income and what the children need, the chances are that they will be able to reach a decision themselves or in mediation rather than having to go to solicitors and the courts.
If you find yourself in this position please watch our video series on reaching your maintenance agreements in 5 stages, complete the forms and make the decisions yourselves. If you need more help please consult one of our mediators to assist you.