Arranging financial support after you separate
This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice forNorthern Ireland, See advice forScotland, See advice forWales
Separating from a partner can have a big impact on your finances, especially if you relied on their income during your relationship.
If your marriage or civil partnership ends, you can ask for financial support - known as ‘spousal maintenance’ - from your ex-partner as soon as you separate. This is in addition to any child maintenance they might have to pay.
If you weren't married or in a civil partnership, you’ll have to share the costs of looking after any children you have together - but you don’t have to support each other financially when you separate.
You can ask your ex-partner for financial support if you were married in a country where Islamic marriages are recognised, for example Pakistan. You normally won’t qualify for financial support if you were married in the UK under Islamic law - unless you also have a civil marriage in the UK.
You don’t have to go to court to arrange financial support. If possible, it's cheaper and easier to come to an agreement between yourselves - this is known as a ‘voluntary arrangement’.
If you’re struggling to work out maintenance payments by yourselves, you might be able to reach an agreement through mediation. Mediation starts with a ‘mediation information and assessment meeting’ (MIAM). At the MIAM you’ll find out what mediation is and how it can help you. You can find out more about mediation before you go to the MIAM.
If you decide to go to court to ask for financial support, you’ll normally need to prove that you’ve been to a MIAM. There are exceptions when you don’t have to go to a MIAM first - for example, if you’ve suffered domestic abuse.
If you need to speak with someone about your partner being aggressive
If your partner makes you feel anxious or threatened, you should get help.
You can call Refuge or Women's Aid on 0808 2000 247 at any time.
If you're a man affected by domestic abuse you can call Men's Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
If you’re unsure about what to do next, talk to an adviser.
Working out your financial support
There’s no easy formula to work out how much maintenance payments should be, or how long they should last. It’s up to you and your ex-partner to decide.
If you have a court order for financial support - also known as ‘ancillary relief’ - your maintenance will normally stop when you remarry or start a civil partnership.
It might also stop if you move in with a new partner, but your ex-partner would have to prove that your income had gone up before they could change the court order.
If you’re worried about the cost of a solicitor
Try to agree as much as you can with your ex-partner before you go to a solicitor. This will help you keep the cost of legal fees down.
Some solicitors might offer 30 minutes of free legal advice. Use this time to find out as much as you can. You’re unlikely to get detailed advice, but you should get an idea of how complicated your case is and roughly how much it’ll cost you.
You could ask your solicitor if they’ll do the work for a fixed fee so you know from the beginning how much your legal fees will be. They don’t have to agree to this.