Once a decision has been made to dissolve a marriage, it is normal for both parties to experience uncertainty, denial, grief, and oftentimes anger. Parties wonder what went wrong. However, once the maelstrom of emotions subsides, considerations such as spousal or child support, the division of matrimonial assets and child care arrangements surface.
Though divorce is not a decision to be taken lightly, it need not be a painfully protracted process for the separating couple. Understanding one's rights and obligations when a marriage breaks down can help transition parties during the divorce process.
Making sense of spousal maintenance
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A common misconception is that women are automatically entitled to spousal maintenance. This is not the case.
Both men and women can apply for maintenance and the court looks at certain factors to determine whether the party seeking maintenance has such a need and if so, then the quantum of a maintenance award.
Factors the court takes into consideration include the age of the couple, how long have they been married, their lifestyle, contributions made by each party to the family and the financial needs and responsibilities of both parties in the future.
As the adage goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. Enter into these considerations fully prepared. List expenses in detail and support why you have these claims.
For example, if you have a medical condition or you are on long-term or ongoing medication and need financial support to assist, I recommend submitting a medical report specifying what the condition is, the medication needed, and the cost of such medication each month.
Another query I typically get is whether spousal maintenance lasts forever. It does not. Spousal support ceases when the wife or husband receiving maintenance remarries, or when either party passes away.
Dealing with maintenance defaults and what can be done
For many, non-payment of maintenance is a real problem which persists. Common reasons are that the payor is in financial difficulty, or that the divorce was simply bitter and contentious.
In cases where there is a default on maintenance payments, the onus is on the receiving party to file a complaint for the recovery of maintenance arrears. That process has recently been made easier with the introduction of Integrated Family Application Management System (iFAMS) since July 2017. It allows claimants to file their maintenance applications online at their own convenience.
Restructuring your family
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No one enters a marriage expecting to part ways down the road, but breakdowns in relationships and marriages do happen.
Although issues like spousal or child maintenance can strain the relationship between ex-spouses, my advice for both parties is to appreciate that they both have needs and interests.
It is worthwhile remembering that a couple is still a family unit if children are involved. The main focus for the couple going forward would be how they can restructure their family to ensure that they do what is best for their children.
Also READ: 5 Ways to effectively co-parent after divorce