Does ongoing spousal maintenance operate following marital breakdown?

Only wives can claim spousal maintenance. Maintenance can be claimed on an interim basis pending the hearing of matrimonial proceedings and at the final hearing of ancillary matters.

The court must have regard to all the circumstances of the case when awarding maintenance (section 114(1), Women’s Charter). This includes income, earning capacity, property, the parties’ age, financial resources, needs and obligations, the standard of living of the family before the breakdown of the marriage, the duration of marriage, any disability and financial and non-financial contributions. Parties should be, as far as is practicable, put in the financial position they would have been in had the marriage not broken down and where each party properly discharged his or her financial responsibilities to the other (section 114(2), Women’s Charter).

There is no broad principle that a husband who has not maintained a wife during the marriage is automatically absolved of the need to do so after a divorce. In addition, a former wife must, where possible, make reasonable efforts to secure gainful employment and contribute to preserve her pre-breakdown lifestyle. The court assesses the reasonableness of a spousal maintenance claim taking into account the husband’s ability to pay .