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A clean break on divorce?

The English courts are moving away from the traditional needs-based approach to deciding spousal maintenance applications, explains Caroline Park

19 April 2016

While the division of capital on a divorce has a greater degree of predictability following a series of landmark cases beginning in 2000, the law dealing with periodical payments, colloquially known as maintenance, suffers from greater inconsistency and unpredictability, making it difficult to give clients definitive advice.

Determining maintenance should be
relatively simple. There is a clear directive in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973) for the court to consider whether a 'clean break' can be achieved. In clean break cases, no spousal maintenance is paid (child maintenance is dealt with separately).

The relevant provision is section 25A(1) of the MCA 1973. It states that the duty of the court is 'to consider whether it would be appropriate... that the financial obligations of each party towards the other will be terminated as soon after the grant of the decree as...

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