Continuing the series of family law Q&A collaboration between Expatriate Law and ExpatChild.
This was originally posted on the ExpatChild Facebook page on 22nd May 2020, and further on social media. You can view the original here.
My husband has cut me off financially; what can I do?
If you are considering divorce or separation, you may be worried about how you are going to meet your outgoings without the support of your spouse or partner. It is sadly common for a husband or wife to threaten to restrict financial support during a separation. It may be that you are the financially weaker party in the marriage, for example if you do not work and are a stay-at-home mother, and therefore fully reliant on your husband’s income which is now not being shared with you as result of the separation.
In these circumstances, you may be able to apply to seek interim maintenance. This can be child maintenance, spousal maintenance (for yourself) and/or a legal services order for monthly payments towards your legal fees.
Your solicitor will first write to your husband to try and agree a suitable level of maintenance for you and any children. There are two issues that is important to note. Firstly, that as a British expat it is usually possible to divorce through the English courts, regardless of where you were married. Secondly, it is important to note that if you live abroad, the Child Maintenance Service in England will not be involved in your maintenance claims. Therefore maintenance will not be calculated on a fixed percentage of your husband’s income. Instead maintenance be worked out according to the financial needs of you and the children, and the level of income received by your husband. If you are British or have connections to England or Wales, maintenance can be calculated under English law. This can be more favourable for you than the maintenance outcome under the laws of the country you live in. You need advice from a lawyer to ascertain country’s laws are more favourable for you to rely on.
Interim maintenance is payable by one spouse to another whilst the divorce proceedings are ongoing, and until a financial settlement can be reached or there has been a final order of the court. If Interim maintenance cannot be agreed through negotiations, your solicitor can help you apply to court for a judge to make a decision on the level of maintenance.
Under English law, in order for your application to be successful, the court will have to be satisfied that you are in real need of financial support from your spouse, in that you are unable to make ends meet without it. Your application should therefore include a detailed breakdown of your outgoings, as well as details of the resources you have available to you. Your solicitor will assist you in preparing this.
Of course, it may be that you do not need to pursue the route of making an application to the court in order to receive interim maintenance from your spouse. You should weigh up the costs of making such an application carefully with your solicitor. If you are able to reach an agreement as to how the family finances are to operate before the divorce is finalised, that is generally a better way forward than immediately resorting to court proceedings. You are likely to save significant legal fees by avoiding a formal application. Also, the divorce process may also begin on a more positive footing if you are able to reach an agreement directly, or by way of a less-confrontational method of dispute resolution, such as mediation.
As part of your interim maintenance application, the court can also order your spouse to make interim payments towards your legal fees. This is called a Legal Services Order. These payments are usually made on a monthly basis, to help you meet your legal costs during the divorce and financial settlement. You can read more about these applications here. Your solicitor will prepare a budget for the work to be undertaken, will forms the basis of the monthly payments from your spouse.
It is important not to rush in to making an application until you have had legal advice on which legal system and country will give you the best financial outcome. Most expats will have several choices in this respect, and the outcome from one country to the next can vary significantly. You can help your solicitor by preparing an interim budget listing items that you spend on regularly and keeping a record of your spending.
If you have been affected by any of these issues and would like to receive further advice then please do get in touch with us via our website expatriatelaw.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are currently providing telephone and video appointments.
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Alexandra Tribe: email@example.com
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