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The law relating to needs and spousal maintenance: one firm’s view

Date:25 FEB 2013

Emily Marshall, PSL, London

Kelvin Henderson, Associate, Sheffield

Alison Hawes, Partner, Bristol

John Nicholson, Partner, London

On behalf of the family law team at Irwin Mitchell:

In financial remedy proceedings, statute requires the court to have regard to the party's 'financial needs', but does not define 'needs', nor tell us the extent to which a party should be required to meet the other party's needs after divorce.

In its recent Supplemental Consultation Paper on needs and spousal maintenance, the Law Commission commented that in the absence of a clear definition of 'needs', a family judge has as much guidance as a bus driver who is given instructions about how to drive and authority to decide whether to turn left or right, but not told where to go.

This article outlines the broad views of the family team at Irwin Mitchell on the issues raised by the Law Commission relating to needs and spousal maintenance.

Irwin Mitchell examines whether 'compensation for loss' or 'unravelling the merger over time' should be favoured as a theoretical basis for spousal support. Irwin Mitchell also considers whether the law should place time limits on support to encourage independence.

Most notably, Irwin Mitchell provides its comments on the most controversial of the Law Commission's suggestions - that English law could adopt a formula for the calculation of spousal maintenance.

The full version of this article appears in the March 2013 issue of Family Law