When Finances and Family Law Intertwine

Whether you are in the happiest of times or the hardest of times, a family solicitor handles both the personal and financial matters that arise between couples and other family members. Often times, only the personal aspects are considered when a family solicitor is engaged. However, many of the issues handled actually deal specifically with finances. Some of the most important financial issues arise upon the termination of a marriage or other partnership.

Sorting Out Spousal Maintenance

A family lawyer is typically responsible for the negotiation, document drafting, and enforcement of spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance, also called “alimony” in other jurisdictions such as the United States or “aliment” in Scotland, is money paid by a husband or wife to their former spouse after a divorce.

Historically, maintenance grew out of a society where women did not have employment outside the home. In the case of a divorce, she would be left destitute and without the appropriate skills to obtain an income. It was the feeling of many in society that the departing husbands had a responsibility to continue to care for their former spouse.

Today, the spouse with the higher income almost always pays maintenance upon a divorce. This is different from and often in addition to child support or child maintenance requirements. Spousal maintenance is paid as a set amount each month, and the payments can continue for a set number of years or even for an entire lifetime, as determined by a court.


A number of factors are taking into consideration when determining the amount of spousal maintenance to be provided. However, in many circumstances the negotiation skills of a solicitor will determine the final amount. As it is possible that spousal maintenance can be paid for an entire lifetime, the timeline is an important point of negotiation during a divorce. The ability to forcefully and effectively negotiate the amount of spousal maintenance is an important quality in any lawyer. In fact, it is actually among the most sought after characteristics of family solicitors in London.

Other Financial Agreements

With the rise of formal maintenance agreements between parties came the parallel rise of prenuptial agreements. A prenuptial agreement is negotiated and executed prior to the marriage and sets out the amounts of spousal maintenance, child maintenance, and division of property in the case of a divorce. A prenuptial agreement can also have clauses and requirements unique to the couple, such as additional funds paid in the case of unfaithfulness or a specific amount paid for each year spent married.

Despite the importance and proliferation of prenuptial agreements in the United States and other countries, the British courts were hesitant to accept these agreements as valid in divorce cases. There was a sentiment amongst the courts that prenuptial agreements defeated the very important role that maintenance played for a former spouse. However, in 2010 the courts finally recognised prenups as valid contracts.

As the British courts become more comfortable with the provisions and enforceability of prenuptial agreements, the options for drafting them to broaden their scope. These agreements are also drafted and handled by a family law solicitor. Therefore, it is important to find a solicitor familiar with the terms and provisions to handle your specific situation.