Maintenance pending suit: Interim cash for divorcing parties
Maintenance pending suit (MPS) does not often feature in the law reports so a recent case is noteworthy. MPS is a court process that financially supports one spouse by ordering the other to fund them during their divorce. This happens after divorce proceedings have started and lasts until the divorce proceedings come to an end by way of a final judgement regarding the finances between the parties.
In the appeal in Rattan v Kuwad, a wife successfully appealed an order allowing a husband’s appeal from an MPS order granting her monthly payments of £2,850. Permission to appeal was granted on the basis that it raised an important point of principle as to the correct approach of the court when determining applications for MPS.
The marriage had lasted for around a decade and after separating the wife remained in the former matrimonial home with the parties’ child and a child from a previous marriage. The wife began divorce and financial remedy proceedings, claiming MPS to cover, what she described as, a shortfall in her income including school fees and essential house repairs.
The Court of Appeal (CA) noted that the court’s power to make an MPS order was extremely valuable as it enables it to make an order meeting the income needs of a spouse and the children at a time when they might be in real need of financial support following the parties’ separation and commencement of proceedings. It is intended to enable the court to act expeditiously and to make an order meeting that need early in the proceedings when the evidential picture might be far from clear. It is a very broad statutory power which extends to the court making such order as the judge thinks reasonable.
Though judicial guidance has previously been given the CA made clear that the only substantive requirement is that the order must be reasonable. The purpose of it is to meet immediate needs, but the principal issue raised in this appeal was what needs qualify as being immediate and how the court should approach determination of this question.
Lord Justice Moylan said that the key factors in each case are likely to be the parties’ respective needs and resources and the marital standard of living. Beyond that the approach of the court will be tailored to the facts. In most cases, the family’s financial resources are unlikely to be sufficient to enable the marital standard of living to be maintained for both spouses and the children.