Maintenance Pending Suit – what is this and when will it come into play?

What is maintenance pending suit?

In certain cases whereby a couple has separated prior to the hearing for a divorce one of the parties may be in a position whereby they cannot financially support themselves fully. In this case following the divorce hearing it would be likely that the other partner would be required to pay maintenance especially where children are involved.

Maintenance pending suit enables this to be done before the divorce hearing. In this case maintenance will be required to be paid pending suit.

Is there any legal basis for this in the UK?

Maintenance pending suit is given its legal basis in the UK under Section 22 of the Matrimonial Clauses Act 1973.

Section 22 of the Act provides for the following:

  • On a petition for a divorce, nullity of marriage or judicial separation the court may make an order for maintenance pending suit.

  • Maintenance pending suit is defined as an order requiring either party to the marriage to make the other such periodical payments for his or her maintenance and for such term beginning not earlier than the date of the presentation of the petition and ending with the determination of the suit.

Equivalent provisions also exist in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 in relation to civil partners and also under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.

Backdating of maintenance pending suit

Following the definition of maintenance pending suit it can be awarded from the date on which the initial petition for divorce was submitted. As the application for maintenance pending suit and the hearing for maintenance pending suit will follow this it is clear to see that the periodical payments can be back dated.

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For more information on:

  • How much will the court award for maintenance pending suit?
  • What factors will the court take into consideration?
  • What criteria do the courts use to come to their decision?
  • What is the procedure to establish maintenance pending suit?
  • What will the order for maintenance pending suit say?
  • How will the payments be made?
  • Do the payments have to be made directly to the spouse?