What is ‘maintenance pending suit’?

Maintenance Pending Suit (MPS) is interim financial support from your ex-partner that you can apply for, to help you manage while your divorce proceedings are going through. Under section 22 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, the court can order one spouse to make regular payments to the other during the time between the date that a petition for divorce was made and the date that the decree absolute is pronounced.

It isn’t a final settlement; its purpose is to meet the applicant’s immediate needs. As such, it can be whatever the court thinks is reasonable and fair, roughly balancing the needs of one party with the income of the other. As the judge in the case of Moore v Moore [2009] EWCA Civ, Coleridge J, said:

“[MPS]  is designed to deal with short-term cash flow problems, which arise during divorce proceedings. Its calculation is sometimes somewhat rough and ready, as financial information is frequently in short supply at the early stage of the proceedings.”

Where a Form E (the form that you complete giving full disclosure of your financial affairs) has not yet been completed, a statement of means has to be provided instead. The judge needs to have up to date information about each party’s financial situation, and a budget to demonstrate why the payments are necessary.

Before making an order, the judge will consider the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage (while recognising that it may not be possible to replicate this). He will examine the submitted budget critically for any exaggeration. He will consider any brief disclosure and clear evidence by the respondent (the payer) that sets out why he cannot pay the order that is being sought, but will make ‘robust assumptions’ (Nicholas Mostyn QC in TL v ML and Others [2005] EWHC 2860 (Fam)) about his ability to pay and err on the side of the applicant, where there are significant gaps in financial evidence.

However, as you might imagine, a hearing for Maintenance Pending Suit does not go into anything like the fine detail you would expect in an application for financial remedy; this is merely an interim step and there is very little time in court for submission of evidence and examination of the facts.

If an order is granted, payments can only be made to the spouse, not to a third party (such as a mortgage company). Nevertheless, the court may require an undertaking from the applicant that they use the money they receive to pay for those necessary outgoings – after all, this is what the money is for.

If you have any questions about MPS, or need legal advice about your finances in regard to your divorce, contact Andrew Isaacs today.