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Maintenance (Alimony)

If you all remember, last week we tried to explain the difference between Separation and Divorce.  Today, we will delve into more detail on one of the main issues following either choice – maintenance or, as it is sometimes known, alimony.

Look, let’s get one thing straight once and for all – maintenance for children is the rule not an exception. The opposite is true for spouses who are either separating or divorcing. So, there is a duty for married couples to maintain each other, it doesn’t matter how.  Yes John, getting the laundry done and your dinner going is also a form of maintenance!

Now, by the same measure our John shouldn’t be forced to work two jobs, one on the graveyard shift, to make ends meet. Especially after that heavy mortgage he had taken out to buy that maisonette in Swieqi.  The one that you and Mary wanted so much, remember ? The sad truth is that most couples are working today and are moonlighting the grandparents to take care of the kids after school and before work is out.

Since both of you work, you both contribute, more or less, equally to the domestic kitty. This also holds true when you separate or divorce only for child support. So when John and Mary go their separate ways, they don’t owe each other maintenance but they owe their children all the support as if they were still married. This is the rule, but there are exceptions of course. And we do have some extraordinary ones!!

In our first case we see Mary who has worked for only a short period of time before marriage.  After she got married, she dedicated herself to raise a family of five.  She re-started working much later in life, only when the youngest was out of the house. She had no prospect of a decent pension having paid so little in NI contributions.  Mary also had an abusive husband who was a closet homosexual to boot.  He spent his spare time galivanting about town with his male friends and frequently travelled abroad to satisfy his sexual pleasures, renting a separate apartment in the process as his male love nest. The family home was bought before marriage and though in both their names, the husband tried to enforce a credit against the house claiming that the monies for the purchase came from some family donation. He made married life a misery for her and her children and kept all the family money to himself. Fortunately, the Court would have none of his shenanigans, finding him in total fault for the breakdown of the marriage, and awarded her two-thirds of the money in his bank  accounts as well as a monthly maintenance of some two hundred and fifty Euro, all this to ensure a dignified existence as she entered her golden years.

Our second case sees Paula who is married to Peter, a construction magnate, an astute lil’ so ‘n so, who convinced her to sign some ‘business’ papers, or other, some years back.  Amongst these documents were – yes! You’ve guessed it…. a separation of estates contract.  So, naïve as she was then, she trusted her husband implicitly and without question. But now everything, including the family home, is in his name. She’s out on her luck with just the clothes on her back and to top it all she also got to know about another two offspring he fathered from extra-marital escapades.  She’s been married for twenty years, mothered two children, slaved at keeping the household  – and she hasn’t got a penny to show for it. Well, she’s not ending up destitute. Though she didn’t do herself any favours by signing some of those papers back in the day, the Family Court found him completely responsible for the breakdown of the marriage. It has obliged him to pay her a monthly allowance of five hundred Euro, pay the children’s maintenance including all the health and education expenses and gave her the exclusive right of habitation in the matrimonial home. One last thing – if you’re obliged to pay maintenance and think you can weasel your way out of it, you’ll eventually end up in jail.

So, though maintenance between separating or divorcing couples is the exception, it sometimes can be quite exceptional!  If you find yourself in a similar situation, we at Calleja & Associates Advocates would be happy to hear you out and guide you accordingly.  As we like to say…we’ve got your back and fight like there’s no tomorrow!