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How can you leave your spouse when you have no money?

Apr 19th, 2021

Emma Lawler, Partner

A major worry for anyone considering a separation is money. This can be especially difficult when you are not working or only earn a modest income and your spouse is the breadwinner. He or she may also control all the family finances. So, what can you do?

Funding your living costs

It is crucial you get advice even if you have not made the final decision to split. At Langleys we offer a free initial appointment without time restrictions. During that appointment we will take detailed information on your finances (you do not need to worry if you do not know all the details at this stage, we can find out more later). We will provide you with advice on the different options available to you.

  • If you are “capital rich” and “income poor” (i.e all your money is tied up in assets which you can’t access immediately) there are some options available to you to assist with meeting your income needs and/or legal fees. We could approach your spouse to see if an agreement can be reached over liquidating assets to provide you with a lump sum. If no agreement can be reached, we will go through the other options available to you to include borrowing funds which are usually then repaid at the end of the divorce once you have your settlement. Some litigation loan providers can offer “maintenance loans” as well as loans to cover your legal fees.

  • If your spouse earns enough to support you financially, you could be entitled to “maintenance pending suit” which is interim spousal maintenance. To consider this option, we would need to work with you on your monthly budget so we can calculate how much you need each month. We would then try and negotiate with your spouse to try to agree a figure. If no agreement can be reached, you can make a court application and the court will decide whether maintenance should be paid and if so, how much. Such maintenance continues until a financial settlement is achieved.

Paying your legal fees

As far as payment of legal fees is concerned, you may also be able to ask your spouse to pay a monthly sum towards your fees if he or she has sufficient funds to do so.  If you cannot agree on this issue, you may be entitled to apply to court for a “Legal Services Order” which is an order that your spouse funds your legal fees until the next court hearing (the issue is looked at again at the next hearing if your case doesn’t settle). Usually you would need to show you have been rejected from 3 high street lenders for a loan or credit card before making such an application. We would however discuss the criteria with you and provide you with appropriate advice.

Going into debt

If you do get into debt to fund your legal fees or meet your income needs, such debts are usually taken into account at the end of the case when there are sufficient funds and can be discharged upon receipt of your settlement.

There are many options available to you if you are considering a separation and it is crucial you seek advice as early as possible.

Many people come to us months before they take a final decision to leave. To have a confidential discussion please contact us. Our initial conversation with you is free, no matter how long it takes.

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Emma Lawler


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