Periodical Payments Order

Periodical Payments Order
Periodical Payments Order
Full Overview Of Periodical Payments Order

A periodical payment order, also known as a maintenance order, is a crucial financial arrangement in family law, especially in divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership. This order ensures ongoing financial support from one party to another, typically when the two significantly differ in income or earning capacity.

This overview aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of periodic payment orders, covering their legal framework, the process of obtaining and enforcing them, their benefits, and relevant considerations for both payers and recipients.

What Is A Periodical Payments Order?

A periodical payments order mandates one party, typically the higher earner, to make regular payments to the other party for a specified period or until a particular event occurs. These payments are intended to provide financial support and ensure that both parties maintain a reasonable standard of living after the separation.

Periodical Payments Orders in England and Wales are governed by several key pieces of legislation, including the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the Civil Partnership Act 2004. These laws empower the courts to order one party to make regular payments to the other, thereby ensuring financial support post-separation.

Types of Periodical Payments Orders

Periodical Payments Orders can vary in terms of their duration and conditions. The main types include:

Interim Periodical Payments

Interim orders are temporary measures put in place during divorce proceedings to ensure immediate financial support. These orders typically last until the final financial settlement is reached.

Joint Lives Orders

These orders require the payer to make payments to the recipient for the remainder of their lives or until the recipient remarries or enters into a new civil partnership. This type of order is less common in modern times, with courts increasingly favouring fixed-term orders.

Fixed-Term Orders

Fixed-term orders specify a set period during which the payments must be made. These orders are designed to provide support while the recipient adjusts to their new financial situation, often covering the time needed for retraining or finding employment.

The Process of Obtaining a Periodical Payments Order

The process of obtaining a periodical payment order involves several stages, each requiring careful consideration and legal guidance.

Initial Assessment

The initial assessment involves a thorough examination of both parties’ financial situations. This includes disclosing all sources of income, assets, and liabilities. The goal is to establish a clear picture of the financial disparity between the parties and determine the need for financial support.

Negotiation and Mediation

Negotiation and mediation are crucial steps where both parties, often with the assistance of solicitors, discuss and agree upon the terms of the periodic payments order. Mediation can be particularly beneficial in reaching an amicable agreement, reducing the need for contentious court proceedings.

Court Application

The terms are submitted to the court for approval if an agreement is reached. In cases where negotiation fails, an application for a periodic payment Order is made to the court. Before issuing an order, the court considers various factors, including the length of the marriage, the contributions of each party, their financial needs, and their earning capacities.

Court Hearing

During the court hearing, both parties present their financial circumstances and arguments for or against the order. The court then makes a decision based on the evidence provided and the principles of fairness and reasonableness.

Factors Considered by the Court

When determining whether to grant a Periodical Payments Order and the amount and duration of payments, the court considers several key factors:

Financial Needs and Resources

The court assesses both parties’ financial needs and resources, including their income, earning capacity, property, and other financial assets.

Standard of Living

The court aims to maintain a reasonable standard of living for both parties, considering the standard enjoyed during the marriage or civil partnership.

Age and Duration of Marriage

The age of the parties and the duration of the marriage or civil partnership are important considerations. Longer marriages may result in more substantial or longer-term orders.

Contributions to the Marriage

The court recognises both financial and non-financial contributions, such as homemaking and childcare, when determining the order.

Future Earning Capacity

The court considers the future earning capacity of both parties, including their ability to retrain or find employment.

Benefits of Periodical Payments Orders

Periodical Payments Orders offer several benefits, providing financial stability and support to the recipient while ensuring fairness for both parties.

Financial Security

These orders provide a regular income stream, ensuring financial stability for the recipient, particularly if they have limited earning capacity or significant childcare responsibilities.


Periodical Payments Orders can be tailored to the specific needs of both parties, including fixed-term arrangements that provide support while the recipient transitions to financial independence.

Potential for Variation

The orders can be varied or discharged if there are significant changes in circumstances, such as changes in income, employment status, or financial needs.

Considerations and Challenges

While Periodical Payments Orders provide essential financial support, they also present several considerations and challenges for both payers and recipients.

Dependency on the Payer

The recipient remains financially dependent on the payer, which can create ongoing financial uncertainty, particularly if the payer’s circumstances change.

Potential for Disputes

Disputes can arise regarding the amount, duration, and conditions of the payments. Clear and comprehensive terms in the court order are essential to minimise future conflicts.

Enforcement Challenges

Enforcing Periodical Payments Orders can be challenging if the payer fails to comply with the order. Legal remedies, such as garnishment of wages or seizure of assets, may be necessary to ensure compliance.

Alternatives to Periodical Payments Orders

Periodical Payments Orders are one of several options available for financial settlements in divorce or civil partnership dissolution. It is important to consider alternative methods to determine the most suitable arrangement.

Lump Sum Orders

Lump sum orders involve a one-time payment from one party to the other, providing immediate financial settlement. This method offers finality and eliminates ongoing financial dependency but requires careful consideration of the long-term financial impact.

Property Adjustment Orders

Property adjustment orders involve transferring or adjusting property ownership between the parties. This can include transferring the family home to one party, selling the property, and dividing the proceeds.

Pension Sharing Orders

Pension-sharing orders divide pension assets between the parties, creating separate pension pots. This method provides long-term financial security for the recipient but requires accurate valuation and consideration of future pension benefits.

Navigating the complexities of Periodical Payments Orders and alternative arrangements necessitates expert legal and financial advice. Engaging the services of solicitors and financial advisors is crucial to ensure a fair and legally sound agreement.

Legal Advice

Solicitors play a vital role in guiding clients through the legal aspects of Periodical Payments Orders. They assist in negotiating terms, drafting agreements, and representing clients in court if necessary. Legal advice ensures that the rights and interests of both parties are protected.

Financial Advice

Financial advisors provide valuable insights into the financial implications of Periodical Payments Orders and other arrangements. They help clients understand the long-term impact on their financial security, including tax considerations, investment strategies, and retirement planning.

Case Studies and Practical Examples

To demonstrate the practical application of Periodical Payments Orders, consider the following case studies:

Case Study 1: Emma and James

Emma and James have been married for 20 years. James is a high-earning executive, while Emma has been a homemaker with limited income. During their divorce, the court issues a Periodical Payments Order requiring James to make monthly payments to Emma for a period of 10 years. This arrangement provides Emma with financial security while she transitions to financial independence, including retraining and seeking employment.

Case Study 2: Sarah and Michael

Sarah and Michael decide to divorce after 15 years of marriage. Sarah has a significant income from her career, while Michael has been the primary caregiver for their children. The court issues a joint lives Periodical Payments Order, requiring Sarah to make monthly payments to Michael until he remarries or enters into a new civil partnership. This order recognises Michael’s contributions as a caregiver and ensures ongoing financial support.

Enforcement of Periodical Payments Orders

Ensuring compliance with periodic payment orders is essential for maintaining the recipient’s financial stability. Several legal remedies are available if the payer fails to comply with the order:

Garnishment of Wages

The court can order the garnishment of the payer’s wages, directing their employer to deduct the specified amount from their salary and pay it directly to the recipient.

Seizure of Assets

The court can authorise the seizure of the payer’s assets, such as bank accounts or property, to satisfy the outstanding payments.

Legal Action

If necessary, the recipient can take legal action to enforce the order, including applying for a judgment summons, which may result in the payer being fined or imprisoned for non-compliance.


Periodical Payments Orders play a vital role in financial settlements after divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership. These orders offer crucial financial support to the recipient, ensuring a reasonable standard of living and financial stability. To make informed decisions, it’s important to understand the legal framework, the process of obtaining and enforcing these orders, and their implications.

To determine the most suitable arrangement, alternative methods like lump sum orders, property adjustment orders, and pension-sharing orders must also be considered. Seeking expert legal and financial advice is vital to ensuring a fair and sustainable financial settlement.

At DLS Solicitors, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive legal support and guidance to clients navigating the complexities of Periodical Payments Orders. Our experienced team is here to assist with negotiations, court applications, and tailored advice, ensuring that your financial future is secure. Whether you seek to obtain a Periodical Payments Order, enforce an existing order, or explore alternative arrangements, we are here to help you achieve the best possible outcome.

Periodical Payments Order FAQ'S

A Periodical Payments Order is a type of financial support awarded by the court in family law cases, typically in the context of divorce or child maintenance. It requires one party to make regular payments to the other party.

Periodical Payments Orders can be made in cases of divorce or dissolution of civil partnerships, for spousal maintenance, or for child maintenance where the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is not involved.

The court considers various factors, including both parties’ income and financial needs, their standard of living during the marriage, and their future earning capacities. The needs of the child are also considered for child maintenance.

The duration of a Periodical Payments Order can vary. For spousal maintenance, it may last until a specified date or event (e.g., the recipient’s remarriage). Child maintenance generally lasts until the child reaches 18 or finishes full-time education.

Yes, a Periodic Payments Order can be varied or terminated by the court if circumstances significantly change, such as a change in income, employment status, or the parties’ financial needs.

If the paying party fails to comply with a Periodical Payments Order, the recipient can apply to the court for enforcement. The court can take various actions, including garnishing wages, seizing assets, or imposing fines.

Yes, the parties can agree on the amount and duration of periodical payments, and this agreement can be formalised by the court as a consent order.

Spousal maintenance received under a Periodical Payments Order is typically taxable income for the recipient and tax-deductible for the payer. Child maintenance is generally not taxable.

The court considers the child’s needs, the parents’ financial situations, and the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the family had remained together. The court aims to ensure the child’s financial stability and well-being.

While Periodical Payments Orders are typically associated with divorce or dissolution of civil partnerships, financial provision for former cohabitants can be made under certain circumstances, particularly if they have children together. Legal advice should be sought in such cases.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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