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Maintenance for cohabitants
Hugh Wooding Law School
Who can apply
Under the Cohabitational Relationships Act 1998, a person who was a party to a cohabitational relationship that has ended can apply to the court for a maintenance order. This is an order for the payment of a monetary sum either by a lump sum or periodical payments. A cohabitational relationship is one between a man and woman who, not being legally married to each other, are living or have lived together as husband and wife.
To apply for a maintenance order, at least one of the parties must live in T&T and both parties must have lived together in the country for at least one third of the relationship.
Before you apply
The court must first be satisfied that:
• the applicant lived in a cohabitational relationship with the respondent for no less than five years
• the applicant has a child arising out of the cohabitational relationship
• the applicant has made substantial contributions (direct or indirect, financial or non financial).
The court must also be satisfied that failure to make the order would cause serious injustice to the applicant.
An application must generally be made within two years after the parties stopped living together.
No general right to maintenance
As a general rule one cohabitant has no right to be maintained by the other. However, the court may be willing to make a maintenance order if:
• the applicant is unable to support himself adequately because he is caring for a child of the cohabitational relationship, or a child of the respondent—the child must be under 12 years or if the child is mentally ill or physically disabled, under 18 years
• the applicant’s earning capacity has been negatively affected by the relationship, and a maintenance order would increase it by allowing the applicant to undertake a course of education or training
• in all the circumstances, it is reasonable to make the order.
Factors considered by the courts
The court will determine whether an order should be made and, if so, the amount of the order by considering a number of factors in relation to each cohabitant.
• their age and health including any disability
• their income, property, financial resources, needs and obligations
• their responsibilities to support any other person
• property or child maintenance orders made under the act
• duration of the relationship
• a reasonable standard of living
• contribution to the income, earning capacity, property and financial resources of the other
• any circumstance that justice requires to be taken into account.
As far as practicable, the court will attempt to end the financial relationship by making a “once and for all” payment order.
Where to apply
A person who wishes to apply for a maintenance order only may do so in the magistrates court. If the application includes other matters the applicant must go to the High Court. This column is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should consult a legal adviser. Co-ordinator: Roshan Ramcharitar
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