1st November 2017
Varying Spousal Maintenance Payments after Divorce
Once the divorce is over and a financial order has been made, life usually becomes more settled for all concerned.
However, some orders contain a provision for maintenance for an ex-spouse, setting out how much is to be paid and for how long. These orders reflect the circumstances, income and expenses of the parties at the time the order was made, but what happens if these circumstances change?
Sometimes an order will provide for a predictable change in circumstances and include an automatic reduction or increase in the amount payable, but all sorts of less predictable events may occur which may mean that the level or term of maintenance needs to be revisited.
When a significant change in circumstances of either or both parties occurs, the order can be reduced, increased or even terminated, but what does this involve? If a recipient of maintenance remarries, the maintenance order automatically terminates. However, the situation is less clear if the recipient moves in with a partner, as although that rarely terminates an order, it usually results in a reduction in the amount payable.
Where the change is to the finances of either party, then as long as the change is significant, the payments can be reconsidered, taking into account the current income and expenses of the parties. However this assumes that both parties know about the change in circumstances and often an improvement in finances only becomes apparent from a change in lifestyle, for example a new car or frequent holidays.
Obviously it is always better to try to agree whether and how the order should be varied and if agreement can be reached, the order can then be amended to reflect the agreed change. If an agreement cannot be reached, then different options are available to help to resolve the situation including mediation and collaborative law (both of which avoid the need to involve the court), arbitration (essentially where a private Judge appointed by the parties, decides the issue) or issuing a court application.
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This article was first published in the November edition 2017 of Wealden Times. www.wealdentimes.co.uk/