Copyright Moore Barlow LLP (Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins merged May 2020)

What happens to spousal maintenance now?

The Coronavirus outbreak will have a far-reaching effect on all aspects of life, including income and job security. Your business may be feeling the brunt of it, or your income may have taken a sudden turn as you’ve been asked to take unpaid leave; whatever the case you will be wondering how you can afford to make any maintenance payments towards your ex-spouse.

Even when the court has ordered you to pay maintenance to your ex-spouse, the very fact this order has been made means that those income claims are still ‘live,’ allowing the court to make further orders if and when necessary. This does not mean you need to rely on the court, but it leaves the door open to re-negotiate the level of maintenance. You might wonder why your ex-spouse would ever agree to any change at all, but costs are treated differently when dealing with a variation of maintenance which should incentivise them to reach a sensible agreement. If your ex-spouse turns down what a court might consider a very reasonable offer, especially under the current circumstances, then they could be at serious risk of paying your legal costs for taking the matter back to court.

If you are finding it difficult to pay maintenance, then it might instead be an opportunity to capitalise your ex-spouse’s income claims. In practice, your ex-spouse might feel more inclined to accept a one-off lump sum payment rather than reducing the level of maintenance each month, which will in turn bring any maintenance to an end, permanently! The pandemic is going to make some people much more risk averse, which means your ex-spouse might be much more willing to accept a discounted one-off lump sum payment, rather than risk the uncertainty that comes with future maintenance payments in light of the pandemic.

The Coronavirus brings uncertain times with it and some people will feel harder done by than others. This will mean that spousal maintenance, in some cases, will need to be reviewed. If you need advice on varying maintenance then please contact Sahil Aggarwal on 020 8332 8675 or by email sahil.aggarwal@mooreblatch.com  for further information.


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