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Are maintenance orders variable after Divorce?

Divorce finances

spousal maintenenceIt is common for spousal maintenance (also referred to as periodical payments) to be ordered or agreed as part of a financial settlement in divorce proceedings.

What are spousal maintenance/periodical payments?

As you may know, spousal maintenance is a payment from one spouse to another. The payment is for the spouse and is therefore separate to child maintenance (which is dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service).

Whether or not spousal maintenance is payable, depends upon a number of factors which you would need to carefully review with your solicitor. It is very case specific.

Unlike with child maintenance, there is no formula for calculating the amount of spousal maintenance you should receive (if any). Instead, the maintenance payable will be calculated by looking at each party’s income and outgoings and establishing whether there is a surplus or a shortfall. The circumstances and background of each case will also be considered.

If a maintenance payment is ordered, you will also need to agree the duration of the order (i.e. a fixed term or for joint lives).

Your solicitor will be able to provide you with detailed advice in respect of spousal maintenance and help you establish whether it is something you can seek as part of your settlement.

Can spousal maintenance be varied?

Spousal maintenance can be upwardly or downwardly varied.

However, this is rarely pursued due to the fact an application to Court is required, meaning further costs will be incurred. Therefore, before applying to the Court you need to consider whether it is proportionate to pursue such application and whether you are likely to be successful. This is something your solicitor can help you answer.

A recent application for downward variation of maintenance

In a recent case before the Court, a final financial Order was made in August 2014, which provided for the Husband to pay spousal maintenance to the Wife.

However, the Wife subsequently applied to the Court for a Judgement Summons in October 2014 for the Husband to pay alleged arears of £11,733.00 (which was unpaid spousal maintenance and mortgage payments).

The Husband subsequently applied to the Court in February 2015 (6 months after the original order was made) to vary the spousal maintenance order to £800.00 per month.

However, whilst the Husband’s company had gone into administration, he confirmed he would be obtaining employment after the proceedings, which would provide him with a higher income than previously received.

The Court’s Decision

The matter came before the Court in May 2015.
In view of the fact the Wife had secured full time employment, the Court reduced the maintenance payment from £2,000.00 to £1,750.00 per month.

The Court also made a suspended committal order in respect of the Wife’s application for a Judgement Summons and ordered the Husband to pay the costs of the Wife’s application.

The Appeal

The Husband appealed this decision.

In considering the Husband’s appeal, the Court considered all circumstances of the case and reviewed each party’s income.

After considering matters, the Court stated that in view of the fact the original order was only made in August 2014, he would have to show a significant change in circumstances for a downward variation of maintenance to occur.

Therefore, the Court confirmed that a variation of the maintenance order was not justified.

However, the Court did set aside the committal order and associated cost order, as well as dismissing the Judgement Summons.

Conclusion

As confirmed above, whether or not maintenance is varied depends on a number of factors and is very case specific.

Therefore, if you would like to discuss varying an existing maintenance order, please contact our offices on 01323 727321 or info@hartreade.co.uk to arrange an appointment and we will be happy to discuss this with you.

Free Initial Appointment

Please note that Hart Reade’s Family Law department offer a free initial 30 minute interview to provide general advice and guidance in relation to your matter.

Please contact us to request a free initial appointment.