The Coronavirus outbreak has had an impact on many people’s incomes. For those paying or receiving spousal or child maintenance, there may be very real concerns.
For those paying maintenance they may be asking “should I have to continue to pay it when my income has dropped suddenly?” For those in receipt the question may be “how am I going to get by if the payments are suddenly reduced or stopped altogether?”
The courts are unlikely to be able to handle an influx of variation applications or enforcement applications. While people may still bring such applications and may have to out of necessity, the courts are going to expect to see a common-sense approach and are very likely to be critical of those that try to take advantage of the situation.
If you are paying spousal or child maintenance and can no longer afford to continue to make the payments at the rate you have been ordered to, first talk to your former spouse or partner. Set out how your income has dropped and what you think you can realistically now afford to pay. If you are falling back on savings, how much can you sensibly dip into your savings. If you are receiving maintenance and have accumulated savings, tell your former spouse saying that you may be able to fall back on that money.
Stopping payment entirely is only going to be appropriate in circumstances where you suddenly find yourself without any income at all or only enough to meet your bare day-to-day needs and do not have any savings to fall back on.
If you are a recipient of maintenance, be realistic. Do not just say there is a court order in force and it has to be complied with. You will, if you decide to issue an application to the court to enforce any arrears, when you finally get before a Judge, be faced then with an application to remit (waive) the arrears and/or vary the maintenance payments. Any unrealistic demands are going to be looked at in a dim light.
We will be happy to talk things through with you to give a balanced view as to what may be an appropriate interim variation. We can enter into a dialogue with your former spouse or partner to help resolve any issues if you feel that you cannot talk to them direct. Otherwise, mediation may be an option.
The above is accurate as at 31 March 2020. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.