There is no doubt, that the Covid-19 pandemic is having not just a global economic impact, but also a personal one to millions of people around the UK.
If you are a payer of maintenance, but have seen a reduction in your income, it may well be that you are simply not in a position to continue to meet maintenance payments, whether that be child maintenance or spousal maintenance (to an ex-wife or ex-husband).
It would be fool hardy to simply stop paying the maintenance payments, but how you deal with it, will depend upon the origins of the maintenance agreement or order. Communication is key.
We would suggest, that the first thing that you do, is advise your ex-spouse of your predicament and confirm that you will continue to pay what you can. It would be worth seeking advice from a solicitor as to how the communication is made and what reduced level of maintenance should be offered.
If you pay spousal maintenance following a court order and there is going to be a temporary or a permanent reduction in the maintenance being paid, then you must consider making an application to the court to vary the order. Failure to do so, would result in you being in breach of a court order and potentially facing Enforcement Proceedings instigated by the recipient.
If the child maintenance was assessed through the Child Support Agency (CSA) or Child Maintenance Service (CMS), then please contact them straight away so that they may do a re-assessment.
If you are the recipient of child or spousal maintenance, and that is no longer being paid, or reduced without an agreement or court order, then there are steps which you can take.
Firstly, speak to your ex- partner and clarify why it is not being paid. It maybe that you can come to a temporary agreement on maintenance during, for example a period of furlough.
Secondly, if there was an assessment by the CSA or CMS, then contact them and advise that the payments have been reduced or stopped. They will be able to undertake an investigation for you.
If it is spousal maintenance which has not been paid in accordance with an order, it may be that you have to refer back to the court which made the order and potentially instigate proceedings to enforce the order. We recommend that you take advice from a solicitor before doing this.
If your own financial position has changed, but you do not currently receive spousal maintenance, do you have a court order? If so, check it to see whether it includes a “nominal maintenance” order, for example this may be an order that your ex-spouse pays you £1 per annum. If there has not been any changes in your ex-spouse’s financial position, it would be worth seeking advice now, as to whether you can increase that nominal sum to a more realistic level.
Of course, your situation will be unique to you. This brief overview is intended as a guide only. Please contact us, if you require advice tailored to your own circumstances.
Fiona Wilson at the Hinckley Office on 01455 610747; Fiona.firstname.lastname@example.org
Judith Wheeler at the Leamington Spa office 01926 887700; email@example.com