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Divorce and family law explained 

Spousal maintenance and child maintenance in a recession

With the recession starting to bite we are all looking for for ways to make saving. Out go expensive cars and designer clothes, the gym membership and fancy meals. What many people overlook however, is how you can either reduce the level of maintenance that you are paying or perhaps increase the level of maintenance you are receiving.

If you are the maintenance payer

If you are paying spousal maintenance or child maintenance under the terms of a Court order then it is important that you do not “take matters into your own hands” and simply stop payment. This could result in a court order being made against you for all of the missed payments and the court costs in addition. The first port of call is to try and speak to your ex partner to see if they will agree a reduction. If so, you then need the advice of an experienced family lawyer to ensure this agreement is legally binding and formally recorded.

It is also important to remember that you cannot just expect to reduce the payments because your costs of living have risen. The likelihood is that this will be the case for the recipient party and the argument is unlikely to find favour with the court.

If however you have been made redundant, or had your working week reduced or been forced to take a drop in income, then these are all factors that would facilitate such an application. The key issue is to take proper legal advice from a specialist family law firm.

If your ex partner does not voluntarily agree a reduction, then your lawyer will advise you on the merits of your position and an application to court if required. As long as you can demonstrate to the court that there has been a significant change in your circumstances, a downward variation is a likely prospect.

Similarly, if you pay child maintenance through a CSA arrangement then it is important that you speak to them as soon as your circumstances change and request that they reassess your position.

If you are the recipient of maintenance

If you receive spousal maintenance as a result of a court order or indeed a child maintenance CSA assessment then you may well be able to apply for an increase in the amount paid. Many court orders have a built in inflation linked yearly increase, but if there has been a substantial reduction in your income as a result of a reduced working week or redundancy for example, you may be able to apply for an increase. This is so, whether the maintenance you receive is for yourself or your children. The key issue here is to show that something “unforeseeable” has happened. However it is not as simple as just showing your circumstances have deteriorated as you will also need to show evidence that your ex partner is in a position to pay at an increased level. At this stage you should seek the advice of a specialist family lawyer.

In conclusion, an application under either circumstance is a complicated issue that should not be explored without specialist help. It is a difficult enough time for us all in these “penny pinching” times, but it is also advisable to consider all possible ways of decreasing your outgoings and increasing your income.

Need further advice?
Call Woolley & Co on 0800 3213832 or book a free initial telephone appointment with one of our lawyers.

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