The Ringrose Law family team has received a large number of calls since the pandemic relating to the impact upon existing Maintenance Orders.
The key issue for everyone is whether they will have sufficient funds to meet their monthly expenditure. How incomes are made up will vary from person to person and how the current pandemic has impacted with also be individual.
There has been a notably high level of panic and stress amongst worried individuals, most probably about the fear of the unknown and how long this will last and whether they will continue to have sufficient funds to meet their outgoings. This applies to both payers and recipients of Maintenance Orders.
All Court Maintenance Orders are capable of variation, both upwards and downwards, depending on the circumstances of the parties involved. Save for extraordinary events, these will tick over without much change, save for perhaps annual rises, or inflation or a trigger being reached such as a child finishing education.
However, Covid 19 is an extraordinary event. For many, the impact will be significant as income is reduced, and in some cases stopped altogether for an indefinite period of time.
Under S.31 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, the Court has the power to vary a Maintenance Order. Before deciding whether or not to vary, the Court must consider:
- The change in circumstances since the original Order was made
- The underlying basis and circumstances of the original Order and
- The new or current circumstances.
It’s primary objective is to consider the primary needs of both spouses and any children and how they can be met from the resources that are available. This also means that the Court will look at both parties capital positions when determining what is available.
A normal application to vary an Order would take up to 6 months to resolve. With the current lockdown arrangements, it is anticipated this will take longer as the Court are prioritising welfare issues over financial proceedings.
The process for a variation, is effectively a re-run of the Financial Remedy Proceedings, with both parties needing to provide updated full disclosure, Form Es and the costs involved can be considerable so it is important to seek advice before embarking on these proceedings.