Insights

Coronavirus and maintenance payments

The coronavirus crisis is redefining lifestyles and the boundaries of our interactions; a situation that can be challenging for many couples. For couples who are struggling in their relationship, or trying to manage co-parenting, anxiety levels are likely to be heightened if it seems there is nowhere to turn, while personal movements are restricted.

The implications of the crisis will be different for many couples. Some may find that the time together has highlighted that they are incompatible or that their marriage has come to an end. We understand that at this time of financial uncertainty, the prospect of separating and funding two homes can be daunting. Even if you decide to wait until the lockdown restrictions have been lifted, it may be helpful for you to seek legal advice as to your options so that you can approach your separation in a structured and managed way when the time is right for you.

For couples who have already separated and have an order in place for one party to pay maintenance to the other, the coronavirus crisis may bring different challenges.

If there is an order in place for you to pay maintenance and you are earning less money during the crisis, or have lost your job, it may be possible to ask the court for a variation of payments. Returning to court can be costly and the best starting point would be to see if, with the assistance of legal advice, you can reach agreement between you and your former spouse, while exploring other sources of income and benefits.

It is important to note that a fall in income may not justify a change in arrangements, as maintenance is needs-based and the needs of both parties and any dependent children will be evaluated. If you are therefore in receipt of maintenance and the amount being paid is unilaterally reduced by the paying party, it may be that this is not a justified reduction.

If you are receiving maintenance payments and you lose other sources of income during the current crisis, such as your job and you have a greater shortfall in your income and your income needs, you can ask for the maintenance to be increased due to the change in circumstances. The court will first expect you to take reasonable steps to secure other sources of income, such as applying for relevant Government coronavirus schemes. It is typically preferable, with the benefit of legal advice, to try and agree any variation in maintenance your former spouse before an application to court is made.

At CWJ we know it is more important than ever that we are available for our clients.  We are making use of video and audio conference calling to ensure we are there to support our clients through the crisis.

Whether you are considering a separation or the coronavirus crisis has affected the financial matters already in place following a separation, we are here to advise and guide you as to your options.

For advice, telephone 01689 323053 or email Joanne.McDonald@cwj.co.uk

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Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.