Spousal maintenance during the Coronavirus lockdown
The COVID-19 outbreak is impacting everybody’s lives and the financial consequences of this pandemic continue to grow. With the majority of businesses now closed, employees furloughed or taking reductions in salary and a rise in redundancies, those people paying or receiving spousal maintenance during the coronavirus lockdown are facing uncertain times.
If a person is in receipt of spousal support and their former partner asks to vary their payments, the paying party should also be providing written documentation to show that their employment status has changed and thus their income is going to be affected. It is important that both parties try to take a practical approach and communication is going to be key in order to reach a sensible solution. Both parties should look at each other’s financial position and take a pragmatic view. It may be possible for the parties to agree on a reduction for a set period, with the maintenance going back to the original amount after this time has passed. However if the paying party is unable to meet their obligations, it is possible for the receiving party to consider agreeing to receive nominal maintenance or no maintenance for a set period of time.
If parents cannot reach their own agreement then negotiations can be conducted through solicitor correspondence or mediation. Court should be seen as a last resort as many financial cases are currently being adjourned as the Court tries to focus on the most urgent of hearings (child abduction, domestic violence etc). The Court does have the ability to vary spousal maintenance if a party can demonstrate a change in their circumstances which has immediate financial consequences to justify the change. First and foremost, the Court will consider the welfare of any child under the age of eighteen that is financially supported by the parties. Amongst other factors, they look at both parties’ financial resources and needs, the current standard of living and how long spousal maintenance has been paid for. The Court retains an enormous flexibility to vary spousal maintenance payments and may also take the opportunity to consider whether the parties are ready for a clean break and do away with further maintenance if they are presented with an application by either the paying or receiving party.
If anyone is concerned about how they will meet the obligations of spousal maintenance or they are afraid they will not receive what has been agreed, it is important to seek independent and confident legal advice from the outset. At Barker Gotelee our family solicitors can offer an initial no obligation consultation through remote working to discuss specific situations and the options available to individuals, so please feel free to contact us.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.