Many of us are worried about the financial changes that are impacting us, both personally and professionally. No doubt it can be agreed that one of the greatest worries for us is the affordability of outgoings in the event that our incomes are reduced due to COVID-19, whether that is being furloughed, receiving statutory sick pay or receiving no income at all.
Whilst this will cause a strain on each and every person who does through a reduction in income, this will also influence and have an impact on those receiving spousal maintenance.
Why? Because spousal maintenance is based on current and projected incomes. When those Court Orders were made, whether that be years, months or weeks ago – no one would have had this pandemic in mind.
If your income is affected due to COVID-19, you may not be able to afford your own outgoings plus the periodical (spousal) maintenance payments. This will then affect the spouse receiving the payments too. Both the person paying the maintenance and the person receiving the maintenance may not be able to afford their outgoings with this income/maintenance.
s31 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 deals with the variation, discharging and enforcement of, for example, interim maintenance payments during the course of proceedings (maintenance pending suit) and periodical payments (spousal maintenance).
If there is a significant change of circumstances, for example, a reduced or no income, then an application can be made to the Court seeking a variation to the previous Court Order regarding the spousal maintenance payments.
Under usual circumstances, the Court will take into account the reduced income, the current circumstances and try to ensure that the needs of both spouses and any children are met. The Court has extensive discretion when taking into account the application before the Court and considering the circumstances before the Court.
The Court could, for example, reduce the spousal maintenance payments, completely cease any further spousal maintenance payments or even potentially capitalise the payments by using the resources available.
Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, and the unknown availability of the Courts, you may wish to explore discussions with your spouse or ex-spouse direct to try to come to an agreement, even if this is temporary.
The difficult is that it is unknown as to how long this current climate will continue.
If your income is reducing, you may wish to consider taking urgent legal advice to ensure that your position is protected. Currently, and due to the current COVID-19 crisis, we are all in an unknown and, I would personally argue that cash is king at a time like this.
If you are facing these difficulties or have concerns that you may be facing these difficulties in the near future and wish to plan ahead, then please do not hesitate to contact me on 0207 183 4595 to discuss your options.
This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a person fully qualified before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.