What happens when there is a request for a variation of spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance variation applications can feel complicated. What needs to be considered?

At the time of a divorce, if one spouse needs ongoing income support from the other spouse on a monthly basis, this is called spousal maintenance.  Often capital and pension claims are dealt with at the time of the divorce, and a capital and pension clean break can be achieved.  If there is spousal maintenance, there is not a clean break on income until the maintenance ends.

Spousal maintenance can be for a specified period of time(term maintenance), for the rest of life (joint lives) or can be for a token amount (nominal maintenance) as a safety net to be able to increase in the future if needed.  There is no formula for calculating spousal maintenance, unlike for child maintenance where a formula can be used.  Instead the amount of spousal maintenance and the duration it is to be paid for is decided by a review of the income and outgoings of each spouse and consideration of what should happen if there is a shortfall.

Spousal maintenance can be changed (increase or decrease) in amount and duration for a number of reasons, which can include-

·      Material change of circumstance to either the paying or receiving spouse’s financial

Circumstances e.g. job loss or changes, windfalls.

·      Changes to the personal circumstance of either the paying or receiving spouse e.g. cohabitation with a new partner, children with a new partner or health issues.

When considering if a variation should be made, the court is required to consider if a clean break on maintenance could be possible, which could be achieved by giving a one of lump sum payment and then stopping ongoing maintenance.  If this is not affordable or appropriate, a new maintenance award can be made which will take into account the revised circumstances.  In any event, the court will need to ensure that the receiving spouse can adjust without undue hardship to the reduction or end of spousal maintenance and that the end result is fair, with the welfare of any children the first consideration.

If you have a spousal maintenance order and you know your circumstances are going to change, it is sensible to inform your former spouse, with as much notice as possible, so that adjustments can be made and sensible discussions can happen.  Full financial disclosure is required when a variation application is being considered. Mediation can be a useful way to deal with these issues, avoiding costly, stressful and length court proceedings.

To find out more about how mediation can help, call us on0800 206 2258 or drop us an email at hello@familymediationandmentoring.co.uk


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