I have lost my job, do I still have to pay my Spousal Maintenance?
In these uncertain economic times, this is a highly relevant question to be answered.
In situations whereby a couple have separated and finalised their Matrimonial claims against each other by entering into an Order of the Court, there may be a provision that provides for one party to pay maintenance to the other on a monthly basis for a set period of time.
This may be in respect of child maintenance (for the upkeep of the children) or spousal maintenance (to support the spouse in meeting her outgoings) or in some circumstances, both.
Any maintenance orders will have been calculated at the time of settlement based on the parties’ current circumstances at that time. Unlike, capital and pension claims, that are made in full and final settlement, income claims remain open to variation. This is because either the paying party or receiving party’s circumstances could change at any time meaning that it would either be difficult/impossible to meet the terms of the Order granted previously or in the later position, unnecessary or unfair for maintenance to continue.
In the circumstances, where a paying party loses their job, they should advise their former spouse immediately and invite them to enter into discussions about how in the interim either the payments need to be reduced or ceased until new employment is obtained. The onus is on the paying party to be proactive in this situation as by not paying the maintenance they are the party in breach of a Court Order.
If it is likely that a new job will be found relatively quickly, an interim reduction/cessation may be able to be agreed between the parties with the agreement it will be reintroduced as soon as the new employment begins. The parties should work together to try and reach a suitable solution for all parties. For example, if the party who has lost their job has received a handsome redundancy settlement, the parties could agree that maintenance should continue whilst they look for a new job.
When an agreement can't be reached
If an agreement cannot be reached, then it would be sensible for the parties to consider attending mediation or instructing lawyers to assist them.
In some circumstances, if an agreement cannot be reached, it may be necessary for the paying party to apply to the court for a suspension of the maintenance order whilst they remain out of work rather than incurring arrears. That party will be required to show to the other party and the Court that they are actively looking for new employment of a similar nature. In the event that alternative employment is found with a much lower or higher salary then it may be that either party may then apply to the court for a variation of the existing order.
If you are concerned about your Maintenance Order as a result of losing your job or have just been advised by your ex-spouse that they have lost their job and are seeking a variation on your maintenance, please take advantage of our free initial consultation to we can run through your options.
At Watson Thomas our staff can work from home and access all systems so even if all are required to self-isolate this will not affect the day-to-day running of your case. We can also hold appointments via telephone and video link as needs be to ensure that your service is not interrupted.