The news is all about the cost-of-living crisis. North west divorce financial settlement solicitors are getting calls about spousal maintenance and whether spousal maintenance payments can go up to cover increased household bills. Those paying spousal maintenance are equally worried about how they can pay their increased bills and still meet their spousal maintenance payments.
In this article our divorce financial settlement solicitors answer your questions:
- Can spousal maintenance be changed?
- What triggers a change in spousal maintenance?
- Cost of living crisis and spousal maintenance
- Do bigger bills mean more spousal maintenance?
- Agreeing a change in spousal maintenance
- Applying to court for a change in spousal maintenance
Can spousal maintenance be changed?
Spousal maintenance can be changed. It can go up or down or be stopped altogether. The change to spousal maintenance can be made by agreement or the court can vary the spousal maintenance payments.
If you are also paying or receiving child support then the spousal maintenance can be changed independently of the child support payments. Child support is normally paid by agreement or after an assessment by the Child Maintenance Service. Spousal maintenance is usually payable by agreement or under a family court order. Spousal maintenance and child maintenance are calculated in different ways. If you are worried about how an increase or decrease in spousal maintenance could affect your child support it is best to talk to your family law solicitor.
What triggers a change in spousal maintenance?
A variation in spousal maintenance can be triggered by many different changes in your personal or financial circumstances or those of your former husband, wife, or civil partner.
Changes that can trigger a need to review spousal maintenance payments are:
- The payer or receiver loses their job and can’t get another one.
- A business goes bust or there is a downturn resulting in reduced business profits and less income for the company directors.
- The re-marriage of the person receiving the spousal maintenance (this automatically stops the spousal maintenance payments).
- The cohabitation of the person getting the spousal maintenance ( the spousal maintenance court order could say maintenance should stop if the person receiving the spousal maintenance starts a cohabiting relationship and they live with their partner for a specified period, such as six months. In other spousal maintenance orders a new relationship involving cohabitation may not be a trigger for the automatic cessation of spousal maintenance but may justify a variation application).
- Increased outgoings that are reasonable in nature to incur. For example, the decision to lease a new luxury car may not thought to be reasonable increased outgoings but larger bills on the mortgage or the gas or electricity may be reasonable in nature to incur as you can’t be blamed for the price hikes that are outside your control.
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Cost of living crisis and spousal maintenance
The cost-of-living crisis is generating lots of questions about spousal maintenance and financial settlement options. If you are negotiating a financial settlement, it’s important to remember that spousal maintenance can go up or down or that you can negotiate a clean break financial settlement so there is no further financial liability towards your former husband or wife. A Northwest divorce financial settlement solicitor can look at the best financial settlement options for your personal and financial circumstances and can weigh up the potential cost of capitalising spousal maintenance payments at the time of the financial settlement (paying spousal maintenance in one lump sum so your former spouse gets more assets but no ongoing spousal maintenance) or the risks of agreeing to spousal maintenance and variation applications to increase the payment if cost of living rises are beyond inflationary increases.
Do bigger bills mean more spousal maintenance?
‘Do bigger bills mean more spousal maintenance?’ Not necessarily. That’s because one of the issues is whether the person seeking the variation in spousal maintenance has looked at the ability of their former spouse to pay more or receive less in spousal maintenance if they too are facing higher outgoings and haven’t received a higher than inflation pay rise and have no ‘spare’ or surplus income. Every spousal maintenance question must be considered carefully as each depends on the financial and personal circumstances.
Agreeing a change in spousal maintenance
You can agree a change in spousal maintenance in several different ways:
- By agreement or
- Using solicitor negotiations or
- Through family mediation or
- An application to court to vary spousal maintenance.
If you agree how spousal maintenance will be changed outside the court process it’s important to record your agreement in writing and to secure a financial court order or apply to court, by agreement, to change the wording of your existing spousal maintenance order.
Applying to court for a change in spousal maintenance
You can apply to court to increase, decrease, or stop spousal maintenance payments. It’s best to talk to financial settlement solicitors before making an application as they can advise on your likely prospects of success or whether it is best to try and negotiate without first making an application to court.
An application to the family court to vary spousal maintenance follows a similar court procedure to an application for a financial settlement in that the variation application involves financial disclosure and a series of court hearings to help you either reach an agreement or for the court to determine if the spousal maintenance payments should be varied.