If you have a court ordered spousal maintenance sum to meet each month, you may need make reduced payments because of Coronavirus COVID-19. Whilst there are emergency provisions in place for some furloughed workers or self-employed individuals to receive income from the state during the pandemic, there are many people who are no longer receiving the same level of income they were when their court orders were made.
However, you must not simply cancel your standing order. Your first task should be to send an email to your former spouse, informing them about your current situation and propose a temporary change to the arrangements, setting out how the payments will be reduced. You should set out what income you do have coming in, your fixed outgoings and what you do propose to pay until your income increases again. It may be possible to agreeing suitable changes with your former spouse.
If this is not possible, consider speaking with a mediator online to explore whether a session or two of online mediation could be booked to agree a temporary reduction to the payments.
The Family Court is still open. Approximately one third of courts are still in operation, and a further third are open for administrative purposes. Cases have moved online, and court hearings are being dealt with on paper or using videolink. In the event that it is not possible to agree a change, an application to vary your spousal maintenance payments can be lodged with the Family Court to seek a change to your payment amount. This would involve you and your spouse exchanging financial disclosure, which would demonstrate the significant change to your financial circumstances.
If your income has been assessed by the Child Maintenance Service and you are no longer able to meet those payments, you should report the change in circumstances to the Child Maintenance Service. Either parent should tell the Child Maintenance Service if the paying parent’s income changes by 25% or more. Details of how to contact the CMS can be found here.
The CMS has produced a factsheet about reporting changes to your circumstances which you can download here.
Our office remains fully operational during the Coronavirus Crisis lockdown.
Visit our Coronavirus COVID-19 Family Law Resource Centre to get free and recently updated knowledge relating to family law issues in the current crisis.