In this update, Family Law solicitor Sally Harris looks at what effects, if any, Covid-19 will have on agreed child maintenance payments.
Do I have to pay child maintenance payments under a court order when I am furloughed, due to Covid-19?
If you have a court order to pay maintenance to your ex-spouse, either for their maintenance or for a child/children, you must pay in accordance with the court order or risk being in breach. Your ex-spouse can pursue you through the court for any arrears that accrue and can ask for you to pay their legal costs of doing so.
If your financial circumstances have changed and you can no longer pay at the rate set, you must apply to vary a maintenance order. An application to vary can be made by consent if both parties agree to the new rate of maintenance to be paid. The court will consider your new financial position, the financial position of your ex-spouse and the needs of the parties and children. The courts priority will be to ensure the children’s needs are met.
Unless you are able to show the court your application is urgent, it may take many weeks to reach a hearing date. It can also be costly to apply to the court. Other options may resolve the issue more swiftly and be less expensive if your ex-spouse does not agree with a reduction of payments.
Mediation or discussions with your ex-spouse via solicitors may find an agreement such as a temporary cessation or suspension of maintenance while the current crisis continues.
Can capital can be used to pay some or all of the obligation? Maybe any shortfall can be made up at a later date? Practical solutions are the order of the day where possible.
If no agreement can be reached a court application may be necessary but both parties need to bear in mind this may take many weeks or months to resolve. Who knows how long COVID-19 and the current restrictions will be with us.
Our Family Law team is working hard to support all our family law clients during this unprecedented time, if you would like to discuss any of the points raised regarding Covid 19 and your child maintenance payments, please do not hesitate to contact Sally Harris via email on email@example.com or by calling 01603 598000.
*The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.