Varying Maintenance Payments
Lawyers have different terms for regular repeating payments due after a divorce, such as ‘periodical payments’, ‘maintenance payments’, ‘alimony’ and ‘child-support.’
As lawyers we are often asked 'how much maintenance should I pay?'.
- Maintenance payments to a spouse end where the recipient remarries or if the court orders it.
- Payments to children usually end when they are no longer in education (after university, where relevant).
Until then almost always an application could be made by either side for maintenance payments to a spouse or child maintenance payments to increase or to be reduced.
A ‘variation’ or change to the amount or duration of the maintenance payment order might happen:
Automatically (because a system to alter the order by an indexation factor was provided for in the original order). Use our Maintenance Calculator to see the impact of indexation on your maintenance payments; or
As a new order because an application is made to the court and the court changes the amount and/or duration of the earlier order.
A variation to maintenance payments can only be asked for if there has been a change. You might make an application because of:
Changes in the law (for example, currently Judges are tending to make orders at lower levels that last for a shorter number of years);
Changes in earnings, sudden influx of (or reductions in) capital;
New relationships (or the end of a new relationship) undermining the assumptions on which the order was made;
The end of the need for a nanny – or just the fact that children become more expensive as they get older; or
Increases or reductions in need or even simply inflation/ deflation.
- The application that changes the order is called “an application to vary” and the changed order is often called “a variation”. It will be:
- Amount: A different level of maintenance payment
- Duration: And usually for a shorter (or occasionally a longer) period.
Risk vs reward
For many people the costs of putting things right, where agreement can’t be reached, makes a formal process unattractive – even when a clear case can be made out. At Family Law in Partnership, we think that there are ways of reducing the costs and that more people should be recognising sooner when their orders are out of date and when they need to take steps to see the orders adjusted.
The following pages give an overview of the legal position, provide practical tips as to how to take things forward as well as introduce the services of Family Law in Partnership.
Particular complications may apply when child maintenance is concerned, where expensive mistakes are common. All of these issues involve technical tips and traps so our general advice is at least to have one session of advice to find out whether the “diy” application is right for you.