A maintenance order is part of the outcome in many divorce cases. These maintenance orders can be time limited, or they can continue during the joint lives of the former spouses until an event, such as the receiving party’s remarriage, terminates the payments.
Whilst these payments are initially ordered on a “joint lives” basis, maintenance orders are always capable of being reviewed and varied. Over the past two years, there has been a significant shift in judicial thinking when it comes to maintenance orders. A joint lives order was almost a certainty for an economically weaker party divorcing in London just two years ago.
Now, the landscape is very different and there is a focus on attaining financial independence as soon as possible, so long as it does not leave the financially weaker party facing undue hardship.
There have since been many applications to court, made by the paying party, to vary either the amount or duration of payments. In most instances, the receiving party would have been expected to reach financial independence more swiftly than they would have been expected to in their original divorce.
Often, a change of circumstance was seen to be required before an application to vary a maintenance order was deemed appropriate. For example, if the paying party were to lose their job or the receiving party earn a higher income independently, then that may be a good reason to apply to the court for the maintenance amount and duration to be varied. Increasingly, applications are being made where there has been no significant change of circumstance, but rather due to the change in the law.
For receiving parties, this shift in the law may come as bad news. There are instances where the receiving party is financially dependent on the maintenance payments and the route to financial independence may simply be unattainable. On the contrary, the news may come as a relief for some paying parties.
If you are currently paying or receiving maintenance and are concerned about your position or would like to know whether you are paying the appropriate amount, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss the particular circumstances of your case.