What happens if I cannot afford the maintenance arrangements during COVID 19?

COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on the way each and every one of us. As the worst of the pandemic may be behind us, the knock-on effects of both the virus and mandatory lockdown are expected to play out for some time.

Millions of workers across the UK have been forced to contend with a dramatic drop in income – some having seen their income drop to zero, practically overnight. As a result, many have found themselves faced with maintenance payments they simply cannot afford to make, raising a variety of important legal questions.

What should I do if I am required to pay maintenance which I can no longer afford?

As it stands, no formal policy or amendments have been outlined to assist those struggling with child maintenance payments, due to the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, it is important to take action at the earliest possible stage if you are unable to meet your obligations.

Upon encountering or anticipating financial difficulties, the other party should be contacted as soon as possible to discuss the matter. In order to support your case should it be brought before the courts as a result of CMS taking action, you should also provide formal evidence that your income has been reduced or cut off entirely. This way, you will be able to clearly demonstrate to the courts (if required) that you cannot meet your payment obligations, and that you are not simply using the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse.

If you can provide sufficient evidence to verify that you cannot afford your agreed child maintenance payments, you should be able to reach a new agreement with the other person.

What if I cannot reach an agreement with the other person?

If you have reached an impasse and cannot reach an agreement with the other person, it may be necessary to make a formal request to alter the terms of the maintenance order. The courts are usually unwilling to amend formal maintenance agreements, though have the power to do so in exceptional circumstances such as these.

Again, it will be a case of proving that you simply do not have the means to meet your maintenance obligations. Applying for an alteration to a financial order can be a time-consuming and costly process, which is why it is best avoided where possible.

Prior to bringing the matter before the courts, you may wish to consider mediation, with the help and support of a qualified solicitor.

What should I do if my ex-partner has stopped paying maintenance, without explanation?

Again, the first and most important step in the process is to contact them and discuss the matter as fairly and objectively as possible.  If their income has been affected to such an extent that they simply cannot afford to make the payments, you will need to discuss an alternative arrangement, or perhaps a temporary suspension of their payments.

If they provide concrete evidence that they cannot afford their repayments, it is highly unlikely you will be able to force them to continue paying – even if the matter is brought before the courts.

However, if you believe they have the means to afford their maintenance payments and are withholding payment for no good reason, seek professional legal advice at the earliest possible stage and consider enforcement proceedings.

For more information on any of the above or to discuss the financial implications of the COVID-19 crisis in more detail, book your obligation-free consultation with a member of the team at Aristone Solicitors today.

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Child and Family Law

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