How to deal with maintenance problems
Contrary to popular belief, the settlement of financial matters is not automatically included in the divorce process. In fact, without a final Court Order you are not protected from any future claims from your ex-spouse which can leave you vulnerable years down the line if you come into money via an inheritance for example – or perhaps if one of your existing financial assets becomes much more valuable. However, even if it transpires that your ex-spouse has no claim, the legal costs involved in defending yourself, are likely to exceed those of a Court Order taken out at the time of the divorce – particularly if that order is a consent order i.e. one agreed by both parties.
As with any other legal settlement, a Consent Order will eliminate the need for both parties to attend court and large sums of money being spent on legal expenses. A final financial settlement is essential if either of you have any assets – and is also well worth considering even if you have no current assets and you part amicably, because any decision is not legally binding without it.
What happens if my ex spouse dies or becomes ill?
Your maintenance will usually cease unless there is provision for you in your ex spouse’s will or through their employer’s life assurance benefits, although it is not advisable to rely solely on a will.
One option is to take out a life assurance on your ex spouse’s life, normally in the form of a Family Income Benefit policy which would protect your maintenance on death. There are also critical illness and income protection policies which may be available, as well as specific maintenance protection plans.
What can I do if my ex spouse has stopped paying maintenance?
Providing that you have not remarried you may be able to apply for a Consent Order through the courts. If there is already a Consent Order in force which your ex spouse is choosing to ignore, you can try to enforce it – perhaps by applying for an Attachment of Earnings order so that the money is deducted from their earnings at source and paid directly to you.
What happens if I can no longer afford to pay maintenance under the Consent Order?
Inform your ex spouse of your change of circumstances to see whether a ‘downward variation’ can be agreed by another Consent Order. Failing this, apply to the court and provide them with full details of the change in your circumstances as soon as possible in order to avoid accruing large arrears. It is important to bear in mind that the court can order that the balance of the maintenance be ‘capitalised’, meaning that a lump sum may be payable to cover any shortfall of maintenance payments that you are unable to pay. Your divorce solicitor will advise on the likelihood of this occurring before you make any application.
It is important to consult specialist divorce solicitors to ensure the right legal advice when trying to work out the financial terms of a divorce settlement. Contact us today or book a FREE 30 MINUTES INITIAL APPOINTMENT with one of our lawyers. Our team provide expert legal advice that will help secure your future financial position and wellbeing.
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