It is well-known that the current pandemic brought about by Covid-19 has had serious implications on many people’s finances. The BBC reported at the end of May that the Government’s furlough scheme covers now around 8.4 million people. This enables employees to receive 80% of their monthly salary, up to a maximum of £2,500. Whilst employers are able to top this figure up, they are not obliged to. As a result, many people are faced with a reduced income. Those even less fortunate may have been made redundant and so will receive no income going forward unless they are able to obtain employment elsewhere. Of course, this is no easy task in the current climate.
However, it may not be only these individuals that are affected. For separated families, one person could have maintenance obligations which they are no longer able to comply with, leaving the other person financially impaired too as a result.
So what happens if my former partner stops paying money owed to me by virtue of a court order because of their financial circumstances?
The Government has confirmed that due to Covid-19, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is not currently contacting paying parents about payments that have not been made. This could mean that it takes longer to get the money that is owed to you. However, there is no certainty as to when exactly this could be.
If your former partner stops paying spousal maintenance owed to you under a court order, they would be in breach of the order and in contempt of court. In the first instance, a letter setting out their legal obligations may have the desired effect. This would be the more cost and time efficient route over a court application. If a letter had no effect, you could consider commencing enforcement proceedings. The courts are currently operating at a reduced capacity as a result of Covid-19. However, this would not prevent you making an application and having the matter heard remotely.
But what if my former partner applies to vary the order because of their financial circumstances?
In this situation, you could consider a Hadkinson order.
Such an order originates from the case of Hadkinson and prevents a party making a new and additional application to the court unless they comply with the original order. In practical terms, your former spouse would not be allowed to apply to vary the amount of spousal maintenance payable until they have cleared the arrears owed to you.
It is also worth noting that Hadkinson orders do not just apply to finances. The Hadkinson case itself was about the return of a child. These orders are understandably rare in practice, it is important to know if they may be applicable to your situation. As a result of the pandemic, it could be that such issues arise more often.
At Parker Bullen LLP we remain committed to upholding high client service standards. We understand that these sorts of matters can be extremely emotional and also time sensitive. If you wish to discuss your matter with one of our lawyers, please call us on 01722 412000 (Salisbury) or 01264 400500 (Andover). We offer a free, no obligation initial consultation.