What happens about child maintenance payments if I lose my job?

24 March 2020 | Written by Jones Myers

By Norman Taylor, collaborative family law specialist

As the coronavirus crisis takes its toll on the UK economy with reports that one million people could lose their jobs, the pandemic will have an enormous impact on family finances in the long and short term.  

The concerns of divorced and estranged parents include sustaining child maintenance payments if their income ceases along with making decisions over court proceedings. We hope the following advice is helpful at this uncertain time.  

How do I continue making maintenance payments during the crisis if my income dries up?

  • Communicate with your ex-partner – try to provide them with as much verified information explaining why the payments can no longer be met with the aim of reaching an agreement
  • Any such agreement should be confirmed in writing and ideally would be entered into with each party having taken legal advice
  • It may be that a lower figure can be agreed in the short term on the basis that any “arrears” are paid later – but it will very much depend upon the facts of each individual case
  • If the above fails and maintenance is being paid under a court order and you cannot continue to pay, you may have to make an application to the court to vary or suspend the order
  • This is not a simple process but failure to do so might result in arrears building up that could be enforced at some future date
  • We strongly advise against ignoring the situation. Gather your information, communicate and take legal advice.

I am in court proceedings relating to financial matters. Should I consider adjourning and/or turning to other out of court processes?

  • It’s important to remember that the courts are already under great pressure which has been exacerbated by the ongoing situation
  • This could be an appropriate time to arrange a process that brings your ex and both your lawyers round the “virtual” table to start a dialogue and mediation. You can read about the mediation process here  
  • Courts are very supportive of parties who wish to use non-court methods to resolve issues – your family lawyer will be able to advise on the various options and their pros and cons. They include Arbitration which will enable easier access to a “private Judge” to assist on any disagreement. In addition, when normality returns there will be a considerable backlog for the courts to resolve and access to arbitration will enable a resolution to be reached much quicker. Information on the process is available here

Should court cases be adjourned until the crisis is over?

  • If it is clear that the financial information that everyone has worked on will become – or already has become – obsolete. Consider adjourning any hearing until the position is clear. There is no point reaching agreement, or having a determination by a Judge, based upon inaccurate information. In Arbitration the private judge can adjourn the determination for a limited time to enable the situation to be reviewed.

What is the impact of the pandemic on all the financial information gathered to date such as business valuations, investments, incomes?

  • This will be different in every case. However, it is likely that any previous business valuation will now be potentially unreliable as the company may have been detrimentally affected by the economic fallout
  • As above, it is dangerous for decisions to be made based upon inaccurate information
  • It is vital that the parties remain calm and sensible and set their differences aside to work together

If you are worried about how issues arising from the current crisis might impact upon your family situation, please call us at Leeds on 0113 246 0055, Harrogate on 01423 276104, or York on 01904 202550. Visit www.jonesmyers.co.uk, email info@jonesmyers.co.uk or tweet us @helpwithdivorce

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