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What happens when you apply to vary the maintenance?

After a financial order is made, there may be circumstances in which a party may wish to vary the spousal maintenance. The party either paying or receiving maintenance may apply to the court to vary the maintenance. The court has a wide discretion as to whether to vary the spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance orders include but are not limited to periodical payments, lump sums payments, nominal maintenance order and pension sharing orders.

Which circumstances warrant a variation application?

There are various circumstances which may warrant an application for variation of spousal maintenance. For example:

  • A significant change in either party’s financial position e.g. loss of employment or a new job with a higher salary
  • Starting or ending a new relationship
  • The birth of a child

How to vary spousal maintenance payments:

The procedure to vary spousal maintenance is similar to that of issuing financial remedy proceeding. A Form A application will need to be completed and filed to court. Each party will need to provide full and frank disclosure by completing, exchanging and filing a Form E. The court will then list a hearing. At the hearing, a judge may vary the maintenance order by increasing, decreasing, suspending or terminating the maintenance.

When applying for variation application, consider the following:

  • The court has a wide discretion and there is no certainty that the court will vary the spousal maintenance. The court will seek for strong justifiable reasons in order to vary the maintenance
  • The court has the discretion to increase or decrease the spousal maintenance payments or dismiss the application. The court also has a duty to consider whether a clean break is appropriate. A clean break will end the financial obligations on each party
  • The timing of making the application is important, and the court will take this into account. It can be difficult to justify the reasons for varying the amount of spousal maintenance payments if the variation application is made too soon after the original order
  • Variation applications are costly and the cost of making a variation application could be disproportionate to the amount of maintenance in issue and therefore may not be worthwhile making the application