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Maintenance revisited

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I have previously blogged on the anticipated impact that the economic downturn would have on those couples going through a divorce. It is now becoming apparent that the current recession is indeed beginning to take its toll, and not just on those who are in the process of splitting up at the present time.

Family solicitors are beginning to see an increase in the number of cases being brought by divorced husbands who, under the terms of settlements that had been reached some time ago, are paying maintenance to their former wives but due to a change in their financial circumstances are unable to continue to do so. They are therefore instructing their solicitors to agree a variation to the maintenance that they are paying.

The courts have the power to vary an existing maintenance order where there has been a change in financial circumstances, and examples of the changes that are being felt by these husbands are typically where there has been a redundancy, or where they are no longer receiving the big bonuses that they were at the time when the settlement was initially reached. A key factor though in determining whether an existing settlement can be revisited, is whether the change that is being relied upon is an "unforeseen circumstance". We have all been very aware that the economy was heading downwards, so whether this will be regarded as "unforeseen" is crucial.

For those who are currently in the process of negotiating settlements, the credit crunch is also playing its part, for example where an agreement has been reached in principle between the parties, by the time it is actually drawn up and sent off to court for approval, the values of the assets can have changed greatly which could of course result in one of the parties being disadvantaged if the agreement does not change.

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