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I can't pay my maintenance - what do I do?

Published on Apr 28, 2020

One of the realities of the current Covid-19 pandemic is that people are being impacted financially.  Unfortunately, this can lead to difficulties meeting maintenance payments, so what can you do in that situation?

We have set out some guidance below regarding what to do if you have been impacted. 

What type of maintenance is it?

There are varying types of maintenance, the two most common are child maintenance and spousal maintenance.  

Child maintenance

If you are making payments through the Child Maintenance Service (“CMS”), the CMS has requested that, if your income has been affected as a result of Covid-19, you contact them and they can then consider a new payment schedule depending on your current income position. 

In some cases, you may make a payment under a court order.  We have set out the position below for anyone who pays spousal maintenance or child maintenance under a court order. 

It should be noted that if you are paying child maintenance and your court order is more than 12 months’ old, the process set out below may not apply to you.  Please get in touch if that is the case and we can advise you what your options are. 

Court ordered maintenance (spousal or child)

The first step would be to set out the position in writing to the receiving party.  It is possible for you to both agree to an amended position for either the short or longer term. 

If you are able to reach an agreement, then this should be formally documented to protect against any future enforcement claims.  The court order is a binding position and as such can be enforced for non-payment and/or arrears of payments.

If you are unable to agree a position, then an application to the court should be made to vary the payments that have been ordered.  It is important that this is done as quickly as possible.  It is important to ensure that you are acting appropriately within the terms of the order and that you are not intentionally disregarding the court order. 

If an application to the court is necessary, the courts will set out a process that has to be followed to allow for an application to be considered.

The outcome of the application will depend on a number of factors.  If you need any advice on your specific situation, please get in touch with Nicola Gibbs at for a free initial meeting. 

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