Maintenance for a spouse, usually the wife, is a relatively rare thing nowadays. But spousal maintenance orders are made, and sometimes they are for a purely nominal sum, such as five pence per annum.
But what is the point of such an order? The point is that, like any maintenance order, it can be varied (i.e. increased) at a later date. A nominal maintenance order of itself is meaningless, but it does give the court the opportunity to increase the maintenance at a later date, if circumstances require.
So what kind of circumstances may give rise to a nominal spousal maintenance order being increased? A recent family court case has shed some light upon this.
Before we look at the case we should say that the law essentially states that a maintenance order may be varied (i.e. increased or decreased) if there has been any change in the circumstances (in particular the financial circumstances) of either party.
But, as we will see, to trigger the variation of a nominal order, the change in circumstances has to be something significant, rather than just an increase or decrease in the income or outgoings of either party.
In the case the wife had a nominal maintenance order made in her favour in 2012. She worked as an airline pilot and, when the pandemic struck, she lost her job. She therefore applied to the court to have the nominal maintenance order increased, to cover the shortfall in her income.
The family court was not prepared to increase the order. The judge said that there was no causal connection between the marriage and the wife’s loss of employment, in these circumstances nearly a decade later. Further to that, it was probably the case that the wife would find new employment once the pandemic was over.
Putting it another way, the judge said that if the wife had, relatively soon after the end of the relationship, suffered a significant work-related disadvantage as a result of the marriage, then the court might be prepared to increase the nominal order. That is not, however, what happened here.
Accordingly, the wife’s application was dismissed.
If you or your former spouse are considering applying to vary a maintenance order, then you should seek the advice of an expert family lawyer. We can find you an expert lawyer that works with you on our digital platform. For more information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.
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