Can I ask the court to increase my maintenance?

We are living in times of high inflation. The cost of everything is going up, and many are finding it increasingly difficult to pay for essential outgoings.

An obvious answer to the problem is to increase your income. But what if your income comes from a spousal maintenance order? Can you go back to the court and ask for more?

The answer is that you can – technically, it’s called a ‘variation’ application.

You can also ask the court to extend the duration of the maintenance order, so long as the order did not prohibit any extension, and you apply within the term of the original order.

If you apply to vary a maintenance order the court will look at all of the circumstances of the case, including the means of the parties, when deciding whether to vary the order, just as it would have done when it made the original order (although if the application is made shortly after the original order, then the court may consider that a full rehearing is not needed).

But the court will be particularly required to look at any change in those circumstances since the original order was made, as if there has been no change, or little change, then a variation will not be justified. The change may affect the income of the paying spouse, or the financial needs of the recipient spouse.

And sometimes when a maintenance order is made it is expected that the recipient spouse will take steps to increase their earnings – if this was the case, then it will be taken into account by the court on a variation application.

There is also another alternative available to the court on a variation application, apart from simply altering the amount of the maintenance: the court can ‘capitalise’ the maintenance, for example by replacing it with an order that the other party pay you a lump sum.

It should be noted that this post is about spousal maintenance orders, as (save in high income cases) child maintenance will be dealt with under the child support scheme, which does not involve the court. However, the court will quite often seek to retain some ‘control’, even where a full spousal maintenance order is not justified, by making a nominal maintenance order in favour of the parent looking after the child(ren). The court could, in theory at least, increase the nominal order at a later date, should the circumstances require it.

Before applying to vary a spousal maintenance order you should seek expert legal advice upon the likelihood of the court increasing the maintenance. We can find you an expert who can assist you via our digital platform. For more information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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