George Ide’s divorce solicitors in Chichester are often asked, are the terms of a divorce financial settlement order final? And while, in most circumstances, the answer is yes, there are some situations where variation orders may be granted by a court.
In most divorce financial claims the court will assess all aspects of each spouse’s wealth; including assets, property ownership, earnings and income, future earnings, and pension assets. A settlement for a couple with children, will be likely to include transferral of ownership of the marital home, or a trust of land will be put in place, plus the setting up of maintenance payments for the children’s upkeep.
In a typical high-value divorce settlement the major earner (usually the ex-husband) will leave a marriage with wealth based upon ability to maintain earnings and bonuses, projections of income from a share portfolio, the balance of savings after any lump-sum payment to a former spouse, and projected pension income.
However, in some cases, particularly during times of economic downturn when bonuses are cut and job losses are common-place, an ex-spouse’s ability to keep up high maintenance payments or to fulfil a lump sum payment plan may be compromised. At such a time, it may be prudent to talk to a divorce solicitor to determine whether the seeking of a variation order through the family court may be appropriate.
Family courts are likely to take a dim view of a spouse who merely refuses to pay a financial court order and, if suitable evidence of lack of funds cannot be shown to a court, non-payment could result in a custodial sentence.
First and foremost, the divorced parties should, with the help of their family lawyers, seek to negotiate new payment terms which are acceptable to them both, but, if this proves impossible, an application may be made to the court to vary the terms of a financial order.
If circumstances of hardship are proven and the court is satisfied that that the former spouse is unable to maintain payments as ordered, it has the power under section 31 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 to vary a periodical payment order. The court will have no power to alter a property adjustment or to rescind a lump sum order – it will, however, be able to alter any instalment plan for payments of a lump sum.
The family law team at George Ide in West Sussex can advise on all aspects of matters arising from marital and relationship breakdown.
To find out if you would be eligible to seek a variation order for your divorce financial settlement, why not talk to our experienced family lawyers today.
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