These financially uncertain times have had a wide-ranging impact, with many of us feeling the pinch of escalating utility bills, increasing mortgages, and steeper taxes. As incomes struggle to keep up with these rising costs, those who have commitments tied to spousal maintenance adjustments attached to inflation rates are feeling the pressure more than ever.
Traditionally, such inflation-based adjustments were seen as a practical approach. They ensured couples wouldn’t have to continually return to court over financial adjustments. But today’s soaring inflation rates are turning these well-intentioned agreements into sources of stress and potential financial hardship.
I’m currently representing a client in a spousal maintenance variation case, and it brings to light the real-world implications of these situations. Just imagine the surprise of realising that your maintenance commitment has suddenly spiked by 10% due to inflation. For example, someone who is already committed to £3,000 per month, this will translate to an unexpected £3,600 yearly increase. And this burden can feel even heavier if one is simultaneously experiencing a dip in net income.
Finding a balance
If you are finding that, for whatever reason, the agreed spousal maintenance is not working there are some things you can do to address the balance of fairness.
- Stay Calm: It’s crucial to remember that maintenance agreements inherently possess flexibility. When significant changes occur, courts tend to be understanding and avoid imposing onerous financial burdens.
- Initiate Conversations: If your current maintenance commitment feels imbalanced given the present economy, it’s time to initiate talks. Many can successfully renegotiate with their ex-spouse terms more suited to our current economic climate, achieving mutually satisfactory outcomes. Think about income needs and how shortfall can be met.
- Assess the Scenario: Sometimes, legal avenues might be considered. However, it’s essential to weigh the potential costs against the benefits.
- Seek Specialist Divorce Advice: If you can’t find a solution yourselves then this is where the value of specialist advice truly shines. Expert guidance whether that is a mediator or divorce solicitor can navigate the nuances of your situation, ensuring that you make well-informed decisions that protect your interests.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re on the receiving end of maintenance without inflation considerations and the funds are falling short, the court may be understanding—especially if you’re doing all you can to boost your income. Perhaps income from child maintenance has decreased due to one of multiple children turning 18, or maybe health set-backs means reduced hours. You will find yourself requiring additional spousal maintenance to meet your income shortfall.
If discussions or mediation aren’t fruitful, legal avenues might be the next step, provided you have the means.
At The Family Law Company, we advocate for open communication and thoughtful negotiation. Before jumping into litigation, we strongly recommend exploring avenues of dialogue and mediation. In these tough economic times, it’s vital to strike a fair balance in financial responsibilities. It is important to consider short-terms and long-term needs and consider the possibility of finding solutions that address both. Guiding and supporting families through such challenges, ensuring a brighter future for everyone, remains our unwavering mission. For personalised guidance, our specialist family law team, led by professionals like myself, are always here to help.
Need some advice? Get in touch today