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Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Friday 19 August 2016


Maintenance orders are not cast for ever in stone. Either side can ask the court to change the amount payable on a variation application. When they do, how far does the court have to go into the background to the original order? Does it have to start from scratch  and consider everything afresh? That was thought for some time to be the case. But the Court of Appeal has just scotched that idea with a decision on 10 August 2016 in a case where the former husband was after a reduction in his liability to pay his former wife £2,000 per month which had been ordered just six months previously. 

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the court was not bound to consider everything afresh. A light touch review which focused on the relevant factors could be enough. To go back to the start would be disproportionate. I fancy that this ruling will lead courts in the future to particularly concentrate on any changes in the circumstances of each since the original order was made.

The same principles applied in relation to the court's obligation on a variation application to consider whether to alter the period for which maintenance is due to run, said the Court of Appeal.  It looks like a light touch consideration will do and I would expect that the closer the variation application is to the original hearing, the lighter that touch will be.

OK, you want to know how the former husband got on? On his variation application, he had secured a reduction in maintenance to £1,750 per month because the former wife's income had risen since the original order. The Court of  Appeal refused to reduce it further.