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Can I amend my divorce settlement due to Covid?

Maintenance Orders are capable of variation so if your income has reduced as a result of the pandemic, you may be entitled to reduce your payments. You should ensure that any reduction is reflected in a Court Order to ensure your ex-spouse cannot claim arrears from you.

It is not generally possible to vary capital and pension settlements included in Court Orders unless there has been a significant event, sometimes known as a “barder event”. The following four conditions must be satisfied:

  1. New events have occurred since the Order which invalidate the basis or fundamental assumption on which the Court Order was made and which were unforeseen and unforeseeable. This can include a change in the value of assets, employment status, inheritance and death.
  2. The new events occurred within a relatively short time of the Order being made.
  3. The Application to change the Order is made reasonably promptly.
  4. If the Application succeeded, this would not prejudice any third parties who have acquired assets in good faith e.g. if the family home has already been sold to a third party.

The applications relying on Covid as a significant event have had limited success. The circumstances in which the Barder principle may apply are few and far between. It is of note that the global financial crisis of 2007/2008 was not considered to be a Barder event.

Care should, therefore, be taken when deciding whether to pursue a change to the Divorce settlement and it is recommended that you speak to a specialist Family Law team like ours.