Changes that may affect maintenance payments

Money Advice Service

Paying or receiving spousal maintenance (periodical allowance in Scotland) can be difficult for both parties. It means having to re-think your household budget, while trying to get to grips with your new circumstances. This guide will help you work out how any changes in income, new relationships and other events might impact maintenance payments.

Changes to your spousal maintenance/ periodical allowance payments

Having difficulty meeting payments? Struggling to make ends meet with what you’re getting? Child Maintenance Options is an impartial, free service designed to help separated parents make the best decisions for themselves and their children.

If you’re having significant difficulties managing on the amount of money you have, or if the income of your ex-partner (husband, wife or civil partner) has increased significantly, then it might be possible to have payments to you increased.

In the same way, if you make payments to your ex-partner and your income position worsens, you can ask for the level of the payments to be reduced.

In either scenario, it’s important to act quickly so you don’t build up large arrears.

Reaching an agreement

If you and your ex-partner can’t agree a change to payments given or received, consider using mediation.

It involves a trained mediator helping you agree a decision and it is much cheaper than going to court.

But remember, if you or your ex-partner are trying to change a court order (called ‘vary’ in legal language), then only the court can do this.

Once you reach another agreement, through mediation or other means, you need to ask the court to endorse it.

Otherwise, the original order just keeps running and could lead to major complications over arrears.

If you can’t reach an agreement, applying directly to the court might be the only option. However, it’s expensive and there’s no guarantee you’ll get the outcome you want.

You should get legal advice to see what your options are before you do this.

Changes in income or wealth

Significant change to your financial position might include losing your job with no immediate prospect of finding a new one, starting a new job on a much lower salary, ill health or disability.

It can also mean the exact opposite: finding a new job with a much higher salary or inheriting or winning a large sum of money.

Capitalising spousal maintenance/periodical allowance payments

If the financial position – the income or capital wealth – of the paying ex-partner improves significantly, then it might be possible to ‘capitalise’ the maintenance payments.

This means that the person who receives the maintenance would get a one-­off lump sum and the maintenance payments would stop (called a ‘clean break’).

Courts will always want to consider whether a ‘clean break’ is financially possible without causing either person undue hardship.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, both you and your ex-partner would have to agree to capitalising payments.

Changes if you enter a new relationship

Maintenance payments to you will stop if you remarry or enter a new civil partnership.

Living with someone else in a relationship, without marrying or entering a civil partnership, doesn’t automatically mean that payments from your ex-partner will stop.

But he or she could ask you to agree to reduce the amount, or stop payments altogether.

This is on the basis that there is someone else who is now contributing to your living costs.

This can be complicated so it’s worth taking legal advice.

Changes to child maintenance

If there is a substantial change in income or wealth available to you or your ex-partner then you might be able to adjust the level of child maintenance payments.

If you have a family-based arrangement with your ex-partner, you can talk to him or her about making changes.

You should check with your solicitor about updating any court order (if you have one) that contains previous agreements on child maintenance payments.

If you move in with a new partner and you’re receiving child support, this won’t be affected by your relationship, whether or not you marry or enter a civil partnership.

But you can agree with your ex-partner to change the level of payments, if for example income levels change.

If stepchildren are involved, it might be worth taking legal advice.

Check with Child Maintenance Options to see what your options are.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

Some important information about Rest Less Money

We want you to understand the positives, but also the limitations of using our site. We operate in a journalistic manner and therefore all information, guidance or suggestions provided are intended to be general in nature, and you should not rely on any of the information on the site in connection with the making of any financial decision.

When we set out to build Rest Less Money, we wanted to be a trusted place where you could find helpful information about financial matters affecting the over 50s. As a free to use resource, we try hard to provide the best information we can, but we cannot guarantee that we won’t occasionally make mistakes. So please note that you use the information on our site at your own risk, and we can’t accept liability if things go wrong.

Key things to remember when using Rest Less Money:

We do not offer financial advice – As a journalistic site, it’s important to know that we do not provide financial advice. You should always do your own research before choosing any financial product so that you can be certain it is right for you and your specific circumstances. If you are in any doubt, please seek professional financial advice from a regulated financial advisor.

No Liability – please note that you use the information on Rest Less Money at your own risk and we can’t accept liability for how you choose to use the information given on our site. We will often provide links to content or products and services available on other third-party websites. These are provided purely for your convenience and we cannot be held responsible for any content, or any of the products and services offered on any website that we link to.


Accuracy of Information – We try to make sure that all the information provided on Rest Less Money is correct at the time of publishing as we want it to be the most helpful resource possible. Sadly, we are not perfect however, and so we can make no guarantees as to the completeness, accuracy, adequacy or suitability of the information available on the site.
Whilst we work hard to try and provide accurate information, deals and prices can change, so whilst they may be correct at the time of writing, providers may subsequently decide to alter them later – so always double check first.

A final note on the Rest Less Community Forums – always remember that anyone can post their opinion on the Rest Less Community Forums, so it can be very different from our own opinion and may not be factual or well researched. Always be wary of any content posted on the forums and be sure to do your own research and due diligence on anything suggested. 

We hope you find Rest Less Money a useful resource and we would welcome your feedback at [email protected] on how to make it even better. For more information on any of the above you can read our full terms and conditions.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Get the latest advice, news and inspiration

No spam. Just interesting and useful stuff, straight to your inbox. For free.

By providing us your email address you agree to receive emails and communications from us and acknowledge that your personal data will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe at any time by following the link in our emails.

Join the Rest Less Money Club

Sign up today to get early access. Coming soon.