Q: I am really struggling to make ends meet as my furlough pay during the COVID crisis is nowhere near my usual salary. I tried to talk to my ex about paying less maintenance for the kids until the situation eases but she refused to discuss it. What would happen if I just paid less into her bank account?
A: If you have been furloughed, you still need to pay child maintenance for the benefit of your children and the arrangements in place should continue as normal, unless you can agree to vary the arrangements.
If the Child Maintenance Service is involved you may wish to contact them as, depending on your circumstances, the scheme allows for some flexibility depending on the extent of your salary reduction. If there is a court order for maintenance and your ex refuses to agree to you paying less due to your circumstances, you would need to apply to the court for a downward variation. Simply paying less without agreement from your ex or the court will put you in breach of the order. Try pointing out to your ex that if you apply for a downward variation the court may well permit it due to the unusual circumstances the coronavirus situation has created (although the Courts are overstretched and maintenance cases do not appear to be considered a priority so there may be a delay).
Your best way forward would be to try and negotiate a temporary reduction in maintenance payments whilst the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. You may wish to generate an email or even a text exchange so that you have a physical record confirming the agreement with your ex, so demonstrating that you have both entered into the agreement freely without any undue influence. It may be worth your while in the first instance to seek the help of a solicitor.
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