Can I Request For My Financial Court Order To Be Changed, Due To COVID 19?

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Wednesday 3rd June, 2020

Can I request for my financial court order to be changed, due to COVID 19?

As the lockdown eases and the UK begins to slowly approach a 'new normal' there have been questions asked on whether the impact of coronavirus gives the right for a person to request for the family court to change a financial court order. In today's blog we will look at the rights that you have if you were looking to change your financial order from the court, due to COVID 19.

Many people think that once they receive a financial court order, there is not much they can do in their power to change things. However, some aspects of a financial court order can be changed if you were to make a variation application. Examples of when you can apply to vary a financial court order include:

  • Applying to increase or reduce the amount of spousal maintenance payments
  • Apply to stop spousal maintenance payments altogether
  • Applying to extend the length of time that spousal maintenance payments are paid for
  • You can apply to end or vary a school fees order so that you are no longer required to pay school fees or the order is changed to vary the percentage amount of the school fees you are required to pay under the order
  • Applying to the court for them to change the mechanics for the sale of a family home if the financial court order included an order that states the family home should be sold

The above are the types of clauses contained in a financial court order that can be changed either by making an agreement with your ex partner or by making an application to vary specific clauses that are within the financial court order.

COVID 19 and financial court orders

COVID 19 has created huge economic and financial impact so it is no surprise that people are wanting to make changes to their financial court order and want to know if they can apply to change the following:

  • The order to transfer a family home into the sole name of their ex partner as the ex spouse is unable to secure a mortgage to take over the mortgage liability, so instead they are looking to sell the family home
  • The family may have seen a drop of value in investments or a family business so they are looking for an order that would see the amount of a lump sum payment reduced to reflect reduction in the value of overall family assets
  • An order that on the sale of the family home the ex partner will get a fixed amount from the equity in the family home and the ex spouse will get the balance of the equity

There are of course lots of other examples of situations where a spouse will look to change a financial court order.

The court rules say that although you can apply to vary or make changes to some parts of a financial court order, you cannot apply to the court to change any capital elements of the financial court order unless you do the following:

  • Appeal against the financial court order
  • Apply to make changes to the financial court order because of a Barder event – a 'Barder event' is where something happens shortly after an order is made which undermines the basis of the order itself. It is named after the very distressing case of Barder v Barder (Caluori intervening), which was decided in 1988.

For COVID 19 to be considered a Barder event it would be determined by a judge using guidance that is issued in earlier court of appeal decisions.

It is reminiscent of 2008, when the court of appeal decided that the global financial crisis could not be considered a Barder event because markets fall and rise, which would give an indication of the stock market crash. However, many would argue that the global pandemic of COVID 19 which wiped billions off the value of the stock market was not foreseeable at the end of 2019.

In the coming months we will have more understanding on the impact of COVID 19 on family business value and the value of assets foe businesses to be able to see if COVID 19 will be treated as a Barder event and whether this in turn means that you are able to request for the court to change your financial court order.

If you are looking for information on this matter, please contact us at [email protected].