If you have a court order, you should realise that it is up to you to see that all the parts of the order are carried out and in the correct time frame. Nobody actually oversees this; the courts don't and your solicitor will only be involved if there is a transfer of property or a lump sum. A court order could contain details about lump sums, pension transfers, property transfer, shares or maintenance for a spouse and/or children. If there is a problem, you should alert your solicitor or you can apply to the court yourself or on behalf of your children. When maintenance is not paid, you should not let the arrears build up without notifying your solicitor or the court. The courts prefer to chase any missed payments as early as possible.
The courts have far-reaching powers to enforce their orders and can set up an attachment of earnings order, transfer property without consent and, as a last resort, can imprison anyone who is found to be in contempt. This last threat usually brings about payment and is known as a judgement summons or penal notice.
If your financial situation has changed significantly since the order was made or, for example, the children are much older and require extra funding, you could consider making an application to the court. Your solicitor will be able to advise you. If either ex spouse starts to cohabit, the court should also be informed. Only maintenance orders can be varied, upwards or downwards, as lump sums cannot be changed and if you did not apply for one originally, you cannot do so now.
Maintenance payment increases
It is often agreed/ordered that maintenance payments will increase each year in line with the Retail Prices Index (RPI) to provide a degree of 'inflation proofing' without the need to make a further application to Court.
You will need to check your Court Order to find out in which month the increase is to take effect and for which months the RPI figures should be used. Orders are often drafted on the basis that the RPI figures should be taken for the month 3 months prior to the increase and the month 12 months prior to that (as there is often a delay before RPI figures are published).
For more information, see the article published by Blandy and Blandy Family Law Solicitors of Reading
On divorce, your previous will could become invalid and you should therefore make a new one. Many people put this off after divorce but the repercussions for your family could be severe. This is also the case if you have not made one at all.
There are many companies looking for your business and there are also DIY wills available but you should consult your solicitor, especially as he is up to date with your financial and family position. Wills are quite simple to draw up if you are a qualified legal professional. Badly written wills are worthless as they have to be watertight in law. You may also need to discuss appointing a legal guardian for any children.
Community Legal Service funding is now in short supply but if you are on a low income, it is worth checking.
Please read our expert's article on the dangers of using 'will-writers'
as seen on Panorama in our Divorce articles archive
For more legal information, check back in our Legal section.