SUZANNE TODD and BRETT FRANKLE, Withers LLP
The credit crunch, and who knows if we are truly past the worst of it, has presented challenges to family practitioners that have not for some time tested our practical skills. This is particularly so when it comes to the issue of maintenance and its downward variation. Judicial guidance on the issue is limited. There is, or at least prior to the Court of Appeal decision in Vaughan v Vaughan  EWCA Civ 349,  2 FLR 242 was, only one reported case post-White which dealt with a downward variation of spousal periodical payments (K v K (Periodical Payments: Cohabitation)  EWHC 2886 (Fam),  2 FLR 468).
Whether the lack of case law can be attributed to the failings of our legal system and the significant costs and delay of the court process, which generally means that cases involving a downward variation of maintenance have no option but to settle, is a moot point, but what is clear is that downward variation of maintenance has become a live issue in a way that it simply was not 6 or 7 years ago and, given the way of the world, it is quite possible that this will remain a subject we will have to grapple with for some time.
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