COVID 19 has put financial strain on many. The closure of our airports, hotels, bars and restaurants and many places of work has meant that there are those who have had their jobs terminated or else have agreed to reduce their pay in terms of the government assistance packages. Those who pay monthly alimony or maintenance towards their spouses or their children, will certainly feel the pressure and may ask whether anything can be done.
The first principle is that separation contracts, alimony agreements, decrees and court judgements are still valid at law. This means that the payments would have to be paid all the same. It is a criminal offence for a person not to pay maintenance if the payment is regulated by a contract, court judgement or else a court order.
This notwithstanding, in the present circumstances, a person who has either agreed to pay maintenance or else has been ordered to pay maintenance, may ask the Court to reduce the sum that has to be paid monthly, by presenting an urgent application. The Court must be convinced that the circumstances have drastically changed to the extent that the family as a whole, has to shrink its spending because the earnings have been reduced. The Court will only be convinced once the applicant produces the financial evidence in support of this.
The Court will not rely on the version given by one side and will most certainly ask the other side for their opinion and version of the facts.
At the moment the Courts are closed and therefore, for one to present an application, one must show that that application is urgent and requires the Court’s immediate attention.
There are situations where the spouses or parents do not have an acrimonious relationship and therefore, both sides may be more understanding. The parties may agree to reduce the maintenance at this difficult time and recognise that all parties must make financial and economical sacrifices. If there is such a voluntary agreement, since the Courts are closed, it is hard to get the agreement sanctioned by the Courts. Since at present, it is not possible to formalise any agreement reached through the normal avenues, it would be recommendable that nonetheless, there should be presented simultaneously with the urgent application, a written undertaking by both parties.
Dr Malcolm Mifsud Dr Maria Camilleri
Sabiex tkun tista’ taċċessa dan l-artiklu bil-Malti agħfas hawn.
For more information you can contact one of our Team Members at Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates.