Can I just stop making maintenance payments to my ex-spouse if I can no longer afford to pay?
If an order is in place, setting out that you are to continue making maintenance payments to your ex-wife or husband, for a set period of time, and you then decide to terminate the payments, you could be in serious trouble. In taking such action you will be held in breach of a court order, and no doubt your ex-spouse will make an application to the court to enforce the terms of the original order made. They may also seek costs from you as they have been forced into making the application as a result of your actions.
If you are no longer able to meet the payments due to a change in your financial circumstances, you should seek legal advice before taking any drastic action. In some instances you may be able to discuss this issue with your ex-spouse, and come to an amicable arrangement where you reduce the amount payable; the terms of the original order can therefore be varied by consent.
However, if you are no longer on speaking terms with your ex, or if they are unwilling to agree to any reduction in payments, then you will then need to apply to the court to vary the maintenance payments downwards. You will need to be able to demonstrate that there is a very real and valid reason as to why you are seeking the variation, and you will be asked to provide proof of any change in circumstances which have had a negative effect on your finances.
In short, please take advice before doing something you may regret!