Periodical payments—variation of orders
Periodical payments—variation of orders

The following Family guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Periodical payments—variation of orders
  • Court's powers to vary
  • Factors the court will consider
  • The courts' approach
  • When to apply for a variation
  • Procedure
  • Repayment of maintenance

The court’s power to vary orders is set out in section 31 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973) and in Schedule 5 to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA 2004), specifically CPA 2004, Sch 5, Pt 11.

On an application for variation, the court is not required to consider the matter de novo, rather it must conduct an exercise that is proportionate to the requirements of the case. In Mills v Mills, the Supreme Court found that where provision had previously been made by a capital order (in that case for the wife’s housing needs, where the wife had made unwise financial decisions), ‘an obligation to duplicate that provision’ on variation was ‘improbable’. See also: The courts' approach.

Court's powers to vary

The most common form of a variation application is to vary a periodical payments order, but the court has a range of powers relating to variation. For example, the court can vary the payment of a lump sum by instalments, see Practice Notes: Lump sum orders by instalments and Variation of financial orders.

The court’s power is not limited to varying orders: it can also discharge orders or suspend the provision of orders. There is also the power to revive the operation of any provision that has previously been suspended.

Since 1998, the courts have also been able to