26 March 2020
The world is turned upside down, and reports of the consequences of coronavirus for the economy are rapidly following one another.
The consequences are tangible for everyone – though for some more than for others. What happens if you are obliged to pay maintenance to your ex-partner every month, but you cannot or can no longer fully do so due to a sudden drop in your income? This has consequences for the maintenance debtors, but of course also for the maintenance recipients.
Naturally, circumstances may also arise outside the corona crisis that lead to a change of circumstances as a result of which you, as a debtor, are no longer able to meet your obligations. Fortunately, the law provides for this: Art. 1: 401 of the Dutch Civil Code states that a court decision or a maintenance agreement (a covenant) can be amended or withdrawn by a subsequent court decision when there is a change in circumstances whereby that decision or agreement ceases to meet the legal standards.
The judge is free to judge which circumstances they takes into account in their decision. In my opinion, corona is certainly a ground for a change request, if the maintenance debtor has less income as a result of corona. If their income has decreased significantly, this may lead to a reduction in the maintenance obligation.
Please note: not every drop in income will have consequences for the maintenance obligation. Maintenance decisions are tailor-made and, of course, consideration must also be given to the agreements made at the time, the interests of the party entitled to maintenance and other factors that are important.
What happens if you have agreed in your covenant that agreements made in the covenant cannot be changed by court decision based on a change in circumstances? What if you are unable to pay immediately and a change procedure can take months? For such problems there are also (other) legal proceedings you can consider, such as requesting the court to temporarily suspend your payment obligation.
At this moment, we have not yet answered all questions but, of course, we will keep you informed. You can always contact us to discuss your situation.
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