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AJC v PJP [2021] EWFC B25

15th May 2021

Judgment: The question for the court was under what circumstances a long-term nominal spousal maintenance order should be converted into a substantive order, and whether this could happen as a consequence of the financial difficulties arising from the lockdown. Such orders had been made most often in London and the south-east, where the children lived primarily with a parent who was able to support himself or herself, as in this case, but where the children were still young and things could change dramatically during their minority. The youngest child in this case was now 14. The former wife had applied for the court to convert a nominal order made in 2012 into a substantive order, as a short-term measure until she was once again self-sufficient. She argued that this should be treated as an ordinary variation application. After discussing the potential incompatibility of such nominal orders with clean break legislative changes, DDJ David Hodson decided that it was not appropriate to convert the nominal order into a substantive order, and dismissed the application. A nominal order was only to be converted if there had been a significant change in circumstances. Losing a job due to the pandemic could not, he said, be ascribed to relationship generated disadvantage. Asked to dismiss the spousal maintenance order altogether, he declined to do so but said he would be surprised if circumstances ever justified bringing it back to court.