Will husbands who fail to pay wives maintenance have their passports taken away?

This is a recommendation being made by the Law Commission to the Justice Secretary Liz Truss.

Wives can find that they have obtained an Order from the Court for maintenance from their former husbands but they then have to take enforcement proceedings when their husbands fail to pay. The suggestion being put forward is that there are further sanctions that the Court could impose. One of the suggested sanctions is that the husband’s passport could be held until he has paid the sums owing.

It has also been suggested whether there could be a driving ban but this could be self-defeating if it means that the husband cannot work and, therefore, cannot pay the maintenance amounts.

If a husband, who is the subject of a Maintenance Order genuinely cannot pay the sums set out in an earlier Court Order there are steps he can take, rather than simply not paying. If his circumstances have changed from the loss of a job, or lower income, or his own personal commitments have increased, perhaps by a new marriage or the birth of another child he can seek a downward variation of the sums he has to pay.

In the first instance the husband should speak with a solicitor who can write to the wife’s solicitors explaining the circumstances and suggesting the payment of a lower amount. A wife will be advised on the likely outcome of the husband’s change in circumstances. If there has been a genuine reduction in income then it is likely that a wife will be advised to agree to receive a lower amount. If the decision has to be made by the Court and the husband’s application to pay less maintenance is upheld there is a risk that the wife could be ordered to pay her husband’s costs. Similarly, if a husband has no genuine reason to not make the payments he had been ordered to make, he is at risk, of having to pay his wife’s costs.

If a husband finds himself unable to pay he can seek legal advice rather than enflame the situation by simply not paying. It may be that matters can be quickly resolved.


If you would like more information or advice relating to this article or a Family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Marilyn Bell on 01727 798066 or 07725 372256. 

© SA LAW 2023

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