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Renegotiating Maintenance Payments

Recently updated on 10 May 2024

9 Jun 2021 - Divorce & Family Law - Min Read 4 min
Renegotiating Maintenance Payments

It is possible to renegotiate the amounts of maintenance payments owed to children and an ex-spouse if one’s income has significantly decreased.

Italian law protects children and the economically weaker spouse following a separation/divorce through a monthly amount that will be paid for their support by the parent (or ex-spouse) deemed capable of providing for them.

When determining the amount due to children and an ex-spouse, the assessment considers a financial situation that may be subject to changes, as happened widely during the COVID period when many businesses were forced to scale down or close, but such situations could affect anyone at any time.

If the financial situation worsens, it’s naturally difficult to fully meet commitments made before the judge.

When Is Child or Spousal Support Due?

The Italian Civil Code, Article 156, and Law No. 898/1970 require parents to support their children.

Even when separated, both parents retain their obligation to support their children proportionate to their respective means and working ability, whether professionally or domestically.

In the case of a spouse facing financial hardship, several factors and considerations determine when spousal support is warranted:

  • Income;
  • Actual financial conditions of both parties;
  • Working ability of the support applicant;
  • The phase in which the application occurs, whether still considered married (separation) or not;
  • The sacrifices made to indirectly contribute to family well-being.

Each family has its own story, and the determination of entitlements depends on a thorough analysis of that story. Thus, even seemingly similar cases can result in vastly different outcomes.

During separation, the two spouses are still seen as a couple, so maintenance decisions will have different assumptions than those involving divorced individuals.

The Supreme Court of often provides guidance on the matter. Notably, in judgment No. 11504 of May 10, 2017, the court considered the concept of maintaining a lifestyle outdated, with evident consequences for subsequent rulings. The court also emphasized the importance of the role of the economically weaker spouse, who might have foregone a fulfilling career to enable the other spouse to pursue their path without limitations.

In such circumstances, the Supreme Court acknowledges that familial sacrifice could justify divorce payments.

Another important factor is premarital cohabitation, during which decisions might have been made that affected subsequent marital life.

Why and How to Renegotiate Maintenance Payments?

Maintenance payments can be renegotiated for valid reasons. Both the payer and the recipient can request a review.

The request may be based on:

  • A change in the financial situation of one of the parties.

If the ex-partner receiving the payment improves their condition, they may no longer need support, prompting the paying ex-partner to withdraw or request a reduced amount.

If the ex-partner paying the support worsens their financial situation (e.g., job loss, reduced income, economic crisis), they can request a reduction, temporary suspension, or termination of the payment.

  • Formalizing a new relationship.

Following the October 16, 2020, judgment No. 28778/2020, the Supreme Court of Cassation held that a stable new romantic relationship is incompatible with financial aid from an ex-spouse.

No reduction or termination of payments to children or an ex-spouse can be arbitrary or verbally agreed upon but must be submitted to a judge for consideration of the non-paying party’s situation.

The Civil Code allows the obligated spouse to file a petition and request the judge to modify or revoke previous support arrangements.

Examples of Post-COVID Emergency Rulings

Each tribunal has given its opinion on this matter. To illustrate, here are three rulings, though each case must be evaluated individually.

The Terni Civil Court, First Section, in a July 16, 2020 ruling, reduced a father’s monthly child support payment given the man’s particular situation stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a freelancer, he saw his income drop due to both the pandemic and documented health issues. Despite this, his ex-wife, in the middle of a divorce, sought to increase the support, citing higher extraordinary expenses, including school accompaniment.

The judge took into account that the man also had to secure new housing after leaving the marital home, with rent and shared mortgage payments. The ex-wife, as a public employee, was unaffected by a drop in income. The court did not rule out a possible increase in the future, should the man’s income recover after the pandemic.

Similarly, the Ancona Civil Court, in judgment No. 851 of July 1, 2020, established that if the crisis had affected the spouses’ income, disturbing the balance between their earnings, maintenance payments would no longer be due.

The Turin Civil Court, in a similar case, considered that if one spouse lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they should receive support from the other spouse who could rely on other financial resources.

The aim was to support the spouse who had suffered the negative effects of the ongoing crisis, even if only for a limited period, while waiting for a positive change to renegotiate the support amount.

Negotiated Assistance to Expedite Modifications

If the parties agree on modifying the separation/divorce terms, they can use the negotiated assistance procedure, which avoids appearing before a judge. Evaluating the necessity, the lawyers are the sole actors in the out-of-court modification of the separation or divorce terms.

Lawyers gather the necessary financial documents to revise the contribution and proceed accordingly with mutual agreement.

If no agreement is reached and negotiated assistance cannot be used, it’s crucial to have a lawyer who can substantiate an urgent case with proper documentation to reduce the processing time.

If you need to reduce or suspend maintenance payments, it’s advisable to consult a lawyer. A thorough assessment by a specialist in family law will determine if there are sufficient grounds to present in court or negotiate.

The Family and Divorce Department within Boccadutri Law Firm provides strong support and guidance toward fair support and/or a conscious divorce.

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Calogero Boccadutri

Calogero Boccadutri is the Managing Partner of Boccadutri International Law Firm. He has trial experience in Forex, Personal Injury and Administrative litigation.



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