Variation of maintenance in line with inflation

Variation of maintenance in line with inflation

26 March 2018

Spousal maintenance is one of the orders that a court can make upon divorce. The amount of the maintenance is agreed at the time of the order; however, as a result of inflation, as time goes by the value of the maintenance awarded will decrease if it is not reviewed. To save the possibility of a yearly dispute with your ex-partner regarding the amount of any increase to the maintenance provision, a provision for an automatic annual variation can be included within the financial agreement. It is common for this automatic variation to be linked to the increase in the Retail Prices Index (RPI).

If there is provision for a yearly increase in line with the RPI within your court order, the individual in receipt of the maintenance is to carry out an annual calculation based on the change to the RPI in the preceding 12 months.  Whilst this may sound complicated, the calculation itself is quite straightforward once you have established what RPI figures you need. These can be obtained from the Office for National Statistics website:  or by contacting them on info@statistics.gov.uk.

The calculation is as follows:

  1. Obtain the RPI figure for the period 15 months before the anniversary date. The anniversary date will be exactly 1 year on from the date of the court order.
  2. Obtain the RPI figure for the month three months before the anniversary.
  3. Multiply the current maintenance payment by the RPI figure at point 2.
  4. Divided the figure at point 3 by the RPI figure at point 1 to give the new monthly maintenance payment.

To demonstrate the calculation I have provided the following by way of example:

Karen and John entered into an agreement on 20 March 2016 that John would pay maintenance of £500 per month to Karen. The maintenance was to be increased annually in line with the RPI.

  1. Karen should have first calculated a variation of the maintenance payment on 20 March 2017 (12 months after it was ordered by the court to start). She will need to obtain the RPI figure for the period 15 months before the anniversary of March 2017. This will therefore be the figure for December 2015. The Office for National Statistics tells us that this figure is 260.6
  2. Karen will then obtain the RPI figure for three months before the anniversary date of March 2017. This will therefore be the figure for December 2016 which is 267.1
  3. Taking the current maintenance payment of £500 Karen will need to multiply this by the RPI figure for December 2016 (267.1) giving her a figure of £133,550.
  4. £133,550 is then divided by the RPI figure for December 2015 (260.6) to give a new maintenance figure of £512.47. John would therefore need to increase his maintenance payments from March 2017 to £512.47.

In March 2018 Karen would need to re-calculate the maintenance using the same calculation above. As follows:

  1. The RPI figure for the period 15 months before the anniversary in March 2018 is the December 2016 figure of 267.1
  2. The RPI figure for the period 3 months before the anniversary in March 2018 is the December 2017 figure of 278.1
  3. Taking the current maintenance payment of £512.47 we multiply this by the RPI figure for December 2017 (278.1) to get £142,517.90.
  4. £142,517.90 is then divided by the RPI figure for December 2016 (267.1) to give a new maintenance figure of £533.58. John would therefore need to increase his maintenance payments from March 2018 to £533.58.

Karen would continue to review the maintenance provision each year using the above calculation until the maintenance term ends.

If you have obtained a financial order that provides for an automatic annual increase and you have any queries in respect of the calculation above please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss the same. Alternatively you may have accurately calculated the increase but your ex-partner has not increased his maintenance payment accordingly. I can provide you with some guidance as to the options available to you for enforcing the increase in the maintenance payment and seeking any arrears that have accrued.

If you are yet to reach an agreement with your ex-partner regarding the matrimonial finances and you have any queries regarding maintenance and the provision for an automatic increase please do not hesitate to contact me.