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Relationship Breakdown in the Aviation Industry

Coronavirus has been brutal on the aviation industry. First planes were grounded and now there is the spectre of mass redundancies. The New Economics Foundation (NEF) estimates that at least 70,000 jobs in the aviation field – including engineering, catering and duty free shopping – are at risk before the end of summer.

The aviation sector has long been a paragon of glamour; the smart uniforms, international travel and larger than life characters. The reality can be quite different with long periods away from home, a pressured working environment and high customer expectations. Many pilots emerge from training with huge debts, whilst others struggle with insufficient pay.

This blog considers family law issues for airline staff and others working in this sector.

The stress of being at home together

The reduction in air travel means increased time at home for pilots and cabin crew. This will have a significant impact on family life, as their partners and spouses will be used to managing the home in their absence. Once the novelty of being at home has worn off couples may find their relationship comes under strain. This is likely to be exacerbated by the recent lockdown and any financial concerns.

What can you do?

A good place to start is family or couples therapy to identify the issues and start to work through them. It is important to use a recognised therapist and you can find one in your area via the British Association of British Counsellors and Psychotherapists1.

If you require a more structured approach, you could attend mediation. This involves face to-face meetings with a trained mediator, who is either from a therapeutic or legal background (or both), to discuss the issues. The mediator is impartial and the process is confidential. The help of a qualified mediator will help put you on the right path for the future. At Hodge Jones & Allen, our family lawyers are highly experienced mediators and members of Resolution – a group of family lawyers who believe in taking a non-confrontational approach, resulting in better outcomes for separating families.

Rising tension

The increased time spent together can easily lead to bickering, arguments and in some cases domestic abuse. The surge in domestic abuse as a result of the pandemic has seen individuals from across society feeling vulnerable and at risk due to being constantly ‘locked up’ with their partner. Airline staff and others in the industry are no exception.

Domestic abuse comes in many forms including violence, threats of violence, verbal abuse, alienation from friends and family and financial control. It is a serious issue, which you should not ignore even though you may be worried about the outcome of taking action.

If you feel in immediate danger you should call the police on 999. If you require advice on your position you should contact a family lawyer, who can apply for emergency orders to protect you. Our experienced specialists are renowned for their dedication to client care, receiving praise in the Legal 500 directory for their “high levels of client service”. We have experience in assisting a wide range of families and work in a transparent, cost-conscious way to help you get your life back on track as quickly as possible.

There are also a number of excellent organisations offering guidance on domestic abuse issues including National Domestic Abuse Helpline2.

You should always keep a record of any incidents as this will help when preparing any court application.


The frequent absence of one person due to work may have led to the other parent taking the lead in child care and the related decisions. Now the other parent is around there may be confusion and uncertainty between the parents, causing difficulty in agreeing contact agreements. This may be true even for couples who are not separated.

Again family therapy and mediation can assist. Mediation in particular can be used to discuss issues around children’s care and the arrangements to be agreed. In some cases the mediator may even be able to consult with the child as to their views, if they are of an appropriate age.

There are online tools which can help parents to organise contact and share information about their children in a positive way, such as OurFamilyWizard3.

If separated parents cannot agree the arrangements, they could also consider:

  • Arbitration – which is similar to a private court. You engage an accredited arbitrator to make a decision about the child’s care. The decision will be binding on both parties.
  • Collaborative law – where each party instructs a collaboratively trained lawyer and then you attend four way meetings with the lawyers. The aim is to avoid issuing court proceedings.
  • Court – if the options above are not viable then you will need to make a court application.

Financial strain

The economic uncertainty created by the coronavirus is a national concern. For those in the aviation sector this is compounded by the prospect of redundancies.

If you are divorcing or dissolving a civil partnership, then you will need to exchange financial disclosure before a long-term financial settlement can be agreed. This can be difficult when you are unsure as to your long-term employment prospects or the value of your home. It may be tempting to proceed with your divorce or dissolution and put the financial issues on hold, but this can leave you in a financial vulnerable position in the future. In particular it could mean the loss of certain pension rights.

A family solicitor can advise you on the best way to prepare your disclosure and how to progress any negotiations to take these issues into account. Mediation, arbitration and collaborative law can all be used to resolve financial issues between couples.

Child maintenance

If your income has reduced then it is likely that you will want to reduce your child maintenance payments. This should be done in a considered way to minimise any conflict with your co-parent.

Child maintenance payments are either paid following an informal agreement between parents, a court order or an assessment by the Child Maintenance Service. Whichever way you usually pay, if your income has decreased and you are struggling to make payments you should take action as soon as possible.

The approach will be dictated by the type of agreement that you have.

Informal agreement – you should speak to your former partner and let them know about your financial position. Provide some documentary evidence, if you can, and try to negotiate a reduction for a period. If you are the receiving party, it is better to have an honest discussion about how much you will be getting rather than dealing with an unexpected non-payment.

Court order – if the court order is less than 12 months’ old then you will be in breach if you do not pay the set amount. You could ask your former partner if they would agree to a reduced amount or deferred payment, but this should be recorded in writing and you should seek legal advice before doing so. If you reduce the amount or stop payments altogether without the agreement of your former partner, then they are within their rights to apply for a court enforcement.

Child Maintenance Service (CMS) – you should contact the CMS directly and explain your circumstances. They will be able to reassess your liability. The current CMS stance is that if the income of the paying parent has reduced by at least 25% as a result of Covid-19, they could adjust the CMS payments due should they be notified of the change. Those on furlough receiving 80% of their salary are expected to continue to make payments in full. If you are the receiving party, you can apply to the CMS for enforcement of any unpaid child maintenance.

The most important point is to be honest about your financial circumstances. If you are in genuine hardship it is likely that there will be grounds for reducing your payments.

For expert legal advice contact our leading family mediation lawyers today. Call 0808 271 9413 FREE 24 hours a day. or request a call back online. 

To support our clients during this pandemic, video conferencing facilities are available.