Courts both sides of the border seem to struggle with the application of the Maintenance Orders Act 1950 in the writer's experience.

The Act applies if an award of interim aliment or periodical allowance is made, but the paying spouse resides in another part of the UK. Enforcement is effected by having the Sheriff Court register the order in the court where the payer resides.

Simple enough, but then errors abound. When the payer decided he could not make payments, a sheriff, on the basis only of a letter of application, discharged the registration. While not discharging the order itself, ultimately it had the same effect and a trip to the Sheriff Principal was required to have the incompetent interlocutor overturned.

Undeterred, an attempt was then made to vary the award of periodical allowance of the Scottish court in the court where the order was registered. The Court in England insisted it had jurisdiction to entertain such an application.

The suggestion was this power was conferred by the Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1972. Wrong.

When it was pointed out that the terms of the amended 1950 Act were clear, that the power to vary or discharge the award remains with the part of the UK where the creditor is habitually resident, the Red Book (the single guide to Family Court Practice in England) was said to show this as having been repealed. Wrong again.

With the argument won, the Family Court in England did bare its teeth and the threat of committal to prison instantly deepened the pockets of the payer.