Child Maintenance

Child Maintenance

One of the issues that parents may face when they separate is how to deal with the delicate subject of child maintenance for the children. In circumstances where parents have reached an agreement to have shared care of the children, they may have decided that neither parent is required to pay maintenance to the other.

However, often when one parent is the primary caregiver for the children and the other parent spends time with the children, there is often an expectation that the non-resident parent will pay financial support for the children. In these circumstances, there are several options available to parents in order to reach an agreement as to how much child maintenance should be paid to the parent who is the primary caregiver.

What are the options available?

  1. Family Based Arrangement
  • Parents can agree between themselves as to the amount of maintenance payable as well as how and when the payments should be made;
  • You can use the child maintenance calculator to help you agree on the amount of child maintenance which should be paid based upon your family’s circumstances –
  1. Family Mediation
  • Parents can attend mediation in order to discuss and agree upon the issue of child maintenance with the help of a mediator who can facilitate constructive discussions with a view of reaching an agreement;
  • Again you can use the child maintenance calculator as detailed above to help you decide on an amount of maintenance.
  1. Child Maintenance Service (CMS)
  • This service can be used in circumstances where parents cannot come to an agreement between themselves.
  • There is an application fee of £20 (subject to change).
  • Once the CMS has calculated the appropriate level of maintenance, the payments can then be made in the following ways:
    • Direct Pay – payments are made directly between the parents or
    • Collect and Pay – the paying parent will pay the money to the CMS who will then pass it on to the receiving parent. There are however additional associated fees for using this method.
  • The CMS have a range of powers available to them in cases where a parent fails to make a payment following a CMS assessment. This will involve contacting the parent in the first instance but this can escalate to taking the money directly from their earnings or from their bank. The CMS can also apply to the Court for a liability order which would allow them to take action such as instructing a bailiff, putting a charge against a property or forcing a sale, removal of the non-paying parent’s driving licence or even prison time.
  1. Court Proceedings
  • In circumstances where you are going through a divorce, you may already be going through court proceedings in order to deal with the finances associated with the marriage and the issue of child maintenance can be dealt with as part of those proceedings.
  • Similarly, if you and your spouse have reached an agreement between yourselves in relation to the finances by way of a Consent Order, provision for child maintenance can be included with the order.
  • It is important to note, however, that any provision for child maintenance within a Court order is only valid for 12 months after the order is made after which point either parent can apply to the CMS if they are unhappy with the provision within the order unless the CMS does not have jurisdiction, for example if a parent lives overseas.
  • Where the CMS do not have jurisdiction, it may be possible for a parent to apply for child maintenance under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. See our section on Schedule 1 Applications for more information.

For more information speak to one of our experienced family solicitors on 0113 322 9222 or or by completing our contact us form.

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