Child Maintenance and Support
When parents separate it can raise many issues. One of the biggest is in regard to any children that they may share. If you do have children it is important to understand that paying maintenance for a child or children is a legal requirement. The maintenance is paid by the parent who the child does not live with day to day (non-residential parent) and is made to cover everyday living costs. It is therefore beneficial to all parties if an agreement or arrangement in regard to this can be put in place.
This arrangement will run until the child turns 16 or until age 20 if the child continues in full-time education to the end of ‘A’ levels or an equivalent. The agreement can run longer if the non-residential parent decided to continue with payments.
Ways to put an agreement in place:
There are a few options available to parents looking to put in place a child maintenance agreement. Parents may decide to put an agreement in place between themselves, perhaps with the assistance of an online child maintenance calculator, or they may decide to utilise the government’s Child Maintenance Service (CMS) formerly known as the Child Support Agency (CSA).
Parents may put in place a private agreement either by negotiating directly with one another or by using a solicitor to facilitate them. If they can agree the amount of support that is to be paid, that is encouraged and this is called ‘a Family Based Arrangement’.
The agreement can cover the financial payment to be made on a regular basis. It can also cover payments in kind to cover items such as shoes, school uniforms and other items that are required as part of the child’s everyday living costs.
A private agreement allows for more flexibility and allows parents to change the agreement should circumstances require, however, a private agreement is not legally binding – which means that if the non-residential parent does not keep to the agreement it cannot necessarily be enforced.
If this situation occurs then the residential parent can contact the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), however, the non-residential parent will only be required to make payments from the date of the application.
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is a government agency that deals with the payment of Child Maintenance. If parents are unable to privately agree arrangements for child maintenance, either parent can make an application for child maintenance to the CMS.
The agency can calculate, collect and enforce payments on behalf of the residential parent. They can act as a trusted third party if the parents’ do not want to have any contact and they can even find a parent, even if the claimant does not know the non-residential parents’ address.
In order to identify the amount of maintenance the non-residential parent will pay, the CMS take into consideration their gross income, any pension contributions they make, the number of children they have, the number of nights their children stay overnight with them and whether there are any other children living in the non-residential parent’s home e.g. stepchildren.
Any arrangements put in place by the CMS are legally binding and arrears can be enforced. However, they are not necessarily as flexible as a private agreement.
Applications to the courts for child maintenance
If a child maintenance agreement has been reached privately, but the courts are involved with the division of assets, it may be possible to include the child maintenance agreement as part of any final Court order. This means that should the agreement be broken the court can be asked to enforce it. Either parent, with the other’s consent, after a period of 12 months can opt-out of this court order in regard to maintenance and choose to deal with it through the CMS, should they wish to do so.
There can be occasions when it is not possible to reach a private agreement or the CMS are unable to help with a maintenance application and so the Courts need to be involved. These include:
- If the non-residential parent lives aboard
- If they earn above the CMS upper limit (£3,000 a week before deductions)
- If they have been supporting Step-children
- If there are costs relating to educational fees
- If there are costs related to meeting the needs of any disabilities
- If a lump sum is required for housing etc.
Talk to Tollers
Whether you can reach a private agreement, involve the CMS or need to look at pursuing your Child maintenance through the courts, it is important to get the best possible advice. At Tollers our experienced children’s department advises clients on all of the possible options available to them and work to achieve the best possible outcome, for more information call 01604 258558 or enquire here.
|Usually the biological parent of the child, but you do not have to be biologically related to the child to be considered a parent
|Residential parent (receiving parent)
|the parent who will receive the maintenance payment in regard to the child and who has day-to-day care of the child.
|Non-residential parent (paying parent)
|The parent who will be paying the agreed maintenance and does not have day-to-day care of the child.
|Child Maintenance Service (CMS)
|Is a Government run service that agrees, arranges and collects maintenance from the non-residential parent and pays it to the residential parent.