Child maintenance will most likely be a factor in court proceedings to divide assets following a divorce or family breakup where children are involved.
Non Resident Parents
The parent who does not live with their child full time and who does not have day-to-day care of the child is known as the non-resident parent. They have a responsibility to pay child maintenance up until the child is 16 years old or 20 years old if they are in full-time education (but not higher than A level or equivalent).
How Do I Arrange Child Maintenance?
There are four ways of arranging child maintenance:
Make a Private Child Maintenance Agreement
Child maintenance can be agreed directly between the parties or through solicitors. If such an agreement is reached, this can be recorded on a private agreement form through the Child Maintenance Options (formerly called the Child Support Agency (CSA).
It is important to note however, that such an agreement is not legally binding and thus if the non-resident parent decides to stop paying the agreed maintenance, the resident parent cannot enforce the agreement.
Make an Application to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS)
If an agreement cannot be reached between the parties, the resident parent can make an application to the Child Maintenance Service. There is a calculator available on the CMS’ website to work out the weekly amount of child maintenance: http://www.cmoptions.org/en/calculator/y. However, there are certain situations when the Child Maintenance Service will not be able to assist, such as:
- where either parent lives outside of the UK
- when the non-resident parent’s net income is more than £104,000 per annum;
- when a child has a disability or health condition
- when a child is beyond secondary education
In these situations, an application to court will be required to address the issue of child maintenance.
Make an application for a Court Order
The resident parent can apply to the court to have the private agreement or application to the CMS recorded in a Court Order called a Consent Order to make the agreement legally binding.
If the court makes the order and the non-resident parent fails to pay the maintenance agreed in the consent order, the court will have the power to enforce the order.
Make an Application to Court under the Children Act 1989
Under the Children Act 1989 a parent can apply to the court for child maintenance to be paid by way of periodical maintenance payments, a lump sum or by a transfer of property into the sole names of one of the parents.
When deciding an application the court will consider all information in the case and in particular the welfare of the child and will look at the following factors:
- the income, earning capacity, property and financial resources of both parties now and in the future
- the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of the parties now and in the future
- the financial needs of the child
- the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of the child
- the physical or mental disability of the child
- how the child is or is expected to be educated or trained
Any financial provision that the court orders will last until the child reaches the age of 18 unless they are still in full-time education or there are special reasons why the child maintenance should be continued, for example if the child has a disability.
We Can Help
At MW Solicitors our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including Resident Parents trying to negotiate the complex Child Maintenance System.
Our expert Family Lawyers have decades of experience working across all aspects of Family Law and specialise in helping parents to get the support in the form of Child Maintenance payments that their children are entitled to. If you are involved in a Child Maintenance Claim or would like to discuss your options with our team of specialist Family Law and Child Maintenance Lawyers call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.