An Overview of Child Maintenance in England and Wales

Child Maintenance

Child maintenance is a crucial aspect of parental responsibility* in England and Wales. It refers to the financial support that a non-resident parent provides for their child. In the UK, there are various laws and regulations in place to ensure that children receive the necessary financial support from both parents. In this article, we will discuss the basics of child maintenance.

*Please note: Parental responsibility refers to the legal rights, duties, powers and responsibilities that parents have towards their children. It includes the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as their education, healthcare and general welfare. Parental responsibility is not limited to biological parents and can also be held by adoptive parents, legal guardians, and step-parents in some cases. In the context of child maintenance, parental responsibility means that both parents have a legal obligation to contribute to the financial well-being of their child. If there is any doubt about parentage or who has parental responsibility, please get in touch with a family law solicitor from Tyrer Roxburgh.

What is Child Maintenance?

It is the financial support that a non-resident parent provides for their child. This support is meant to cover the child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing and housing. It is the responsibility of both parents to contribute to the financial well-being of their child, regardless of their relationship status.

The Child Maintenance Service

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is the organisation in the UK that is responsible for calculating and managing maintenance payments. It is a government agency that ensures non-resident parents contribute financially to the upbringing of their child.

How is Child Maintenance Calculated?

The amount of maintenance to be paid is determined by the CMS. The CMS uses a formula to calculate the amount based on the non-resident parent’s income and the number of children they are responsible for. The formula takes into account factors such as the non-resident parent’s gross income, any other children they are responsible for, and the number of nights the child spends with them. There is a child maintenance calculator on the Government’s website that will provide a good indication of what payments are likely to be.

What is the Child Maintenance Order?

A Child Maintenance Order is an alternative to the CMS in certain circumstances. It is used when there are specific factors or situations that require a more detailed assessment and determination of child maintenance payments. Here are some key points:

  1. Agreement: If the parents agree on the terms of ongoing child support, they can formalise it in a child maintenance order without involving the CMS.
  2. Complex Finances: Child Maintenance Orders are used when there are complex financial arrangements or assets involved that require a more detailed assessment of maintenance payments.
  3. Jurisdiction: If the child or one of the parents is not habitually resident in the UK, the CMS may not have jurisdiction, and the court can make orders for child maintenance in such cases.
  4. Maximum CMS Assessment: In situations where there has already been a maximum CMS assessment, the court can make an order to “top up” the maintenance amount.
  5. Education and Disability: A Child Maintenance Order can be made in relation to educational expenses or costs associated with a disability.

It should be noted that the majority of the time Child Maintenance is managed by the CMS and Court involvement is the exception to the rule.

What are the Options for Paying Child Maintenance?

There are two options: a family-based arrangement or a statutory arrangement. A family-based arrangement is an agreement between the parents on how much and how often maintenance will be paid. This option is more flexible and can be changed if circumstances change. A statutory arrangement is set up and managed by the CMS, and payments are made directly to them and any modifications to payments need to be arranged and agreed by the CMS. The CMS option is more formal and can involve additional fees.

When does Maintenance Stop?

Child maintenance in the UK typically stops when the child reaches the age of 16, or 20 if they are in full-time education (up to A-levels or equivalent). However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Maintenance can continue beyond these ages if the child is disabled or if they are still in education beyond A-levels. In such cases, child maintenance may continue until the child completes their education or training. It’s important to note that child maintenance can also stop if the child starts living with the non-resident parent or if they get married or enter into a civil partnership.

What are the Consequences of Not Paying?

Failing to pay child maintenance is a serious offence. The CMS has the power to take legal action against non-resident parents who do not fulfil their financial obligations. This can result in court orders, fines, and even imprisonment. Additionally, the CMS can also take enforcement action, such as deducting payments directly from the non-resident parent’s wages or seizing their assets.

What are the Responsibilities of the Resident Parent?

The resident parent, or the parent with whom the child primarily lives, also has responsibilities when it comes to child maintenance. They are responsible for ensuring that the child’s basic needs are met, and that the non-resident parent is paying their fair share. The resident parent can also request a review of the child maintenance amount if they believe it is not enough to cover the child’s needs.

Child Maintenance and the Divorce Financial Settlement

Child maintenance can be agreed upon during the financial settlement of a divorce. It is common for divorcing couples to include provisions for child maintenance in their divorce financial settlement agreements. This agreement can outline the amount and frequency of child maintenance payments, as well as any other financial arrangements related to the child’s upbringing. The parents can agree between themselves on the amount and frequency of the payments, but it is important to note that the agreement should be fair and in the best interest of the child or children.

If the parents can’t agree and none of the reasons for a Child Maintenance Order (outlined above) apply, then it’s unlikely that the Court will get involved. They will be referred to the CMS.

Advice on Children, Finances and Child Arrangements

Although maintenance is generally dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service, the financial aspect of divorce does tend to form part of the wider issue surrounding children and the breakdown of a relationship. If you need advice on financial negotiations, making arrangements for children or parental responsibility please do get in touch with our family law team.

We pride ourselves on being friendly and approachable so if you need advice from one of our friendly solicitors, please do get in touch by calling 0208 889 3319 or via one of the options below.

The first introductory call is free and enables you to outline your circumstances and for us to explain how we can help. Our team are friendly and approachable and are always happy to answer your questions.

If you have a question about our services, please use our online form to send us an email.

If you need to speak with someone you will always receive a friendly welcome if you telephone between the hours of 9am-5pm but if we are closed, you can  request a callback. We will call you back as near to your requested time as possible.

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