Child maintenance is a tricky topic particularly if you are also going through a separation or divorce. It is intended to be a regular payment to help cover the everyday living costs of a child or children when one parent does not live with the child(ren). You could consider entering into a Child Maintenance Agreement if your child is under 18 (or under 20 if they are still in full-time education). Both parents are responsible for the costs of raising their children, even if they do not see them, or if one parent lives overseas.
Whilst there is a government calculator to help work out how maintenance should be paid it uses a fixed formula, rather than accounting for the actual circumstances and expenses of each individual family situation. It is important to seek legal advice before entering into an agreement between you and your ex-partner to take into account the individual circumstances of your family and needs.
The most amicable solution is for parents to negotiate and agree family-based arrangements tailored to their family’s circumstances. For families with complex, unusual or irregular income sources, or where the paying parent has a very high income, the government calculator is unlikely to take any of these into account. As part of the agreement, you should consider including housing, food, school uniform, trips or clubs, as well as school fees where relevant.
If you and your former partner cannot agree on the level of child support, there is legislation in place to calculate the payments due as mentioned above. Parents can use the government formula on the CHILD MAINTENANCE SERVICE (CMS) website as the basis for making their own arrangements and to obtain an indication as to the quantum of Child Maintenance to be paid.
As part of an ongoing Divorce and Financial proceedings agreed child maintenance can be incorporated into a Consent Order. A Judge will consider whether or not to approve a Consent Order. If approved the Child Maintenance section of the Consent Order remains in place for a minimum of 12 months after which either parent can ‘opt-out’ and choose to go through the Child Maintenance Service instead.
There are a number of elements which need to be taken into account as part of the maintenance payment, including any deductions for the time that the child(ren) spends overnight with the paying parent. If the paying parent has other children living with them, then allowances also need to be made for this.
Child maintenance can be a complex area, and you should consider seeking professional advice. If you have any questions, contact the Hibberts team here.