Both parents usually have an obligation to pay child maintenance (if you are in receipt of state benefits, you may pay a nominal amount). The reason for this is to assist with the overall living costs of a child. That can include, for example, clothing, heating, food, footwear etc. Child maintenance is not a precursor to contact – the two matters are very different.
How is child maintenance approached?
This can be difficult, and it depends on the circumstances. If your separation is amicable, one approach might be to tackle maintenance as though, as parents, you had both remained “together.” If both of your children’s parents were in a relationship, you may have contributed equally towards their upbringing and the associated expenses. Therefore, on separation, you may continue to meet these costs equally in the same manner. This approach is only likely to work if you are able to be transparent with each other about what the children “need.” Other parents may feel it is better to agree on a set amount each month to help them budget.
If you have absolutely no idea how to approach agreeing on maintenance, you could attempt to discuss this in mediation, or you may wish to apply to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) – see below – for guidance on what you would receive if you were to pursue that avenue. This can be a good starting point if you have no idea where to start and can also help you to understand whether you are receiving enough financial support.
How is child maintenance calculated?
That really depends on your approach. You may seek to agree on an amount that works for you. This could be a fixed amount each week or month which is then used as a contribution towards the expenses for a child or, it could be an amount to be topped up in the event of an extra expense, such as school uniforms or a school trip. It really depends on how you want to approach the issue, but it needs to be fair.
If you can’t agree on the right amount or approach, you will need to go the CMS. The CMS will work out the other parent’s liability using a standard formula. Once you are aware of what the payments should be, the CMS can either arrange collection of the payment on your behalf, or you can agree with the other parent how and when the funds are to be paid. Whilst the CMS collecting payments on your behalf can be useful, especially in difficult circumstances, it does charge a fee.
You can find out how child maintenance is calculated here.
Child maintenance can often be considered alongside financial advice following separation. Therefore, it’s important to get early advice as it may not be possible to recoup any arrears.
For further advice on child maintenance, or any family law issue, contact our experts now. You can also find out more about child maintenance on our web pages.
Author: Bradie Pell, partner and head of Graysons’ family team.