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A simple guide to child maintenance
Raising a child is not just an emotional commitment, but also a massive financial one – with some estimates putting the cost at over £230,000 until they reach adulthood.
What is child support?
Child support is a sum of money which is paid by one parent to help the other parent cover the monthly costs of raising their child.
Traditionally the payment covers everyday expenses such as housing, food and clothes but as most parents know the true extent of what you pay out is far more demanding.
Exactly how much should be contributed, depends on three key factors:
- The current costs of raising a child
- The incomes of both parents
- The amount of care each parent provides and how the child’s time is split between each parent
So what happens if your ex is refusing to provide their share?
The issue of child maintenance hit the headlines recently as footballer Jamie Vardy’s wife won a court battle against her ex, after she alleged he had failed to provide maintenance for a number of months, for their eight year old son.
It’s a scenario many thousands of parents can relate to.
But what do you need to know and what steps should you take if you find yourself in a similar situation?
How do you work out the monthly payments?
Although it can seem daunting trying to figure out how much a child should receive a month, there are two ways you can determine the maintenance that ought to be paid:
- By agreeing on an amount privately with the other partner
- By using the child maintenance calculator (link below) provided by the government to estimate what would be fair :
Who is entitled to child maintenance?
Child maintenance was introduced by the Government in 1993, as part of the Child Support Agency (CSA) to make sure each child gets the money they deserve throughout their childhood and education. The CSA was replaced by the CMS in 2012.
Depending on the family situation a child is eligible if they are:
- Under 16
- Under 20 and in full-time education
- Under 20 and living with a parent who has registered for Child Benefit
What can you do if your ex-partner is refusing to pay Child Support?
Firstly, it is important to speak to your ex-partner and see if there is a valid reason they have missed a payment. Maybe they are having financial difficulties or there is a simple explanation. If you still can’t reach an agreement, try these steps:
Mediation gives both parents a chance to explain their circumstances in a calm environment, by defusing arguments and helping you to reach a decision that works for everyone.
If you and your ex-partner cannot reach an agreement, then you can contact the CMS and they will arrange for the payments to be made. Either by:
1. Direct pay - the CMS will calculate how much maintenance should be paid and then it’s up to the paying parent to decide how and when they will make the payment.
2. Collect pay - if your ex-partner will not pay child maintenance you can ask the CMS to collect the money on your behalf and they will then pass it over to you.
Seek assistance through a solicitor
What can I do if my ex stops paying maintenance after we have reached an agreement?
1. Again, speak to them first and see if there is a legitimate explanation. Maybe their circumstances have changed and a reduction in maintenance for a period of time, could be an option.
2. If there is no maintenance being paid and there is no effort to communicate a reason, the CMS or a lawyer can help.
3. A lawyer can contact your ex and try and explain it is better to discuss the situation, than to ignore it. They can then carry on this line of communication for you in hope of finding a resolution.
4. Alternatively, the CMS can be informed and they can assist in reaching a resolution as they have various powers to recover the payments.
Unfortunately, in our experience non-payment happens regularly, not only as a result of hardship but also out of spite.
Although there are legitimate scenarios where there may well be a genuine reason for missing payments, for example unemployment, if a clear line of communication is established then any issues that may arise further down the line can be resolved, and quickly.
Why may the court be involved in a new CMS application?
All new applications for child maintenance are dealt with by the CMS, however in some circumstances the court can deal with new applications. For example:
- Your ex-partner has a very high income and that you require more maintenance than you would be awarded using the CMS calculator
- Your ex-partner lives outside the UK so you can not apply to the CMS
- You have extra expenses that the CMS do not take into account when calculating what the maintenance should be, for example private educational expenses or extra costs for a child's disability
You'll need expert advice about what to do if your partner lives outside the UK, and how to apply to court for maintenance.
Once a court order is in place, the court can force a parent to pay maintenance if your ex-partner fails to pay what's been agreed in the order.
All information was correct at the time of publication.