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Child Maintenance Support For Married Or Unmarried Parents

Do You Need Child Maintenance Solicitors?

As a parent going through a divorce or separation, there are financial implications to consider for yourself and your ex-partner, whether or not you were officially married or not.

During this difficult and stressful time, there are a range of things that may need to be addressed before considering child maintenance payments. This is dependent on your individual situation, such as:

  • Child custody
  • The child arrangement order
  • Parenting agreements
  • Physical / Financial Assets

In this article, we’re going to discuss the financial requirements for either parent to support the child sufficiently based on the parental agreement. This can differ depending on a number of factors which we will highlight throughout. But, let’s first look at the basics.

What Are The Methods Of Providing Child Support?

While we tend to consider child support to be granted in monthly installments, this is not totally the case. There are many methods, including:

  • Maintenance (monthly installments)
  • Property (rental payments until a child is a certain age)
  • Lump Sum (A.K.A Clean Break)

What Is Child Maintenance Supposed To Be Spent On?

Child maintenance is in place to create an environment for the child to maintain their wellbeing and live within the financial means of a single parent.

Household expenditure of such maintenance may include:

  • Food
  • Clothing / Footwear
  • Education / Daycare / Babysitting
  • Books / Education
  • Medical bills
  • Toiletries / Nappies
  • Travel costs
  • Haircuts
  • Leisure (Eating out / Holidays / Sport activities / Holidays)

At times, attention to the parent’s living situation and property is made to help them maintain a healthy wellbeing. Should a parent’s living situation and property fall below standard, this could have adverse effects on the child.

What Is The CMS?

The Child Maintenance Service is a government scheme that calculates the value of child support required by the paying parent.

CMS vs CSA

While the CSA existed as part of the Department For Work & Pensions, in 1993 this was replaced by the Child Maintenance Service. Moving forwards, the CMS accepted all new cases and wrote off any related debts or arrears from the 1993/2003 schemes (if £500 or less). More information on this can be found here.

Am I Required To Use The CMS?

A child maintenance agreement can be arranged solely by the parents without involving the courts. As parents, you must know your rights and consider seeking legal advice from a solicitor to help inform the decisions you make based on your agreement as parents. If you feel unable to come to the arrangement yourselves, you must seek the support of and contact the CMS.

How is Child Maintenance Calculated?

To calculate how much you can get, the CMS or your child maintenance solicitor will follow 6 common steps and work out what you’re entitled to. These 6 steps consist of:

  • Finding the gross yearly income of the paying parent and whether they receive any benefits.
  • Learning about anything that could see the income affected now or in the foreseeable future. For example, pension payments.
  • After calculating the gross weekly income using the steps above, one of 5 rates will be applied:

 

Gross weekly income Rate Weekly amount
Unknown or not provided Default £38 for 1 child, £51 for 2 children, £61 for 3 or more children
Below £7 Nil £0
£7 to £100, or if the paying parent get benefits Flat £7
£100.01 to £199.99 Reduced Calculated using a formula
£200 to £3000 Basic Calculated using a formula

 

Source: Government Website

  • Then, any children that the paying parent is already providing maintenance for (outside of this relationship) will be taken into account, e.g. children from past relationships
  • From the above steps the value is calculated.
  • Finally, any deductions are then made based on if the child stays overnight with the paying parent.

What Extra Factors Can Affect How Much Child Maintenance You Receive?

While the 6 steps are crucial to calculating the amount paid/received, there are some extra factors that affect how much the CMS value the maintenance as. These include:

  • Any income that the child earns.
  • Any existing property.
  • Any wealth that’s expected to be obtained in the future.
  • Obligations and responsibilities of each parent currently and in the foreseeable future.
  • Any circumstantial finances required by the child.
  • Any disability that the child might have.

Child Maintenance for Living Support

Housing is often an important issue considering that in the breakdown of an unmarried relationship, the home is only in one name – not jointly owned as this would leave one parent worse off.

But if a ‘Schedule 1’ application is processed, the court could potentially award the parent to pay towards the property of the worse off parent, either by purchasing it or paying for the rent until the child turns 18.

Child Support Agreements

The CMS would always encourage parents to discover a feasible agreement independently, rather than through their service, and resolve payments directly. By relying on the collection fees, it increases the overall cost for the paying parent.

As child maintenance solicitors, we use the same formula used on the government’s child support calculator in order to help find a fair and reliable financial arrangement. On top of this, your parental responsibility arrangement will be considered by our team, and we will assist in developing a fair agreement that works for your children.

What is a 'Schedule 1' Application in Child Maintenance?

To initiate a child maintenance assessment, the CMS can calculate and enforce child maintenance with their primary jurisdiction. That said, only the courts can override this based on specific circumstances such as, one parent having a substantially higher income than what can be awarded by the CSA.

This is because the CSA can only enforce payment of income up to £3000. Anything after is capped – to which point the other parent could initiate a Schedule 1 Application as a top-up involving the court.

What if I Can't Afford a 'Schedule 1' Application?

This was quite common in the past, whereby the wealth and assets are not equally divided. Seeing as this is part of a higher income circumstance compared to the wider population, a Schedule 1 is only readily available to more high-income individuals.

There is the case now in more recent law, that the opposing parent is able to apply for legal funding from the higher-earning parent in order to afford the legal fees – but this should be initiated at an earlier stage.

Can Child Maintenance Payments be Reduced?

Child maintenance payments can be reduced if the circumstances change, there are several reasons this could occur, such as:

  • Loss of employment
  • Retirement
  • If the recipient obtains a significant level of wealth
  • If the recipient enters into a new relationship

It’s important to keep yourself updated with the most recent advice from your child maintenance solicitors and inform them of any changes to your circumstances.

Do You Need Advice From Child Maintenance Solicitors?

Garrick Law has extensive experience in providing advice for parenting plans if you’ve received a child arrangement order. We always ensure a fair outcome for our clients, with your child’s wellbeing and livelihood as the main driver in our decision making, as well as helping you and your ex-partner maintain a healthy parenting relationship.

To learn more about getting the best outcome for you and your children, click here, or get in touch now using the form below. We’re here to support you and your child’s wellbeing.

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