If you and your partner decide to separate, you are both still financially responsible for bringing up any children you have together. In these situations, you can either make a ‘family-based arrangement’ yourselves or you can apply to the Child Maintenance Service who will make arrangements for you.
However, child maintenance payments can be affected by a change of circumstances, such as if you or your ex-partner getting remarried. It is important to know what can affect your child maintenance payments so that you and your ex-partner can keep your child or children’s best interests at heart.
Where possible, it is usually beneficial to make a family-based arrangement as they are cost effective, simple and quick to set up and can be done without the help of any official body. A good family-based arrangement will lay out:
- how much maintenance should be paid (this is usually based on the income of the parent who will not be the day-to-day carer of the child)
- how and when payments should be made
- the procedure for making any changes to the arrangement if circumstances change
- an agreement on situations where you pay for something instead of making a maintenance payment i.e. school uniform.
- A review date to see if the arrangement is still working
There are some disadvantages to making family-based arrangements. For example, if you have left an abusive relationship, it may not be safe for you to contact your ex-partner. There may even be circumstances where you and your ex-partner simply cannot come to an agreement. As family-based arrangements are not legally binding or enforceable, it is always best to seek legal advice or mediation to find a solution and to avoid conflict.
If you wish to make your arrangement legally binding, you can apply to the court for a Consent Order (only if a maintenance agreement arranged by the CMS isn’t already in place). If your ex-partner then does not comply with the order, you can apply to the CMS to arrange maintenance for a fee. This can only be done once the Consent Order has been in place for at least 12 months.
Changes in circumstances that can affect child maintenance
If your partner is making child maintenance payments to you and then you remarry or enter into a new civil partnership, these payments will automatically stop. If you are just cohabiting with someone new, maintenance payments will not necessarily stop, however your ex-partner may ask to reduce or stop the payments on the basis that you now have another person contributing to your living costs. This is complex and can be quite difficult to negotiate so it is worth getting legal advice. If you partner remarries, your maintenance payments should not be affected.
Your child maintenance payments can also be affected by changes in income or wealth available to either you or your ex-partner. For example, if your ex-partner loses their job, or they have a baby with their new partner, they may not be able to afford to pay the maintenance they were paying you before. In these cases, it’s always best to try and negotiate a new agreement together. However, it is worth noting that if you have a family-based arrangement, then neither you nor your ex-partner is legally obliged to report any changes of circumstances.
Get expert advice on child support and maintenance
Deciding to separate can be a particularly stressful time, that is often especially challenging for your children. That’s why at Crisp & Co, we will always make your children’s welfare our top priority. Our specialist child law solicitors can help you make critical decisions regarding your children with minimal time and costs involved.
See how we can help by calling 0203 857 9885 or by filling in our enquiry form at the bottom of this page.