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Child Support & Maintenance
When parents split up, it is common for the financial burden of the children’s day-to-day expenses to fall to the parent with whom the children live most of the time. Child maintenance allows the parent with whom the children do not live with to also contribute towards their livings costs and ensure they have the best quality of life possible. Such day-to-day expenses may include:
- School fees
- Trips, sports, clubs and other activities
At Crisp & Co, our children law solicitors understand how tricky it can be sort out arrangements for children with your former partner, particularly if you do not get on. Divorce and dissolution can be stressful for children even where the parents are in agreement. So, while achieving a child maintenance agreement may be essential, you will also likely be concerned about the negative impact any dispute will have on your child’s happiness.
Our goal is to make the process as smooth and straightforward as possible. Our team includes mediation experts and qualified collaborative lawyers who can help you come to an agreement about child maintenance. Where a voluntary agreement is not possible, we can provide advice about applying to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).
The Child Maintenance Service (formally the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC)) works out child maintenance payments on behalf of families and collects payments from the parent no longer residing with the family.
Speak to our expert family lawyers
For advice about child support and maintenance, get in touch with our family law solicitors by giving us a call at your local branch or filling in our online enquiry form and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.
Your Questions About Child Maintenance Answered
How does child support work?
There are three ways you can arrange child support after breaking up with your partner:
- A ‘family based’ arrangement - this is where you negotiate payments directly with your former partner, sometimes using the assistance of a mediator or collaborative lawyer
- The Child Maintenance Service - the CMS can calculate payments on your behalf, collect payments and even enforce child maintenance arrears
- A Child Maintenance Order - in rare situations, you may be able to apply to court for an order.
Many couples can agree child maintenance with the assistance of family law professionals. However, the CMS helps the vast majority of parents who cannot agree. It uses a calculation formula to determine the amount to be paid by the parent absent from the family home to the parent with whom the child is living.
Who qualifies for child support?
Any natural child who is under 16, or is in full time approved education or training aged under 20 and lives in the UK. The parent who is not living with the child must pay child support for the benefit of the child.
How much will the payment for child support be?
The CMS works out child support as follows:
- First, it works out the paying parent’s yearly gross income by getting information from HMRC and checking whether they receive any benefits
- It will then consider anything that will affect the paying parent’s income such as pension payments or maintenance payments to support other children. The final figure is converted into a gross weekly income figure
- The CMS will calculate the rate of weekly child maintenance depending on the paying parent’s gross weekly income and the number of children they must support. There are five different rates:
|Gross Weekly Income
|Child Support Rate
|Amount Per Week
|No child support
|£7 - £700
|£100.01 - £200
|Calculated using a formula
|£200.01 - £300
|Calculated using a formula
|38 per week for one child, £51 per week for two, £61 for three or more
You can use the Government’s child maintenance calculator to work out how much you could get.
Where the parents share care of the children, child maintenance is usually reduced to reflect this.
Do the CMS ever increase or decrease the amount payable for child support?
Yes. If the parent who is not living with the child has income which has not been taken into account, has hidden their earnings or has assets of over a certain value (other than in their home or business), then the CMS may increase the calculation.
The CMS may also reduce payments if the circumstances of the parent who is not living with the child change or if the child stays with that parent overnight. There is also a nil rate band for non-resident parents who have special circumstances such as being a student.
My former partner is working overseas, can the CMS collect payments?
The CMS may be able to collect payments where the non-resident parent is working overseas for a UK registered company. Where the paying parent is not working for a UK registered company, it may be necessary to apply to court for a Child Maintenance Order instead.
I have tried getting child support through the CMS but have been unsuccessful. Can I apply to the court instead?
The courts do not generally become involved in the issue of child maintenance. There are, however, exceptions to this rule, such as:
- Where school fees or other educational costs are in issue
- Where married parents have a step child
- If the child or one of the parents is living outside the UK
It is also possible to apply to the Court for a 'top-up' order where the maximum child support assessment is in force.
Parents are encouraged to reach voluntary maintenance arrangements instead of going through CMS.
How does CMS enforce liability?
The CMS has powers of enforcement, including deducting payments or arrears from the paying parent’s bank account and Liability Orders including removal of passports, curfews and disqualification from driving. In serious cases, the paying parent may even be sent to prison for failure to pay.
How much will it cost to get child support?
There is usually a small fee of £20 to apply to the CMS and in cases where the CMS collects the payments, the receiving parent will have to pay 4% of what they receive to the CMS.
If you need to make an application to the court, the costs will depend on the issues that are not agreed and the length of time it takes to reach agreement or a Court Order. If no agreement is reached, then the matter will be settled by the court and this will become expensive.
Our costs are determined on an hourly rate, which you will be advised of at your first appointment. We will always discuss our fees with you beforehand so you can stay fully in control of your legal spend and we always aim to make our fees as accessible and proportionate as possible.
What should I do next?
Get in contact with us at Crisp & Co to book an appointment. We will discuss all your options with you so that you can make an informed decision about how to proceed.
What information will I need to give you at my first appointment?
- Your passport or photo identity driving licence plus another proof of identity with your name and address, such as a recent utility bill
- Your marriage certificate if it is available
- Any letters or documents that have been sent to you by your husband or wife’s solicitors
- We will need to know the following information from you:
- Your marital status, the date of your marriage and the date of any separation
- The full names and dates of birth of your children
- Your nationality and country of residence
- The nationality of your partner and their country of residence
- Details of any previous Court Orders relating to Child Maintenance
- Details of your income and that of any other member of your household
- Details of property, assets, investments and pensions held either in your own name or in the joint names of yourself and your partner
- Details of any mortgages or other liabilities in either your own name or in the joint names of you and your partner
Do not worry if you cannot provide all the information listed above at the first appointment, any missing information can always be obtained at a later date. However, the more information you can provide us with the quicker we will be able to advise you in respect of your particular situation.