When parents separate, the non-resident parent (i.e. the parent without the main day-to-day care of a child) has a legal duty to pay child maintenance to the resident parent to help them afford to pay for things such as clothes, food and other essential items.
How much child maintenance should be paid?
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) deals with child maintenance and sets out guidance for the correct amount which should be paid.
The amount payable is a percentage based upon a non-resident parent’s income.
If you would like to establish how much you or your former partner should be paying, please visit www.cmoptions.org/en/calculator.
What can I do if the non-resident parent does not agree to pay maintenance?
Many parents are able to agree the amount they will pay to the other using the child maintenance calculator and set up this payment directly.
However, in some cases, an agreement cannot be reached or a parent fails to make the required payments.
In these instances, the Child Maintenance Services (CMS) can be used to facilitate the payment and offer assistance. However, the CMS has introduced certain charges for using such service (please see their website for details).
The Court can also be used to deal with child maintenance is certain circumstances.
Is child maintenance still payable if a child stays over night with a non-resident parent?
If a child stays overnight with a non-resident parent, child maintenance is reduced to take this into account.
The discount depends on the number of nights a year on average a child stays with the non-resident parent each year.
The CMS has set out guidance on the appropriate reduction depending upon the number of nights the children stay with the non-resident parent, on average (please see the child maintenance website for more information).
However, where the arrangements for the children are flexible, it can be difficult for parents to determine the appropriate discount that should be applied, as the total number of nights the children will be staying with the non-resident parent across the year may be unknown.
In addition, where parents equally share the care of the children, the CMS confirms that child maintenance is not payable. However, this can be unfair if one parent earns significantly more than the other.
Therefore, it has been stated that whilst the CMS sets out parameters for the appropriate child maintenance payment, you should also be looking at the circumstances to consider what is actually fair. This should be discussed with your solicitor.
Can child maintenance be varied?
It is common for child maintenance to be reviewed each year to check the correct amount is being paid, taking into account the income of the non-resident parent and the number of nights the child(ren) are staying with them.
Therefore, even if an agreement is reached in respect of child maintenance, either parent is able to go to the CMS to ask for a further assessment.
It should be noted that where a person reaches an agreement in respect of child maintenance as part of their financial settlement in divorce proceedings, after a period of one year from the date the Consent Order is made, either party can apply to the CMS for the child maintenance payment to be assessed.
As such, the child maintenance payment can be continually reviewed and varied.
Please note that this blog does not constitute legal advice: the case above is presented an illustrative example.
For specialist legal advice and guidance contact our Family Law team.
We offer a free, no obligation, first appointment.
We can discuss your case generally, give you preliminary free legal advice and let you know how we can help.
To arrange your appointment please call 01323 727 321 or use the form below.
Please note, this article does not constitute legal advice.