How do I sort out child maintenance?

When parents separate they will obviously have to sort out maintenance arrangements for their children. But how do they go about this?

The simple answer is that they should agree arrangements between themselves. But that raises further questions: How do they agree arrangements? And what if they can’t agree?

How to agree child maintenance

The parents can agree arrangements (who should pay child maintenance and how much they should pay) between themselves, or with the help of lawyers.

As to who should pay, the simple answer is that the parent with whom the children will spend less time (often referred to as the ‘non-resident parent’) will pay child maintenance to the other parent (often referred to as the ‘parent with care’).

As to how much they should pay, they can agree any figure they wish, but will often be guided by the amount that the Child Maintenance Service (‘CMS’) would require the non-resident parent to pay. This is calculated by reference to a formula, and you can find an online calculator here.

If the parents are getting divorced then then can include the maintenance agreement in the final court order setting out the financial settlement. It should be noted, however, that after one year has elapsed from the date of the order either party can then apply to the CMS for a maintenance assessment, which may obviously be for a different amount to the sum that was agreed.

If maintenance can’t be agreed

If the parents are unable to agree child maintenance arrangements then they may make an application to the CMS.

The CMS offers two levels of service: ‘Direct Pay’ and ‘Collect and Pay’.

‘Direct Pay’ is where the CMS calculates the amount of maintenance, but the payments are made directly between the parents, who will agree how and when the payments are made. There are no collection fees (see below) to be paid, but if a payment is missed, the parent with care can request the CMS to chase the non-resident parent.

‘Collect and Pay’ is where the CMS calculates the maintenance, collects it, and passes on the payments to the parent with care. The CMS charges a collection fee for using this service. The fee is 20% (which is added to the payment) for the non-resident parent, and 4% (which is taken off the payment) for the parent with care.

The above is only a brief introduction to the subject of child maintenance. For further details, seek expert legal advice. We can find you an expert that works with you on our digital platform. For more information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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