Generally, couples make their own unique arrangements as to what will work best for their family unit.
Parents can reach their own arrangements directly with each other as to the amount of child maintenance payable after reference to the on line child maintenance calculator available at www.gov.uk. If the parents share care of the child(ren) equally, there may be no child maintenance payable.
It is only when arrangements break down or when couples are unable to reach agreement, that it may be necessary to consider other options to resolve child maintenance issues.
If you are unable to agree the correct level of child maintenance payable with your ex partner, you will need to make an application to the Child Maintenance Service for a formal assessment. You can either use the Direct Pay Scheme or authorise the Child Maintenance Service to collect maintenance at source. The Direct Pay Scheme is a way of avoiding the Child Maintenance Service administration charges. For further information, refer to www.cmoptions.org
Child Maintenance for Children of Parents who were formerly married to one another
The court has limited powers to make orders for child maintenance for these children. An order for child maintenance can only be made by the court when:
- parents are agreed on the level of maintenance payable. (In this instance, a child maintenance order can be made, but would generally last for a period of 12 months from the date of the order. If parents were then to disagree about the amount of child maintenance payable, either parent can apply for a formal assessment from the Child Maintenance Service.
- There is to be a school fees order
- There are step children or disabled children
- There are children whose parent lives overseas
- The paying parent’s income is so high that it exceeds the maximum amount that the Child Maintenance Service can collect. If the paying parent’s income exceeds £3000 gross per week, the parent with care must apply first to the Child Maintenance Service for a maximum assessment. Once this has been made, the parent with care can apply to the court for a “top up” order for child maintenance.
For details of how the Child Maintenance Service calculates child maintenance please refer to www.gov.uk
Child Maintenance Claims for Children of Unmarried Parents
Parents will usually agree the amount of child maintenance payable directly with each other.
It is only in the event of disagreement that either parent can apply to the CMS for a formal child support assessment. However, the CMS will not have jurisdiction if :-
- the paying parent or child lives outside the jurisdiction
- the child is of university age
- there is a claim for school fees
- there are step children or children who have a disability
- the paying parent has a very high income.
If the paying parent’s gross income is more than £3000 per week, you will need to apply for a maximum assessment to the CMS, and then apply under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 for a “top up” child maintenance order.
It may be possible for university age children to make applications in their own right under Schedule 1 for financial assistance from their parent for university expenses.
If any of the other exceptions apply, ( as set out above,) you would need to make an application to the court for a child maintenance pursuant to Schedule 1.
What if the Child Maintenance Service get it wrong?
Contact the CMS and set out the details of your complaint. If you are still unsatisfied, then make a formal complaint to the complaints service at the CMS.
If the complaints service does not resolve your complaint satisfactorily, you can ask the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) to review your complaint. Please look at the CMS or ICE website for further details.
If, after exhausting all these routes, you are still dissatisfied, it may be possible for you to seek compensation through the courts. The CMS has produced guidance on whether compensation should be paid to clients.
How We Can Help
A member of our specialist team will be happy to help.
To discuss Child Maintenance issues, please either use the contact form on the right, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us today on +44(0)161 941 4000 to speak to a member of our team.