Our family law experts explain how child maintenance works, what happens when parents cannot agree an appropriate amount of child support, how to apply to the Child Maintenance Service and how child support payments will be calculated.
Child maintenance guide: how child support is calculated and what courts can order
When parents are going through a divorce or the breakdown of their relationship, one of the hardest things to agree on can be financial arrangements for the children.
Our experienced team has worked with hundreds of families, and we know that the vast majority of parents only want what is best for their children. However, even when the split is an amicable one, opinions may differ on how much each person should contribute.
So, what happens when parents cannot agree an appropriate amount of child support? This guide will help explain the options, including: how child maintenance works; how to apply to the Child Maintenance Service; and how child support payments will be calculated. It also explains the alternative financial provisions courts have the power to order, such as transferring property to a child.
Making arrangements for children can be complex and stressful, especially following a separation. At Hamers, our Hull-based family law solicitors are sympathetic, supportive and provide the very best advice. And while we promote a non-confrontational approach to conflict resolution wherever possible, we have your best interests at heart and will always take necessary steps to protect you and your assets.
We can also offer expert advice on agreeing child arrangement orders, direct and indirect contact, child living arrangements and more following a divorce.
If you would like to discuss your options, contact our friendly team by calling 01482 326666, or fill in the form on our contact page. We are happy to arrange meetings in person at our offices in Hessle Priory Park, west Hull, or via video call.
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1. How child maintenance is agreed and calculated
If your relationship has broken down, you have a responsibility to continue to provide financially for your child or children. If you do not live with the child, or only live with them for part of the time, then you will be expected to make regular child maintenance payments to the parent who cares for the child for the majority of the time.
There are several ways to reach agreement over child maintenance and how much a parent will be expected to pay will depend on the circumstances:
• You can come to a family-based child maintenance agreement between you;
• You can ask the Child Maintenance Service for a financial calculation;
• Or, you can apply to the courts for a consent order.
The vast majority of parents I speak to understand their financial responsibilities and only want what’s best for their kids, so at Hamers we will always try our utmost to arrange an amicable solution that works for all parties. However, if agreement cannot be reached, we will offer the best advice to ensure your interests, and those of your children, are protected.
If you are able to reach an agreement but would like to make it legally binding, you can apply to the courts for a “consent order”. Both parents must agree to this.
If you cannot reach an agreement and decide to apply to the Child Maintenance Service, a calculation will be made based on the non-resident parent’s circumstances, including:
• A percentage of their income, depending on how many children they have to support;
• A reduction of one seventh for each night the child lives with the non-resident parent;
• A reduction if the paying parent has other children living in their household, or if they are paying child support to more than one other parent.
NOTE: Child support payments are only calculated up to a certain amount of the paying parent’s income. If the paying parent earns more than this set level, the court has the power to make a top-up order. In some circumstances the court can also rule on maintenance to meet special needs, for example when the child is disabled, requires financial support for certain educational or training costs, or is resident abroad.
2. What the court can order parents to pay for child support
In some circumstances, the court can order other financial provisions for children. These may include:
• In divorce or dissolution proceedings (where the parents have been married or in a civil partnership) the payment of a lump sum of money or the transfer of a property to child.
• Where a child arrangements order is in place, the parent with whom the child is living may be able to apply to the court for other financial provisions for the benefit of the child, usually from the non-resident parent.
Under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, the court can order:
• A lump sum to be paid by one parent to the other to cover costs such as school fees, the purchase of a family car or expenses connected with the birth.
• A property to be transferred to or held in trust for the benefit of a child, for example until their 18th birthday or the completion of their full-time education, at which point the property may be transferred back to the payer.
• Child maintenance payments on a regular basis where 1) the income of the non-resident parent is higher than the maximum amount dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service; or 2) a disability is involved; or 3) to cover educational expenses.
A family solicitor will be able to advise you on whether these circumstances apply in your case.
3. How the court decides to award child support
The court will consider a variety of factors before making an order. These include the income, financial resources and responsibilities of the parent, the financial needs of the child, any physical or mental disability the child may have, and the educational or training needs of the child.
4. How a child can apply for maintenance
In certain circumstances a child over the age of 18 can apply to the court for maintenance or a lump sum of money from one or both parents. This might apply to a child in full-time education or training, or where there are special circumstances such as a disability or illness. However, the child is only able to apply if a court order providing for maintenance was not made immediately before the child turned 16.
At Hamers, we offer a full range of family law services, including the very best advice on making financial arrangements for children. To ease the emotional strain of family disputes, we also offer a Hull family mediation service, which can help you take control of your situation and sort out practical matters in an open and co-operative atmosphere. Call our friendly team today on 01482 326666.
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About the author
Kelsey Andrews is a trainee solicitor specialising in family law at Hamers Solicitors in Hull. Kelsey combines her expertise with compassion and understanding to help clients who are often going through some of the hardest times in their lives.
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