Divorces and separations can be painful and messy. Of course, one of the most important considerations if you and your partner have a child or children together, is child maintenance.
We understand how complicated separations and divorces can be. We find that most parents will do anything to protect their children from the emotional fall-out of a separation. However, it’s essential that their practical wellbeing is also supported in a financial sense if the family arrangement is set to change drastically, and both parents will remain legally obliged to contribute financially to the child’s upbringing.
We understand that it can be overwhelming to know where to start when it comes to financial arrangements after a divorce or separation. So, we thought we would take some time today to briefly cover everything you need to know about child maintenance.
What is child maintenance?
Also known as ‘child support’, child maintenance is the term used for the regular financial support that goes towards the everyday living costs involved in bringing up a child.
Typically, it is paid by the parent (paying parent) who does not live with the child in order to assist the parent who provides the primary day-to-day care (receiving parent).
How do you arrange child maintenance?
Parents who have separated or divorced can arrange child maintenance via:
- A private, family-based arrangement
- A Consent Order from a court
- The Child Maintenance Service (CMS)
A private agreement, whilst not always possible or perhaps appropriate, is beneficial in that neither parent will have to pay fees charged by Child Maintenance Services. In addition, parents can change the maintenance rates by agreement as and when circumstances change, without having to go through CMS.
When does child maintenance stop?
In child maintenance terms, a ‘child’ refers to someone who is under 16.
Child maintenance can also be paid up to the age of 20 if the child is in full time, approved education or training, including:
- A-Levels or similar, i.e. Pre-U or International Baccalaureate
- Scottish Highers
- NVQs and vocational qualifications up to Level 3
- Traineeships in England
You can read more about the parameters of approved education on the gov.uk website.
Is child maintenance taxable?
If you are in receipt of child maintenance, you will not be obliged to pay tax on any maintenance payments that you receive.
If you are the paying parent, you will not receive any tax relief on the child maintenance payments that you make to the receiving parent.
How does shared care affect child maintenance?
If separated or divorced parents decide to share the care of a child or children, this will impact how much child maintenance is provided.
Put simply, if a child spends some time staying with the paying parent, then the amount of child maintenance that they pay the receiving parent will reduce.
There are different bands given by Child Maintenance Services which determine how much shared care ought to reduce the amount of child maintenance paid. Below, we have outlined how much the child maintenance will be reduced by depending on how many days during a 12 month period a child spends with the paying parent.
- Between 52 and 103 nights: maintenance reduced by 1/7th for each child
- Between 104 and 155 nights: maintenance reduced by 2/7th for each child
- Between 156 and 174 nights: maintenance reduced by 3/7th for each child
- 175 nights or more: maintenance reduced by 50%, plus an extra £7 per week reduction for each additional child
How is child maintenance impacted by paying for children from another relationship?
Another factor that will impact the amount of child maintenance paid is whether or not the paying parent is responsible for maintenance payments for children from other relationships.
If the paying parent’s gross weekly income falls between £200 to £3000, and they are also paying child maintenance for other children, this will have an effect on the amount that they will pay to the receiving parent.
In short, this should be accounted for by reducing the total amount of weekly income considered in order to calculate the child maintenance.
So, if the paying parent is also paying for:
- One other child: Weekly income will be reduced by 11%
- Two other children: Weekly income will be reduced by 14%
- Three or more other children: Weekly income will be reduced by 16%
Do I need the help of a solicitor?
Child maintenance can be arranged on a private basis between family members, without any external input.
However, parents may wish to seek the professional advice and guidance of an experienced solicitor in order to help them reach an amicable agreement that is fair for all parties concerned and, at a minimum, abides by the basic terms outlined by the Child Maintenance Services.
We have a wealth of experience in supporting parents through the process of divorce or separation and guiding them towards childcare and child maintenance arrangements that work for them.
In need of professional guidance with child maintenance after divorce or separation? Our experienced and knowledgeable solicitors can help. Contact us today.