Family law

Do parents have to pay child maintenance?

The law demands that every parent contributes to the upkeep of their children until at least the age of 16. If you are the resident parent and your ex-partner isn't paying what they should, this brief guide explains your rights and their responsibilities.

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Unsure on how to claim child maintenance?

Slater and Gordon's experienced family solicitors are here to help you receive maintenance for your children. Call us now on 0330 041 5869 or contact us and we will call you.

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What happens if a parent refuses to pay child maintenance?

We have outlined some of the steps you might need to take in our simple guide to claiming child maintenance. However, it is always advisable to seek legal advice and speak to an experienced family solicitor about any problems you are having. Please call us on 0330 041 5869 or contact us and we will call you.

What is child maintenance?

Child maintenance is a sum of money that is paid by one parent to help the other parent to cover the costs of raising their child. Traditionally the payment goes towards everyday expenses such as housing, food and clothes; but as most parents know, the true extent of what you pay to raise a child goes far beyond that. Exactly how much should be contributed depends on three key factors:

• The current costs of raising a child

• The respective incomes of both parents

• The amount of care each parent provides and how the child's time is split between each parent

How do you work out the monthly payments for child maintenance?

Although it can seem daunting trying to figure out how much a child should receive every month, there are two ways you can determine the maintenance that ought to be paid:

• By agreeing on an acceptable amount directly with the other parent

• By using the child maintenance calculator provided by the government

Who is entitled to child maintenance?

Child maintenance was introduced by the Government in 1993, administered by the now defunct Child Support Agency (CSA) to make sure each child gets the money they deserve throughout their childhood and education. The CSA was replaced by the Child Maintenance Service or CMS in 2012.

Depending on the family situation, a child is eligible to child maintenance if they are:

• Under the age of 16

• Under the age of 20 and in full-time education

• Under the age of 20 and living with a parent who has registered for Child Benefit

What can I do if the other parent stops paying maintenance after we have reached an agreement?

  • Speak to them first and see if there is a legitimate explanation. Maybe their circumstances have changed and a reduction in maintenance for a period of time could be a helpful option.
  • If there is no maintenance being paid and there is no effort to communicate a reason, the CMS or a lawyer can help.
  • A lawyer can contact your ex and try and explain that it is better to discuss the situation than to ignore it. They can then carry on this line of communication for you in hope of finding a resolution.
  • Alternatively, the CMS can be informed and they can assist in reaching a resolution to recover the situation.

Unfortunately, in our experience non-payment happens regularly, and not only as a result of hardship, but also due to a deterioration of relations between ex partners.

What can you do if the other parent refuses to pay child maintenance?

Firstly, it is important to speak to your ex-partner and see if there is a valid reason why they have missed a payment or payments. Maybe they are having financial difficulties or there is another simple explanation. Then, if you still can't reach an agreement, these are the next steps to take:

Mediation gives both parents a chance to explain their circumstances in a calm environment, by defusing arguments and helping you to reach a decision that works for everyone.

If you and your ex-partner cannot reach an agreement, then you can contact the CMS and they will arrange for the payments to be made either by:

  • Direct pay: where the CMS will calculate how much maintenance should be paid and then it's up to the paying parent to decide how and when they will make the payment.
  • Collect pay: Whereby if your ex-partner will not pay child maintenance you can ask the CMS to collect the money on your behalf and they will then pass it over to you.

Seek assistance through a solicitor for child maintenance

A lawyer can assess your personal circumstances and advise you whether it is better to make an application to the court or leave things to the CMS. Bear in mind that the sooner you can obtain expert advice, the sooner you can stop the situation from escalating and your financial position from deteriorating.

To speak to a family solicitor about problems obtaining child maintenance payments, call us now on 0330 041 5869 or contact us and we will call you.

When might the court be involved in a new CMS application?

All new applications for child maintenance are dealt with by the CMS. However, in some circumstances the court can deal with new applications, such as when:

  • Your ex-partner has a very high income and you require more maintenance than you would be awarded using the CMS calculator
  • Your ex-partner lives outside the UK, so you cannot apply to the CMS
  • You have extra expenses that the CMS do not take into account when calculating what the maintenance should be, for example private educational expenses or extra care costs for a child's disability

You'll almost certainly need expert advice about what to do if your partner lives outside the UK, and how to apply to the court for maintenance.

Once a court order is in place, the court can force a parent to pay the maintenance that's been agreed.

How we can help

If you believe that the family courts need to get involved to help you receive maintenance payments from an ex-partner for your child or children, call us on 0330 041 5869 or contact us and we will call you.

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