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Divorce and family law explained 

Child support when parents live abroad

Since the early 1990s Child Support Agency (CSA) (now called the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC)) has dealt with financial support for children. This means that in the majority of cases the court cannot decide how much child support is payable. However where one or other parent lives outside England or Wales different rules apply and you may need to take specialist advice from a family lawyer in these circumstances.

This article outlines the basic rules that apply.

Both parents in England or Wales - the CSA is the only way to deal with maintenance unless:

  • Parents agree a payment between them (it is often best to ask a Court to make a Court Order by agreement to reflect this arrangement)
  • There are extras such as private school fees to pay (Courts can deal with this)
  • The child(ren) for whom maintenance is sought have special needs and additional costs for example arising out of disability

When parents live abroad

The CSA can only deal with an application for child maintenance when both parents and the child live in the UK.

  • The only exceptions to this are when the non-resident parent or the parent with care:
  • is working abroad in the service of the crown, i.e. is a civil servant or works within Her Majesty's diplomatic service or within Her Majesty's overseas civil service. • is a member of the Armed Forces
  • works abroad for a UK based company, i.e. it employs people to work outside the UK but makes payments via a UK payroll; and the company is registered under the Companies Act 1985 (England, Wales and Scotland) or the Companies (Northern Ireland) Order 1986.
  • works abroad on secondment for a prescribed body, for example, - from a NHS trust; or regional health authority; or primary care trust; or local authority

So, if there is some “non UK residence” how do I get maintenance for our child?

If one of the parents lives abroad and does not fall into one of the categories above, then the parent with care can apply to the courts for child maintenance. If the parent with care needs help in collecting the money awarded under the court order for maintenance, they can contact the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders section at the office of the Official Solicitor and Public Trustee. Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders - or REMO - is the process by which maintenance orders made by UK courts on behalf of UK residents can be registered and enforced by the courts or other authorities in other countries.

This is a reciprocal arrangement which means that foreign maintenance orders in favour of individuals abroad can be registered and enforced by UK courts against UK residents.

(If the non-resident parent lives in Australia and the parent with care lives in the UK then the Australian Child Support Agency may be able to accept an application to assess maintenance). This is the list of countries which help each other enforce each others maintenance orders or allow claims for maintenance against someone in the other country.

I don’t understand—what can I do now?

Contact Woolley & Co for free initial help. We will tell you how we can help or assist you in finding the help you need.

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