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Child support when parents live abroad

By , on Friday July 31, 2020 at 11:00 am

Since the early 1990s Child Support Agency (CSA) (now called the Child Maintenance Service (CMS)) 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.

If both parents are in England or Wales the CMS is the only way to deal with maintenance unless:

  • Parents agree a payment between them (which can be recorded in a Consent Order)
  • There are extras such as private school fees or other educational expenses to pay
  • The child or children for whom maintenance is sought have special needs and there are related additional costs for example arising out of disability
  • The paying parent has a very high income

when the Court can deal with these expenses.

When parents live abroad

The CMS 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 where the paying parent:

  • works abroad as a civil servant or within Her Majesty’s diplomatic service
  • is a member of the Armed Forces
  • works abroad for a company based and registered in the UK
  • works abroad for an NHS 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 the categories above do not apply) then the parent with care can apply to the court for child maintenance.

How you ensure payment of this child maintenance depends on whether the paying parent lives in a country where the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders (REMO) applies or not.

Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders 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.

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.

Kathryn McTaggart
Family law solicitor

Blog Author - Kathryn McTaggart

Kathryn McTaggartKathryn McTaggart

Kathryn is the firm’s Professional Support Lawyer (PSL), working to ensure the family law service we provide remains innovative and, above all, client and child focussed.


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