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Child support or child maintenance is financial support that helps towards a child’s everyday living costs. Payment is made by the absent parent to the parent, caregiver or guardian, with whom the children mainly live.
In family law, child support is not arranged as part of a divorce as such but the Court will want to be assured that arrangements regarding where the child will live and arrangements for continued parental involvement with both parents have been made.
The Courts no longer have powers to order the payment of child maintenance – instead this was handed over to the Child Support Agency (CSA), now known as the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).
The role of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS)
The Child Maintenance Service deals with maintenance for children in most circumstances. This means that lawyers cannot help very much if the CMS has already made an assessment and the payer refuses to pay or if the payee or payer think the figure the CMS have decided upon is wrong.
At this point the responsibility rests with the CMS to take action, by hearing a form of informal appeal or by taking the non-payer to Court to make them pay by, for example, asking the Court to make an Attachment of Earnings Order so that the money is stopped out of their wages each week.
There are restrictions on what the CMS can deal with. They cannot for example deal with maintenance for children over 16 years of age (or under 20 if they are in approved education or training).
Where a parent who should be making payments is living abroad, the CMS can, in theory, enforce payment by i) getting a Court order and ii) getting it enforced by local law enforcement authorities. They can send orders to all EU states, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and some others but so far as we are aware, they actually never do this because it costs them too much money. You can personally apply to the court for a maintenance order in these circumstances.
Unfortunately most people find it uneconomic to try to tackle difficulties with the CMS using lawyers. Instead we recommend contacting NACSA which specialises in providing advice, support and information.
You can avoid relying in the CMS by making an agreement with the other parent. Ideally you should have child maintenance looked at and sorted out at the same time as spousal maintenance as part of agreeing your divorce settlement.
If you are considering divorce or separation you should take advice from an experienced family lawyer to ensure you understand your rights and obligations and to help you reach an agreement to avoid having to rely on the CMS.
How much financial support will the children get?
The amount of financial support an absent parent should contribute for the welfare of any children varies widely as it is reliant on so many different factors. These include income, assets, age of the child, levels of savings, pension contributions, any special health needs the child has and any additional support already being given to support the home where the child lives.
For specific amounts you must either reach an agreement between both parties amicably, often with the help of your divorce solicitor, or else rely on the CMS to sort out the case for you.
How can Woolley & Co, solicitors help?
Take advantage of our fixed fee two-hour assessment when one of our family lawyers will expertly assess your personal circumstances, and advise you whether it is better to make an application to the courts, or leave things to the CMS. You should seek advice as early as possible, so that we can help you to make the right decision for your children.
Remember, a CMS assessment may be better for you than a court order, or vice versa but once either is made, there are long-term implications for children. You may therefore need help to choose the best option.
Help with the CMS
NACSA helps parents and families who are experiencing difficulties with the CMS.