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Financial Support for Children
Financial support for children
When parents separate the care, and financial support, for the children remains their shared responsibility. Ideally, parents should try and agree how the child’s living costs, including all the costs incurred in raising the child, will be met between them.
However, it is not always possible to reach an agreement and this guide will outline various options available to parents, and others with care of children, for securing financial support from the other parent (or organisation).
Child Maintenance Service
If you are unable to reach an agreement for financial support for the children, the starting point for all separating parents should be the Child Maintenance Service. The CMS are able to calculate, using a set calculation method, and collect payments from the other parent (often referred to as ‘child maintenance’) for the financial support of the children.
You can apply for child maintenance if you are a parent, grandparent or other guardian of a child aged up to 16yrs (or 20yrs if in approved education / training) and a calculation can be carried out online at Calculate your child maintenance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
If a voluntary arrangement cannot be agreed through the Child Maintenance Service you can ask them to a) calculate the payments to be made, b) arrange for payment and take action if payments are not made, c) help locate the other parent, amongst other things. However, it is important to note that there is a cost for the payer and payee if the Child Maintenance Service is asked to collect payments.
It should also be noted that there are the following limitations with the Child Maintenance Service:-
- You cannot use the service if parent with care, and the child, live outside the United Kingdom;
- You cannot use the service if the paying parent works outside the United Kingdom and is not employed by a British organisation (i.e. their HQ is not located in the United Kingdom).
- Child Maintenance Service cap on gross weekly income, for the purpose of calculating income, currently at £3,000 per week. Therefore, if the paying parent has a gross income greater than £156,000, income in excess of this figure will not be taken into account.
Finally, it should be noted that where the child care arrangements are exactly equal between the parties, there will be no liability to child support no matter what the income differential is.
Matrimonial Causes Act 1973
If the parents are, or were, married and have not already entered into a financial agreement (or compromised their claim via other means) then they can apply to the court for a financial provision order for the benefit of the children but only in cases not met by the CMS ie where there is a disabled child, private school fees/nursery fees, where the non-resident parent’s income is above £156,000 or where a parent is living abroad
If the application is successful the paying parent can be asked to pay regular payments (referred to as periodical payments) for the benefit of the children to the parent with care.
The receiving parent must be able to demonstrate that the paying parent has failed to provide, or to make proper contribution towards, reasonable maintenance for the child/ren of the family.
Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989
A parent with the care of a child, (or other person with parental responsibility and a live with order) can apply to the court for financial support from the other parent, subject to the paramountcy principles of the CMS set out above, for the benefit of the child, as follows:-
- Regular payments (known as periodical payments) for a specified period of time.
As mentioned above, this is only applicable eg if the non-resident parent is living abroad, has an income higher than £156,000, the child is disabled, or the application revolves around private school fees etc.
- Lump sum payment.
This payment can be requested for a range of purposes connected with the birth and/or maintenance of the child. There is no limit to the number of applications that can be made in this regard, but must relate to a specific capital need and not for general maintenance which is intended to be covered by the CMS.
- Settlement of a property.
This usually involves the provision of a home for the child either for a set period of time or whilst the child remains a minor or in full tertiary education and is therefore, a right of occupation for a time rather than the actual acquisition of property.
Financial Support for Special Guardians
If you care for a child, and have been appointed Special Guardians by the court, you can apply for means-tested financial support from the local authority. This is known as Special Guardianship Allowance and can include a one-off cost, and regular payments. Depending on the child’s circumstances, other financial support may also be available and enquiries should be made with the local authority.
Special Guardians are also entitled to the same benefits as the children’s birth parents, such as Child Benefit and Universal Credit. Further information regarding applicable benefits should be sought from the Department of Work and Pensions.
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