If you are a parent you have parental responsibility for a child whether or not you remain living with them. Living in poor economic circumstances after separation has been found to contribute to negative outcomes for children. It is therefore important that child maintenance issues are resolved.
Child maintenance is financial support that helps towards a child’s everyday living costs when the parents are separated. It is for children who are either:-
- Under 16 years of age
- Under 20 years of age and in full time education (but not higher than A Level or equivalent)
You can agree child maintenance directly with the other parent and enter a Family Based Agreement or go through the Child Maintenance Service (previously the CSA).
Family Based Agreement
One of the main benefits of a Family Based Agreement is that it provides flexibility, providing that both parents are in agreement. You don’t have to follow a set of rules to work out child maintenance and you can agree when the payments are made i.e weekly, monthly, yearly, and can include payments in kind i.e for things like school uniforms, clothes, food, school fees, or mortgage payments. Most people find it easier to budget by paying or receiving maintenance at the same time as their wages or benefits. It is helpful to keep a record of payments paid and received. A standing order may be best to ensure that payments are made on time and recorded. Whatever you agree, it is important to write it down so that there is no misunderstanding. The arrangement is not legally binding but it is a way of demonstrating your strong personal commitment.
In order to figure out what should be paid a good starting point is to use the online calculator on the Child Maintenance Options website. For more information, or to download a sample Agreement, visit www.cmoptions.org or call 0800 988 0988
Child Maintenance Service (previously the CSA)
If you are unable to reach an agreement with the other parent or require a binding agreement, a referral can be made to the Child Maintenance Service. There may be a fee. Visit www.csa.gov.uk or call 0845 713 3133
REMEMBER: Living in a household which has a substantially reduced income after separation may have a negative effect on your child. It is therefore fundamental that you sort out child maintenance.