Finances and Children
The breakdown of a relationship can be a distressing, overwhelming experience, the impact of which is often intensified when a child is involved. The child’s well-being is usually at the forefront of both parents’ minds, and they will be keen to mitigate the detrimental effects of their separation insofar as possible. This includes securing their child’s ongoing financial security.
Our team of specialist family solicitors have extensive experience working with separated parents to find a solution to the financial issues arising from your separation. The welfare of your child is always our priority. We are alive to the potential negative effects of ongoing parental conflict, so employ the least confrontational method of resolution appropriate in the circumstances. We offer practical as well as legal advice and work hard to achieve a fair outcome for your family.
The care and professionalism that CSL provided whilst taking on my case has been second to none. From the beginning right through to the end I had every confidence in their ability. A special thank you to Clive and Naomi for all their legal advice, I cannot thank them enough! Jae Archer
For immediate assistance on any financial issues in divorce, please call us now on 0203 463 1300 or click here to make an enquiry.
Child Maintenance – all parents
Child maintenance is a contribution towards the child’s outgoings made by one parent to the other. It is intended to cover expenses such as clothing, food and housing.
- Family-Based Arrangements
Parents are encouraged to seek an amicable agreement relating to the amount of maintenance payable between themselves, wherever possible. This is known as a ‘family-based arrangement’.
Family-based arrangements afford the parties complete flexibility over the provisions made for their child’s financial maintenance. You might agree that the non-resident parent should make monthly payments or one-off payments to coincide with important times in the child’s life, or cover specific outgoings such as the mortgage or utility bills.
Reaching a family-based arrangement helps to avoid any ongoing acrimony and lessen the impact of the separation on your child. We have considerable experience in matters concerning children and finances. We will explain how much maintenance would be reasonable for the non-resident parent to pay and assist you in negotiating an agreement where necessary.
- Child Maintenance Service
Sometimes, the circumstances of a break-up are such that the parents are unable to reach an amicable agreement on the issue of child maintenance. In these cases, either parent can apply to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) for a child maintenance assessment.
When assessing the appropriate level of maintenance to be paid by the non-resident parent, the CMS will consider the following matters:
- The non-resident’s partner income, including any benefits.
- Anything that might affect the non-resident’s income, such as if they make regular pension payments.
- How many children the non-resident parent supports.
- The extent to which the non-resident parent shares care with the resident parent.
The CMS will then use the information to calculate how much maintenance the non-resident parent should pay. It is important to note, however, that the CMS will disregard any income over £156,000 when carrying out their assessment. If the non-resident parent’s income exceeds that amount, the resident parent can apply to the Court to make an Order for ‘top up’ maintenance. The Court will make such an Order if it is satisfied that it would be fair to do so. We will advise you on the merits of any such Application, prepare the necessary documentation and present it in the best possible way to the Judge.
Child maintenance – married couples
Married couples have additional rights by virtue of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (the MCA). Similar provisions exist for those in a civil partnership, pursuant to the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
The power of the Court to make Orders relating to child maintenance under the MCA are restricted by the statutory regime, which gives the Child Maintenance Service jurisdiction over the levels of financial support payable by the non-resident parent. However, the Court retains jurisdiction in some circumstances. For example, if the paying parent’s income exceeds £156,000, the Court may make an Order for ‘top up maintenance’.
In addition, the MCA gives the Court power to order the payment of spousal maintenance. When deciding whether such an Order would be appropriate and, if so, its terms, the Court will have regard to several matters, including the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the relationship, and the likely contribution the respective parties will make to the family’s welfare, including non-financial contributions. The Court can also order one party to make a lump sum payment to the other. The payment is usually for the benefit of the receiving party but, sometimes, can be for the benefit of a child or the family overall.
Child maintenance – unmarried couples
The law treats unmarried couples very differently to their married counterparts, or those in a civil partnership. When their relationship breaks down, cohabitees are often surprised to learn that they do not have an automatic right to assets they had considered to be jointly owned, such as their home, or to any spousal maintenance.
Whilst both parents have an obligation to support their child financially, regardless of their relationship status, this obligation extends only to the payment of the maintenance calculated by the CMS. The CMS’ formula is not adjusted to take into account matters such as the fact that the resident parent may not have received a share of the family home or other assets and so may be considerably worse off as a result of the split.
As is the case with those going through a divorce or civil partnership dissolution, unmarried parents are encouraged to seek settlement of the issue of child maintenance between themselves. This is always the preferable option but, sometimes, is simply unrealistic. In these cases, it may be possible to apply to the Court for assistance.
Applications are made under Schedule 1 of the Children’s Act. The Act not only allows the Court to order the payment of ‘top up ’maintenance where the non-resident parent’s income exceeds £156,000, but also enables the Judge to make numerous other Orders to ensure the child receives adequate financial support. Those Orders include the payment of a lump sum to cover one-off expenses such as purchasing a car, or the transfer of property to provide a home for the child. The property will generally revert to the non-resident parent when the child reaches 18 or leaves full-time education.
The court’s discretion under Schedule 1 of the Children’s Act is wide. The Judge will consider various factors, including the child’s financial needs, the parents’ earning capacities and how the child is being educated.
A strict procedure must be followed when making an Application under Schedule 1 of the Children’s Act. We will guide and support you through the process, doing all we can to give your application the best possible chance of success.
How can our solicitors help?
Here at CSL Law, our team of expert legal advisors give honest, straightforward advice and clear information on all aspects of child maintenance. We understand that many of our clients come to us at a stressful time, often facing an uncertain future. They require not only first-class legal advice but also empathy and understanding. We take the time to get to know you and your family, and work with you to resolve the child maintenance aspect of your separation as swiftly and amicably as possible. We strive to minimise any disruption caused to your child and enable you both to find a positive way forward.
For immediate assistance, please call us now on 0203 463 1300 or click here to make an enquiry.
Megan and Clive provided solid legal advice and guidance at a very stressful time. They ensured that I understood and met my legal obligations, reassured me regarding the possible outcomes and fully explained the legal process. Their calming approach together with their excellent Barrister recommendation and handover, lead all in all to a fair settlement. Thank you Guys. Anthony Whorms