Did you know you can go to Court for child support for school fees or vocational fees, disabled child’s expenses, support from parent abroad, or from parent who earns £3000+ a week? These special circumstances are not covered by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).
What is the Court Procedure for Child Support? This blog will guide you how to make an application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.
And if you want to know more about the Child Maintenance Service see my blog, Go to Court for Child Support – Time to Take Action?
What happens first?
A Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)
What’s a MIAM?
You will meet with a mediator to see if mediation is possible. Anything that avoids Court, such as negotiation, collaborative law, or mediation is good because you will find it easier to cooperate about other issues affecting the children. Find a local mediator with the help of the Family Mediation Council
What if mediation doesn’t work?
The mediator will sign form FM1 confirming it’s not for you. You can now start Court proceedings.
How do I start Court proceedings?
What do I send to Court?
- A1 (two copies)
- Court fee OR your application for remission from Court fees
- FM1 from the mediator
Where do I send my application?
Your local Court that deals with family matters. Click here to find the right one.
What happens first?
The Court fixes a hearing date in four to eight weeks time. It sends Form A1 to the absent parent together with the hearing date and Form E1. Or if you request it, you can serve all these yourself.
What is Form E1?
You must fill one in and send it to each other and the Court within 14 days.
Form E1 contains fifteen pages of detailed financial questions. Go through it carefully, question by question, and do your best to answer each one. Be truthful and provide the documents requested and you will be OK. And if you haven’t got all the documents to start with, get hold of them asap and send them to the other parent and the Court with an explanation for the delay.
What happens if the absent parent’s finances are significant/complicated?
It’s possible to ask the Court to consider a longer timetable. But the Court is likely to put a lid on requests for more information. This is because the case has a narrow focus: a claim for child support.
What happens at the hearing?
If you are not happy with the other parent’s Form E1, write down a list of the information and documents missing and take this to Court with you.
The Court will:
- Reach a decision about child support, or
- Order further evidence, eg finances or other important things you want to say,
- Set a date for a “directions hearing” (an opportunity to check everything is ready for the Court to make a decision)
- Set a date for a final hearing.
Is a Child Maintenance Service (CMS) “maximum assessment” required?
Yes. There is case law (Dickson v Rennie) that a “Top Up” order for child support should not be made until the CMS has made a “maximum assessment”. This is because it proves the absent parent’s income is £3000 or more a week which means the CMS can’t deal with it.
But what if it’s obvious the absent parent’s income is £3000 or above and the CMS appeals process is dragging out? In some circumstances it might be possible to start proceedings without a “maximum assessment” although you will not get a final order until the “maximum assessment” is indeed available. This is quite a tricky area of the law so please ask an experienced family law solicitor.
The timing of the application can be important when it comes to backdating the child support (see below).
Are other orders available under Schedule 1 of the Children Act?
Yes they are, for example lump sums and property. This will be the subject of a future blog.
Can child support be backdated?
Yes, the Court can backdate the order, eg for school fees, to the date you made the application. But if it’s for a “Top Up” (because the absent parent earns £3000 or more a week) and your application was made within six months of the CMS calculation, there is a possibility the order can be backdated even further:
- either six months before you made the application to the Court, or
- the date of the CMS calculation that led to the “maximum assessment”
whichever is later.
What is the Court Procedure for Child Support?
Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on all your options, including when and whether to go to Court for child support and how to go about it. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.
The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.
image “Anita iniciándose en el pensamiento numérico” (translation “Anita begins to think about numbers”) by Amoreno on Wikimedia