Go to Court for Child Support – Time to Take Action?

Go to Court for child supportIs it time to go to Court for child support? Read this simple guide –

  • Who can go to Court for child support
  • Family-based arrangements
  • Child Maintenance Service
  • Absent parents who hide their income
  • School fees, disabled children, absent parents abroad
  • Absent parents who earn more than £3,000 gross a week
  • How to go to Court for child support “top up”

I want to go to Court for child support 

Hang on! Very few parents can do that.

Why?

Because most people have to use the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). But first visit the Child Maintenance Options site and find out the best way to agree a family-based arrangement. This is good because it’s free.

What’s a family-based arrangement?

It’s where you and the absent parent agree between you how much child support to pay. Here’s a link to an online child maintenance calculator

And if we can’t agree?

Apply for child support through the Child Maintenance Service (and pay a fee). But read on, special circumstances might apply to your case …

The absent parent will never tell the CMS their income

Don’t worry, the CMS will ask the tax man (HMRC) for details of earned income. They can also make assumptions about income if information is not available.

Yes but they’ve hidden their income

Ask the CMS for a variation of the child maintenance calculation. They will approach HMRC for details of unearned income, such as rent and dividends and interest on taxable savings. They can also sniff out diverted income.

The CMS assessment is not enough

A small proportion of parents can go to Court for child support. I set out some of the relevant circumstances below. The first question is, are you in the middle of sorting out the divorce finances?

Yes, we’re sorting out the divorce finances

Make sure you negotiate child support and include it in the Consent Order. Otherwise you will have to apply to the Child Maintenance Service. But it might be that special circumstances apply to you which mean you can indeed go to Court for child support (see below).

In the meantime please read my recent blogs about divorce finances (these apply equally to civil partnerships) –

But we never married or were in a civil partnership

It is possible to go to Court under Schedule 1 of the Children Act for child support in special circumstances. And you can make an application whether you were –

  • married
  • in a civil partnership
  • living together
  • or you never lived together

But what are these special circumstances?

School fees, disabled child, absent parent abroad …

You can go to Court for child support under Schedule 1 of the Children Act in these special circumstances not covered by the CMS:

  • school fees or vocational fees
  • the child is disabled
  • the absent parent is abroad

Or if the absent parent is a very high earner indeed.

… the absent parent earns more than £3,000 a week

This is another reason to go to Court for child support under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.

The CMS only counts income up to £3,000 a week. So you can go to Court for a child support “top up” if the absent parent earns more. But this is only if the CMS has assessed the absent parent as actually earning more than £3,000 a week. There was a Court case, Dickson v Rennie [2015] 2 FLR 978 where the Judge said it was “crystal clear” that the CMS had to make the maximum assessment first.

How do I apply to Court?

Read my forthcoming blog for a simple guide to the steps you need to take to go to Court for child support.

Go to Court 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.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families. 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 Family by Anna Logvinova on Wikimedia

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What Are Your Child Maintenance Options?

When a relationship breaks down I’m often asked:

  • How do I get Child Maintenance?
  • How much will I get?
  • What if we can’t agree?
  • What if the paying parent won’t pay, or is abroad, or is very rich?
  • How about the school fees?
  • Does it make a difference if the parents aren’t married?

You’ll find answers to all these questions below.

It’s no cheap matter to bring up children and to provide them with all their needs. And it costs even more if you’re a lone parent. A recent report states:

“The basic cost of a child from birth to age 18, excluding housing, childcare and council tax, is £75,436 for a couple family, and £102,627 for a lone-parent family.”

The Cost of a Child in 2017 by CPAG

Feelings may be running high between you and the children’s other parent but if you can for a moment put your differences aside and reach an agreement, this will be good not only for the children but for your ability to work together for the children’s welfare in the future.

How Do I Get Maintenance For The Children?

The best approach is to reach an agreement between you. This is often referred to as a Family Based Agreement. But what do you need to agree?

There are many Child Maintenance options. Monthly payments, regular lump sums, or payments for clothes, toys, sporting activities, music lessons, school uniforms or even school fees. Another alternative is to share the care of the children.

Parents sometimes agree a combination of all the above.

What If We Can’t Agree? What If Payments Aren’t Made?

If you can’t agree Child Maintenance between you there’s always Negotiation Collaborative Law or Mediation.

Otherwise you will need to apply to the Child Maintenance Service for help. A fee is charged. If the paying parent fails to make the payments, the CMS can collect them for you.

How Much Child Maintenance Will I Get?

This online calculator is a useful guide.

What About Children Who Are Over 16 But Not In Full Time Education? 

The age stipulation for Child Maintenance through the Child Maintenance Service can be a worry especially if your child is disabled. If you can’t agree payments, an application may be made to the Court under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.

What About School Fees?

There is no provision for the payment of school fees under the Child Maintenance Service. If you can’t agree, you can make an application to the Court under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.

How About Unmarried Parents? 

Here again, an agreement reached privately between parents is the ideal. Failing which, there is Negotiation, Collaborative Law or MediationOtherwise make an application to the Child Maintenance Service.

But the Child Maintenance Service can only help so far – it cannot provide lump sums or housing. And in the case of unmarried families there is no opportunity to obtain Court orders during the divorce process. But there’s always Schedule 1 of the Children Act. An Application may be made for a lump sum, or for the transfer of property.

What If The Paying Parent Lives Abroad?

If you’re part of an international family, and the paying parent lives abroad and isn’t paying Child Maintenance, the answer is to make an application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act. But check with the Child Maintenance Service first because there are exceptions to the rule that it doesn’t deal with paying parents abroad.

What If the Paying Parent is Very Rich?

The Child Maintenance Service can only assess income of the paying parent up to £3000 gross per week. So if you need a top up, the answer is to make an application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act. The question of school fees can also be addressed.

If you’re unmarried, this could be your opportunity to apply for a transfer of property or for a lump sum in order to provide the children with a home and other needs.

Child Maintenance Options

Contact  Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on Child Maintenance Options. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

See my linked blog Maintenance and Clean Break on Divorce 

  • Who’s entitled to Spousal Maintenance? How’s it calculated?
  • What’s a Clean Break, and is it the answer?

Also see my blog What Comes First Divorce or Settlement about how to get the best divorce for you. 


JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families. Visit our website just-family-law.com 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 Toy Rabbit by Nevit Dilmen on Wikimedia

 

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