Child maintenance is a payment made by a non resident parent to another parent or guardian who has the day to day care of their child or children. The payment is intended to help towards the cost of clothing, food and the upkeep of the child or children.
This payment can be arranged between the two parents, known as a family based arrangement, through the courts or via the CSA (Child Support Agency).
Family Based Child Maintenance Arrangement
- Arranging child maintenance payments via a mutual agreement between the two parents or parent and guardian is by far the easiest way and there are online tools to help calculate the appropriate amount of child maintenance that the non resident parent should pay.
- Sometimes the parent or guardian with care may accept other mutually agreed contributions instead of payments such as new school uniforms or clothing and shoes for the child.
- A family based child maintenance agreement keeps things on a more personal level and allows the non resident parent to feel more involved with the up bringing of the child or children.
- However, this form of agreement is not legally binding and if the non resident parent fails to make a payment there is no way to enforce that payment.
- Under some circumstances it isn’t always possible for parents to come to a mutual arrangement, especially if there has been a history of domestic violence or abuse between the parents or if the whereabouts of the non resident parent is unknown, and this is when the parent or guardian with care must turn to either the CSA or the courts for help.
Consent Orders for Child Maintenance
- The parent with care can apply for a consent order to enforce payments of child maintenance from the non resident parent if need be.
- Often this method is used if the parents are already attending court for another reason such as getting divorced.
- The parents of the child or children will first need to agree on the amount of child maintenance to be paid each week or month via a solicitor who will draw up the agreement.
- The agreement will then be filed with the courts and the judge, on accepting the agreement, will turn that agreement into a consent order.
- Should the non resident parent fail to make the payments agreed once the consent order is in place then the court can enforce those payments.
- It should be noted that once a consent order for child maintenance is in place the parent with care will be unable to request that the CSA to put an arrangement in place until 12 months after the date that the consent order was issued.
- Under most circumstances legal aid will not cover the court costs when applying for a consent order for child maintenance.
Applying for Child Maintenance through the CSA
- A child maintenance arrangement made through the Child Support Agency is legally binding and the CSA have the power to enforce payments from the non resident parent.
- The CSA will make all the arrangements without the parent or guardian with care having to be in contact with the non resident parent.
- The parent or guardian with care will need to agree to the payment decisions made by the CSA and keep them informed of any changes which might affect those payments.
Changes that the CSA will need to know about could include:
- An increase or decrease in the number of nights the child or children spend with the non resident parent and the parent with care.
- Any change of address for the non resident parent or the parent with care.
- Any change of income for the non resident parent.
- A change in the number of children the non resident parent or parent with care have to support.