Guide to the variation of child financial provision
In the event of parties separating and leaving the majority of the responsibility of childcare with one parent, the other parent is required to make regular financial provision towards the maintenance of the children. As we have set out in our guide to child financial provision it is possible for the resident parent to apply for an additional amount over and above the amount as assessed by the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service where the non-resident parent is a high earner. Additional amounts of child maintenance can also be agreed as part of the financial arrangements upon divorce or civil partnership dissolution. However, where the non-resident parent’s financial circumstances change, or the needs of the children significantly increase following the grant of an order, it is possible for either party to apply for an upward or downward variation of child maintenance through the courts.
Financial orders that can be varied in this area include:
a) Child maintenance orders over and above the standard CSA calculations. These orders are known as “top up” orders and can be varied by either party on an upward or downward basis where the relevant party believes that they have adequate grounds to justify a variation;
b) School fees order for the payment of private school fees or tertiary education, which may be varied on the basis that the paying party is no longer able to afford the costs or that the resident parent needs the payments to be increased; and
c) Payments of lump sums for the benefit of children that are payable by instalments. The court has the power to vary the number and amount of instalments of a lump sum payment but will only vary the overall sum in very exceptional cases.
Financial orders that cannot be varied include:
a) Lump sum orders not payable by instalments; and
b) Transfer of property orders, as these are capital orders that for the sake of certainty within financial settlements cannot be varied.
When facing an application for variation of a financial order, the court will consider all of the circumstances of the case that will include the needs of each party and primarily the welfare of any children. Whilst the court’s first approach will be to maintain the balance achieved by the original order, it is essential to have proper and specialised legal advice at this crucial stage in legal proceedings to ensure that a satisfactory final order is made.
If you are interested in discussing the variation of child financial provision please see How Vardags can help with the variation of child financial provision.