Child maintenance (support)

Child maintenance relates to regular payments made by a non-resident parent to the individual or parent with care of the child to meet their day-to-day living expenses following relationship breakdown.

Child maintenance payments can be agreed between parents on a voluntary basis, but if they cannot agree on the appropriate figure, the Child Maintenance Service (“CMS”) has primary jurisdiction for assessing child maintenance, rather than the courts. The CMS calculation is based on the non-resident parent’s income, the number of children the maintenance is to be paid for, and the number of nights which (on average) the child will be staying with the non-resident parent. The calculation can therefore be a useful reference point for parents who hope to agree the figure.

Child maintenance can, however, be ordered by the court in prescribed circumstances, or where the CMS does not have jurisdiction. One such example is if the non-resident parent’s income is higher than the top CMS threshold (i.e. it exceeds £156,000 gross per annum). In those circumstances, the court can make a “top-up order” for child maintenance, if it is satisfied that in the circumstances of the case it is appropriate. Further, if parents wish to see their agreement as to child maintenance recorded by the court, a child maintenance order by consent can be made, usually as part of a consent order dealing with all of the aspects of the financial settlement. However, parents should be alive to the fact that even when the court has made an order with respect to child maintenance, after 12 months an application can be made to the CMS to recalculate the level of maintenance.

Since child maintenance is generally dependent upon how many nights the child is staying with the non-resident parent, and upon their income, it is variable. Child maintenance cannot, however, be capitalised in the same way in which a spousal maintenance can be. This means that a paying party cannot pay a lump sum in lieu of regular (usually monthly) payments of child maintenance in order to “capitalise” these payments and end the ongoing commitment, to achieve a clean break.

Vardags habitually act for parties whose income exceeds the CMS threshold. We are therefore fully versed with the court’s “top-up” jurisdiction, and with brokering an agreement between parents as to the appropriate level of child maintenance as part of the overall financial settlement. Vardags will forensically examine a party’s income position, and the nature of the arrangements for the children, to ensure we achieve a favourable outcome.

If you would like to know more about the issues covered in this guide, Vardags offers a free consultation to qualifying individuals.

Our confidential enquiry line is staffed 24 hours, every day of the year. Call 020 7404 9390 today.

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.

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