Child Support – What you need to know?

Child support is a periodic payment of money to a caregiving or custodial parent by the other parent for the benefit of a child. It is internationally recognised that providing financial support for the development of a child and meet his/her needs and welfare rests with his/her parents and it is therefore ultimately the parent’s obligation and responsibility. 

It does not matter if the parents are in a marriage or civil partnership and the only criteria is to establish maternity and paternity. 

When a child lives with his/her parents in a relationship, then there is no issue as to child support. However, when parents separate, then the issue of child maintenance becomes a contentious one. In most cases, one parent will move out of the family home and the other is left to care for the child on more often than not, limited means. So what can the custodial parent do in this situation?

Child support was originally dealt with by the Child Support Agency (CSA), then by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission until 2012 when the DWP replaced the CSA with the current Child Maintenance Service (CMS). The new statutory scheme enabled all children in full-time non-advanced education to become eligible for child maintenance up to the age of 20.

In the absence of a voluntary agreement for maintenance between the parents and in situations where the courts have no jurisdiction (see below), the custodial parent will have to apply to the CMS for child support from the non-custodial parent.  The application involves an administrative process rather than a judicial one and a set formulae is applied to determine the amount to pay and from which date. The child has to be a ‘qualifying’ child i.e. lives with one of their natural parents or with neither, under 16 or 20 and in the case of the latter they are in full time non-advanced education. The CMS not only make the assessment but have their own enforcement procedures (including charges) to collect maintenance from absent parents.

There are some instances however where the courts retain jurisdiction to deal with child support. The most common are:

  • Where the child’s expenses relate to a disability in which case there is no age limit
  • The child is step child
  • The child is over the age of 20 and continuing in full time non-advanced education
  • Where the paying parent’s gross income is over £156,000 pa in which case the court can make a ‘top-up’ order with similar provisions for assessments under the old regime
  • Where the parties have agreed a figure and want the court to record that in the body of a financial order within matrimonial proceedings

Common questions (Child Support)

Is there a way to be exempt from paying child support? That depends on your gross income.

Is there any link between contact with a child and child support? No. Financially supporting a child is a parent’s responsibility whether the parent is in contact with the child or not. 

What can you do if the paying parent refuses to pay after an assessment has been made?

The CMS can take enforcement action against you and obtain court orders to take the payment directly from your earnings, your bank account, sell your property or personal possessions to recover the arrears. 

If you need any help with your issues concerning child support, please contact sbutt@freemanharris.co.uk

About Talha Fazlani

Talha is the Head of Marketing & Operations / Paralegal at Freeman Harris Solicitors. He is the first person you would deal with if you have a legal enquiry.