Child maintenance (or child support) is a regular, reliable payment to help cover a child’s everyday living costs. There are different ways to arrange child maintenance and it’s up to you to choose the one that best suits your circumstances.
The government has set out a formula to help parents work out how child maintenance should be paid. Their online child maintenance calculator tool is a useful resource but does not deal with tricky situations - when you'll need specialist advice - but it does provide a useful benchmark.
There are three options for arranging child maintenance with your ex:
- a family based arrangement - you and your ex can make any arrangement you like for child maintenance provided you both agree. However, it will not be legally binding
- the Child Maintenance Service (or CMS, which used to be called the CSA) - the government-run CMS can calculate child maintenance for you and your ex if you can't agree the amount yourselves and can also do the administration around the payments by collecting them and paying them over if required
- court - not only can court orders be used to turn voluntarily agreed arrangements into legally binding ones but the court can also deal with more complicated or unusual situations for example where the paying parent has a very high level of income, where school fees need to be paid and where either parent or the child lives abroad.
The interaction between child maintenance and other financial arrangements such as spousal maintenance can be tricky and it's important to get advice on the overall picture.
Our experience in child maintenance law
As experts in the full range of financial orders on divorce, we have guided clients from all walks of life through this highly technical area of law:
- helping parents to negotiate and agree family based arrangements (including through mediation or collaborative law) tailored to their family's circumstances
- successfully obtaining "top up" maintenance orders in the court where the paying parent has a very high income
- advising clients where parentage is disputed
- successfully obtaining school fees orders
- successfully challenging incorrect CMS calculations, including appearing before the Child Support Tribunal
- advising clients with complex or unusual income sources on their child maintenance obligations
- regularly advising international families on their child maintenance obligations in England and Wales