Each parent is responsible for maintaining their children.
So, on separation the parent the child does not live with maintains their child by paying maintenance to the parent the child does live with.
How much they pay depends on their income and the number of nights the child(ren) stays overnight with the parent he/she does not live with.
How child support is paid depends on whether the parents can reach agreement or not as to the amount of support payable between the parents.
Recent changes, introduced by the Government, to the Child Support Agency (CSA) now mean parents are encouraged to reach agreement and arrange payment directly between themselves. Such agreement should be recorded in a written agreement, known as “Family- based Arrangement”, to prevent any problems arising in the future in relation to the issue of discharging responsibility for maintaining your child(ren). The amount of child support agreed can also take into consideration the cost of school uniform, school dinners and other expenses. Payment should also be made through the banking system so that there is a record of what has been paid and when.
However, if parents cannot agree how much the parent the child(ren) does not live should be paying to the parent the child does live with then either parent can ask the Child Support Agency (CSA) to calculate how much should be paid. Recent changes introduced to the CSA mean that from 2013 the CSA will make a 20% charge of the amount calculated is payable will be made to the parent the child does not live and a 7% charge of the amount payable being made to the receiving parent for their involvement. One benefit of involving the CSA is that they have wider powers of enforcement of arrears against a non-paying parent and the costs of enforcing the arrears are met by the CSA save for the charges mentioned above.
The courts generally do not have the power to order the parent of a child who does not live with them to pay child support to the parent the child does live with. However, there are exceptions to this for instance where the parties have agreed the level of child support to be paid as part of the overall financial settlement on divorce. A court order for child support made by agreement of the parents is binding for the first 12 months from when the order is made. After 12 months either parent can ask the CSA to carry out a calculation if they wish to do so and the CSA calculate will discharge the court order. One benefit of a court order is that it may be enforceable if the paying parent is likely to move abroad, not so uncommon nowadays given people are moving abroad to find work or employers are expanding their businesses into foreign markets.
What about the parents who agree that a parent will pay school fees instead of child maintenance? Whilst in practical terms payment of school fees may be considered by most people as maintaining your child it is not automatically so by the CSA. It is important that any such agreement between parents is recorded in writing. Then in the event the either parent applies to the CSA (or the court in limited circumstances) for a child support calculation the agreement can be produced as evidence of what the parents initially intended. The CSA may take this into account, but there is a risk it may not and the CSA may still require payment of child support.
So, in summary it is cheaper for parents to reach agreement between themselves and any that agreement should be recorded in writing or be incorporated by joint consent in a court order
For further information please contact Sarah Hull from Norton Connor on 0113 2390088 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org