Child Maintenance: How separated Britons can ensure their child is supported

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Child Maintenance is described by the government website as an “arrangement between one person and the other parent of their child”. It is a formal agreement, which Britons can expect to be drafted with support and assistance from the government. The intent of Child Maintenance is to ensure the costs arising in a child’s day-to-day living are covered.

Such an arrangement occurs when one of a child’s parents no longer lives with them, for example, if a couple has separated.

It is a requirement that both parents cover the costs of raising their children, even if they do not see them.

While there are many different types of access arrangements, these exist separately from the kind of support laid out in a child maintenance arrangement.

So, what can parents ultimately expect from child maintenance?

How parents choose to share the care of their child is likely to affect how much the paying parent will put forward.

The paying parent is described as the individual who does not have main day-to-day care of the child, with the receiving parent taking on the majority of the care.

Child Maintenance arrangements must be in place for children who are under 16, or under 20 if they remain in approved education or training.

Child maintenance payments can be put forward in a variety of ways, which include:

  • between parents
  • directly from the paying parent’s earnings and arranged with their employer
  • reducing the paying parent’s benefits
  • via Direct Debit

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The amount a paying parent will put forward in Child Maintenance is likely to vary dependent on circumstances.

Thankfully though, the government has established a Child Maintenance calculator, to help Britons understand the amount they are required to pay.

If parents are arranging payments amongst themselves, then the calculator will give them a figure to work around.

But for those using the government, the calculator will provide an estimate of what the government is likely to work out for them.

Britons are not required to pay through CMS if they are sharing care of the child with the other parent equally, a full-time student with no income, or in prison. 

To use the calculator, though, parents will need to have certain information to hand.

They will need to provide the details of the paying parent, including their income, any benefits they receive, and how often the child concerned stays with them.

And parents do not need to worry, as the calculator does not send details to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

However, it is worth paying attention to the consequences in the instance the paying parent does not hold up their end of the bargain.

The government has said the Child Maintenance Service will take action if payments are not made.

This can be achieved through a variety of enforcement charges, which currently range from £50 to £300.

But how the action is taken is dependent on the arrangement parents have.

If the paying parent is paying through the CMS, then the government will take direct action immediately.

However, if the parent is paying the other parent directly, the receiving parent will need to request the service take action on the matter. 

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