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Child Support and Maintenance

Child Support and Maintenance

Spousal and child maintenance – what’s the difference?

Spousal maintenance can be ordered for married couples who separate. It is payable to you if your income or assets are insufficient to meet your daily needs. The maintenance is to financially support you rather than your child. It can be agreed between you and your spouse or ordered by the court. The courts will take into consideration the income needs of the recipient and the income of the paying spouse.

Child maintenance is where payments are made by the non-resident parent to the primary carer for the benefit of the child. Calculations and child maintenance decisions are usually made by the CMS (child maintenance service). The court will only step in to make maintenance orders as a ‘top up’, for educational expenses, expenses for a disability or by agreement.

For more information on this, please see our Guide 1: Child and spousal maintenance explained.

What is child maintenance and the Child Maintenance Service (CMS)?

Child maintenance is where payments are made to the resident parent by a non-resident parent for the benefit of the child. These payments are usually made monthly. The parent with whom the child resides will be the parent who receives maintenance. Child maintenance is payable even if the parents are not married.

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is a government body that helps decide the percentage of gross income that should be paid to the primary carer of the child.

For more information on this, please see our Guide 2: Child maintenance and the CMS which explains further how child maintenance is calculated and eligibility criteria.

Child maintenance claims against high earners

If the income of the paying party is over £3,000 per week (or £156,000 per year), the CMS will make their maximum assessment up to that amount. To make a top-up child maintenance order, an application could then be made to court. The sum awarded will be decided by taking into consideration the different circumstances of the case.

Nevertheless, under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 the court can also take into account an application for financial needs of a child which are not limited to maintenance.

The court can also make top-up awards under s.8(6) Child Support Act 1991.

For more information on this, Guide 3 will follow soon. In the meantime, you can contact our expert team for advice.

Financial claims for children of unmarried parents

If you are not married and separated from the other parent, you may be entitled to child maintenance.

If you, your child(ren) and their other parent are living in the UK, you can apply through the CMS for assessment and enforcement of child maintenance.

The power of the CMS is limited to within the jurisdiction. So if you, your child and/or the non-resident parent are living outside of England and Wales, then the CMS will not have the power to assist you.

When the powers of the CMS are limited, Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 may be used to apply to the court for financial orders.

For more information on this, please see our article on financial claims for children of unmarried parents.

Our lawyers will advise you and ensure the law is applied specifically to your personal situation, so that you can achieve a settlement with your spouse that is long term and enforceable.

You may also be interested to read our articles on the enforcement of child maintenance orders.

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