Child Maintenance: What is it and what happens if a parent does not pay?


The purpose of child maintenance is to meet a child’s living expenses after their parents have separated. Both parents are required to pay the living costs for their child even if they do not see them.

Child maintenance can be agreed in one of the following ways:

1. You can try reach agreement directly between you and the other parent (also known as a private or ‘family-based agreement’).

2. You could make an application to the Child Maintenance Services (CMS) to calculate maintenance, or;

3. In certain circumstances, the court can make an order in cases where the CMS does not have power to make an assessment.

Private Arrangements

When trying to reach an agreement directly, you should take into account the following questions:

1. How much has the other parent agreed to pay? You can use the Child Maintenance Calculator on the website to calculate the amount of maintenance for your children. A mediator can also help you reach agreement.

2. How often will the payments be made and how?

3. Will the payments cover additional expenses such as birthdays or school trips?

4. How often will you review the arrangement? Every 6 months? Only in the event of a change in circumstances?

If you have made a private arrangement by a consent order and the other parent has not complied with the payments, you could consider applying to court to enforce payment of the arrears. You could also make an application to the CMS to support you with ongoing payments.

Arrangements made through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS)

When calculating child maintenance, the CMS will take into account:

1. The other parent’s income including any state pension;

2. Any benefits they receive;

3. The number of nights the child stay with them.

If you have made an arrangements through the CMS and the other parent has not complied with the payments, the CMS could take the following action:

1. They could try agree a repayment schedule with the paying parent;

2. They could order the parent’s employer to deduct the maintenance payment before paying the parent’s wage;

3. They could order the parent’s bank account to take payment from their account;

4. They could issue court proceedings to recover the arrears from the non-paying parent.

If you would like to discuss what options are available for you and your family, please contact family specialist Stephanie Vyas by emailing her or by calling on 01635 508196.

Stephanie Vyas

Family Law

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