Separated families and child maintenance
Recent statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions show that in 2017/18 there were approximately 2.4 million separated families in Great Britain and this included approximately 3.5 million children.
According to the statistics, almost half (48%) of the separated families had a child maintenance arrangement in place and the parents who received child maintenance, received approximately £2 billion in child maintenance payments.
The collection of the data was in relation to one of the Department of Work and Pension’s objectives, being to increase every child’s opportunity to succeed by helping separated parents agree effective child maintenance arrangements. The statistics found that in 2017/18, child maintenance payments helped to reduce the number of children living in low income households.
Child maintenance is an arrangement between separated parents of a child. Child maintenance payments are made to cover a child’s living costs when one of the child’s parents does not live with them. There are different ways that child maintenance can be dealt with, to include:
- The parents can make a private arrangement between themselves as to the amount of child maintenance and when it will be paid. The government’s online child maintenance calculator can often be a helpful tool for parents when discussing private arrangements.
- The Child Maintenance Service (a government scheme) can calculate and deal with child maintenance payments between separated parents. If necessary, this can include assisting with collection of child maintenance from the paying parent.
In many cases, parents can agree the level of child maintenance. However, when there is a disagreement, that is often when cases are dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service.
If the Child Maintenance Service calculate payment amounts and a parent is concerned about the calculation then initially, this is dealt with via the Child Maintenance Service carrying out a review and reconsideration of the decision.
For example, a parent who receives child maintenance may request a review of a calculation if they consider the paying parent earns more income than they have disclosed to the Child Maintenance Service and as such, the calculation is too low. Likewise, a paying parent may request a review if they consider the calculation has incorrectly overstated their child maintenance liability and is too high.
Following the initial review, if a parent is still concerned and unhappy with the outcome, they can appeal to Social Security and Child Support Tribunal. This is an impartial tribunal and is independent of the government. It is important to seek specialist family law advice if you are considering appealing a child maintenance decision as there are deadlines, procedures and rules that apply to the process which can be complex and difficult to navigate.
The reason matters are referred to the tribunal rather than the family court is because the court can only deal with child maintenance in limited circumstances. For example, if the paying parent’s income is very high or if the child is living abroad. We explore the issue of child maintenance where one parent does not live in the UK in our blog.
Child maintenance is also currently a much talked about issue as many paying parents may be concerned if their financial position has changed due to COVID-19. Likewise, many parents who receive child maintenance may be concerned about continuing to receive maintenance in the current circumstances.
At Maguire Family Law, we have assisted parents both nationally and internationally in relation to issues concerning child maintenance. If you have an issue in relation to child maintenance and need help, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will help you in every way we can.