International Child Maintenance – Do I have to Pay? How do I get it?
For separated parents, child maintenance will almost inevitably be getting paid from parent to the other (we will refer to them as a ‘paying parent’ and ‘receiving parent’ in this article). As it currently stands, for zero child maintenance to be payable both parents need to have exactly 50% of the care of the children, which includes during school term and holidays, which is rarely the case.
In the UK, child maintenance can be taken directly from the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) from a paying parent’s wages. Normally payments are made voluntarily by one parent to another, but things are not always as straightforward. Paying parents may be late with payments, or they may unilaterally change the amount of maintenance they are paying based on arbitrary reasons. In that case, a receiving parent can simply apply for the CMS to take the child maintenance owed directly from the paying parent’s wages to ensure payment is made on time and in the correct amount.
But one issue we at Maguire Family Law are often required to assist clients with relates to issues where one parent does not live in the UK.
What happens when a paying parent resides overseas?
As mentioned above, the CMS is only able to enforce child maintenance against a paying parent if they live in the UK (so, England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland).
However, if a paying parent falls under one of the below categories, regardless of where in the world they are based, the CMS will still be able to ensure paying parents meet their child maintenance obligations:
- The paying parent works overseas in the service of the Crown, i.e. civil servant based overseas, such as in a foreign embassy;
- The paying parent is a member of the UK Armed Forces;
- The paying parent works overseas for a UK based company, i.e. where the company makes payments via a UK payroll and is registered under the Companies Act 1985 (England, Wales and Scotland) or the Companies (Northern Ireland) Order 1986; or
- The paying parent works overseas on secondment for certain organisations like a Health Trust or Local Council.
If a paying parent lives abroad but does not fall into one of the above categories, the receiving parent would need to seek child maintenance order through the Family Court, confirming that the receiving parent should be paid child maintenance by the paying parent.
Once the receiving parent obtains a child maintenance order, the next step would be to enquire whether the paying parent lives in a ‘REMO’ country. REMO stands for Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Order, and over 100 countries have such an arrangement with the UK. Where a country is a REMO member, any child maintenance order made in the UK can be enforced by the court’s in the REMO country. For a full list of REMO countries, see here.
What happens when a receiving parent resides overseas?
If it is the receiving parent and child who live overseas, and the paying parent lives in the UK, then the process referred to above is simply mirrored. In this case, the receiving parent would need to obtain an order of the court that they are living in confirming their entitlement to child maintenance. That order, if made in a REMO country, could then be enforced in the UK.
Importantly though, the maintenance payable by the paying parent would be based on an assessment of the foreign country’s child maintenance and not the CMS in the UK.
What if the paying parent lives in a non-REMO country?
Unfortunately, not all countries have REMO arrangements with the UK, the most notable being Russia, China, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. If a paying parent lives in a non-REMO country, then the ability of the receiving parent to enforce a UK child maintenance order will depend on the laws of the country that the paying parent lives in.
What can we do for you?
We at Maguire Family Law have assisted parents all over the globe with international child maintenance matters. If you are facing issues with your partner, whether in the UK or overseas, contact us today and we will help you in every way we can.