Our specialist family team advises on the full range of financial provision which can be made for the benefit of children of married and unmarried couples, pursuant to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and Schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989 (known as Schedule 1).
Child maintenance is regular financial support to cover the everyday costs of bringing up a child when parents are separated. The parent who does not have the day-to-day care of the child (often referred to as the ‘non-resident parent’ or ‘NRP’) is obliged to pay child maintenance to the parent with the day-to-day care of the child (often referred to as the ‘parent with care’ or ‘PWC’).
Child maintenance can be agreed privately between parents or assessed by the Child Maintenance Service (known as the ‘CMS’).
Child Maintenance Service
The CMS is a service run by the government to assess and collect child maintenance, conduct an annual review, and take enforcement action against the paying parent if they do not pay.
Child Maintenance Agreements
Parents can agree on child maintenance directly with each other. There are no rules when it comes to agreeing on a private arrangement for child
maintenance. Parents can include whatever amounts, frequency of payments and any other arrangements they wish, providing they both agree.
There is no requirement for parents to record their private arrangements in a child maintenance agreement. However, it is sensible for parents to record their agreement about child maintenance in writing and to amend and update it to reflect any material change in circumstances.
A child maintenance agreement is not a formal binding contract between the parents. However, it can evidence the commitment of both parents to the maintenance of their child during and after separation. In some circumstances, a parent can apply to the court for a written agreement to be converted into a legally binding court order.
The interface between the family court and the CMS is complex, and the different laws and regulations give rise to difficulties when dealing with finances for children.
The family court has the power to make a range of financial orders for the benefit of children, including the payment of periodical payments (otherwise known as child maintenance) in cases where the CMS does not have the authority to provide a calculation and top-up maintenance in cases where the non-resident parent's gross income is assessed to exceed £156,000 per annum.
The court can also make orders for the payment of school fees and other education costs, for expenses associated with a child’s disability, for a lump sum and for the settlement or transfer of property.
The court is required to consider all the circumstances of the case, and there is no standard formula when it comes to determining the appropriate financial provision for children.
We advise our clients on the appropriate level of child maintenance to be paid in their case and draft child maintenance agreements if child maintenance
arrangements are agreed upon.
We also advise our clients how to apply to the Child Maintenance Service and respond to an application if there is a dispute over child maintenance, the other parent cannot be located, or they are not on speaking terms and do not wish to have contact with each other.
We are child maintenance and Schedule 1 experts. We advise our clients on how to calculate the appropriate level of maintenance for their child and on the full range of financial orders which could be made by the court for the benefit of their child in all the circumstances of their case. We also explain how the relevant factors should be applied by the court and give them the range of possible outcomes if matters cannot be finally resolved by negotiation and consent.
Andrea Plum is accredited under Resolution’s Specialist Accreditation scheme as a specialist family lawyer with specific expertise in financial arrangements for children.
Sheridans has a specialist family team which provides advice in all aspects of family law, within a leading media, entertainment and technology law firm. We understand our clients’ needs for discretion, personal and bespoke advice in order to manage highly sensitive family cases.
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‘The group’s particular expertise lies in advising wealthy individuals on issues such as matrimonial finance and private law children matters frequently with an international dimension.’
Sheridans is a leading media and technology law firm whose lawyers combine in-depth legal and commercial knowledge with breadth of expertise and experience to give unparalleled advice to their clients.