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Child maintenance and court orders for financial support of children

When can you apply to the court for financial support of children?

There is a statutory system in the UK which will arrange to calculate and if necessary, collect maintenance payments for children from their non resident parent. This is currently administered by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

If the paying parent (also referred to as the non resident parent) and the child are both resident in the UK – or the paying parent is employed by a UK company or UK government body – the CMS will be the only body which can enforce collections of maintenance from the non resident parent unless there is a pre-existing court order which is still in force.

A child for child maintenance purposes is aged under 20 and in full time non-advanced education ie not tertiary education.

If the CMS are able to calculate maintenance and the amount calculated is insufficient then it is not possible to apply to the court to make up for the shortcomings of the statutory scheme. It may be possible to challenge the calculation and you should seek urgent advice if you believe your calculation is incorrect.

However, there are cases where the CMS will not calculate maintenance because they do not have the power or ‘jurisdiction’ to do so. In these cases the court can make order for financial support instead. This includes cases where the paying parent is abroad for example. It also includes cases where the non resident parent earns more than £156,000 gross from all sources.

The CMS will not calculate maintenance on income over £156,000; a calculation will be made up to that maximum cap amount. Any income in excess of £156,000 can only be considered by the court in order to provide ‘top-up’ maintenance.

The CMS will also not deal with payments for school fees, specific costs relating to a child’s disability or capital payments for the child’s housing. These applications will need to be dealt with through the court either as part of the financial remedy proceedings on the divorce of the parents or separately utilising the claims possible under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.

Contact a family law solicitor

If you would like legal advice about child maintenance orders please call us on 0800 422 0123 or contact us online.

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