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Keeping it in the family

Does anyone recognise family based arrangements for child maintenance?

For those who have been within the statutory child maintenance scheme, with either the Child Support Agency (CSA) or Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission (CMEC) will be receiving notification that their child maintenance arrangement will be ending.

When they get that notice they will be encouraged to make their own arrangement with the other parent for when the calculation ends. Even those who have applied to the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS) now have a compulsory conversation with the ‘gate keepers’ to the new calculation service, Child Maintenance Options, where they are encouraged to make their own arrangement with the other parent instead.

What help is out there to guide people in making their own arrangement?

Child Maintenance Options offer their own outline agreement. It sets out who the parties are and what the financial arrangements will be, including payments in kind if applicable. But beware. It also states that “This is not a legal document”. So if parents reach an agreement then set their agreement out using this document and one or other parent does not stick to it, there is nothing that can be done to enforce the terms – it is not a legal document so it is not binding and cannot be enforced.

There is an alternative. Resolution is a organisation of family lawyers who promote conciliation in family law situations. Their members can offer a maintenance agreement which is binding. The courts have confirmed that an agreement to pay child maintenance can be enforced in certain circumstances. And courts seem to be moving towards enforcing contractual agreements in family scenarios which were understood and freely entered into.

If you are considering a family based arrangement for child maintenance do consider whether you want or need an ability to enforce the agreement.