Legal Guides

We use plain and simple English to give you an overview of the most common areas of law.

A quick guide to child maintenance

All parents with children aged up to 16 years old have a duty to cover the cost of their children’s upbringing. This can be complex when parents become separated or divorced, as both continue to share financial responsibility, even if one parent doesn’t ever actually see the child.

What is child maintenance?

Child maintenance is financial support given to the parent who lives with the child a majority of the time, and is paid by the parent who doesn’t live with their child (or lives with them only part of the time). It can include regular payments of a specified amount of money, or payments in kind, such as nappies, toys or school uniforms.

Family-based arrangements

There are several options available for parents looking to arrange child maintenance, the simplest being a family-based arrangement. This free method can help to avoid a conflict, as both parents are able to discuss and decide what works for them both.

Child Maintenance Service

Where negotiations are difficult between two parents and an agreement cannot be reached, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will arrange the amount to be paid, which is calculated depending on gross income. Reductions may be made where there are other children to support, and where a child lives with the ‘paying parent’ for some of the time.

Unlike family-based agreements, an arrangement made through the CMS is legally binding and can be enforced by the agency if the paying parent fails to make a payment. There is also a charge for using the service.

Consent orders

If an agreement for child maintenance can be reached, parents can apply to the court for a consent order to make their family-based agreement legally binding. This formal process means that the order can be enforced through the court if maintenance payments are missed. Where a consent order is in place, parents will be unable to apply to the CMS for one year.

If you are in need of information or assistance in regard to child maintenance, contact North Yorkshire Law who have a dedicated team who will take care of your interests.

For a selection of useful, free tools and guides designed for parents discussing child maintenance, visit Child Maintenance Options.

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to North Yorkshire Law directly.

Published on 6th November 2017
(Last updated 7th May 2021)