Both parents are legally responsible to bring up their child while covering all the financial costs. If after a separation or divorce, one parent is the sole or main provider for the children, the other parent can demand an allowance – this is known as child maintenance or support.

Child support can often lead to disagreements as both parents grapple with the separation and with what the fair amount is to be paid for their children’s upkeep.

There are 3 ways that child maintenance can be sorted:

A Family Based Agreement

This is not a legal binding agreement – if one parent refuses to ay, the other cannot ask a court to force them to pay. However, it is the quickest, cheapest and simplest way to sort out the matter. In the case of one parent no cooperating, the other can then go to the courts to get an enforceable agreement – which will then become legally binding.

Government Schemes

The latest scheme is the 2012 scheme, and it takes applicants from 2012, who cannot reach a family-based agreement.

Court Orders

The CMS (child maintenance service) deals with new applicants to the scheme. Once the agreement is enforced the court can order one parent to make the payment if they fail to pay on the agree time and date.

Does paying maintenance effect my benefits?

Yes, it does – if you’re paying maintenance you will have to pay up to £7 a week from your benefits to the CMS or whoever created your agreement. Therefore, it can be cheaper to simply create a family based agreement. If you’re receiving maintenance for your child, your benefits won’t be affected.

Will child maintenance or support affect my tax?

If you are the parent receiving the maintenance you won’t have to pay tax on the payments you receive. However, if you are paying the maintenance you won’t be eligible for tax relief unless the person was born before 6 April 1935 – and this tax relief will have to be applied for.

Can Legal Help arrange child maintenance?

Legal help cannot help settle child maintenance agreements. However, they are available for mediation and to settle any other family dispute regarding assets, child custody or residence.