When parents separate, a key consideration is how they plan to provide financial support for their children following the split. A popular choice is child support, which is also referred to as child maintenance.
About Child Support
If you split up with your partner and have children that don’t live with you, you may be responsible for paying child support to the person who looks after the children on a day-to-day basis.
Child support legislation gives parents one of two titles: either parent with care (PWC) or non-resident parent (NRP). The term used depends on who the child lives with on a day-to-day basis.
Any disputes involving the residency of the child must be resolved in a family court. Even if joint residency has been granted by the court, child support rules still require one parent to be the PWC and the other the NRP.
Child support is paid to the PWC by the NRP to meet the child’s financial needs. The payment doesn’t necessarily have to go to a parent. It can also be paid to another party living with the child, such as a grandparent or guardian.
What Are Your Rights As A Father?
A mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child from birth, but the same can’t be said for men.
You have rights as the father of your child if:
- You are married to the child’s mother
- The child was born on or after 1 December 2003 and you are named on the birth certificate as the child’s father
- The child’s birth certificate originally gave no father’s name but was later renewed to show yours
- You have signed a Parental Responsibility Agreement
- A Magistrate or Justice of the Peace at the Family Court has granted you parental responsibility or an Order of Residency
You have a financial obligation to provide for your child. If the relationship with the mother has broken down you are still required by law to contribute towards the child’s well-being and upbringing.
If you have parental responsibility for a child, you need to ensure that you can:
- Provide a home for your child
- Protect and maintain your child
You have a duty to support your child financially if you live in the UK and your child qualifies for support. Even if you don’t have contact with the child, you are still legally responsible for child support.
However, if you have equally divided the care of your child with your ex-partner then you may not be legally responsible for paying for child support.
Arranging Child Support Privately
You and your ex-partner can arrange child support yourselves. This is called a “family-based arrangement.” It is essentially a private way of arranging child support without involving other parties.
If you come to a mutual agreement with your ex-partner it is important that you acquire a written copy of the signed document. This ensures that both parties know where they stand and that you have evidence of attempting to organise payment if this is ever disputed.
If no agreement can be made, or if you prefer to use a formal service, child support can be handled through the Child Support Agency.
How to Apply for Child Support
You must talk to Child Maintenance Options before you can apply for the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).
You are normally given the option to pay child support directly to the parent who cares for the child. This is called Direct Pay.
Alternatively, you can opt to use the CMS Collect & Pay service, which means that you pay child support to the CMS. They will then pass the payment on to the parent with responsibility for the day-to-day care of the child.
It’s worth noting that there is a charge for this service.
Calculating Child Support
Both parents provide information to the Child Support Agency (CSA), which uses the data to determine whether any child support is owed. If it finds that money is due, the CSA will then calculate how much child support should be paid.
The CSA may also collect details from other sources and take these into consideration when making its decision. This can include the non-resident parent’s current employer or HM Revenue & Customs.
Child support is calculated by applying a specific rate to the non-resident parent’s income. The four rates are:
- Basic rate – Income is £200 a week or more
- Reduced rate – Income is more than £100 but less than £200 per week
- Flat rate – Income is between £5 and £100 per week
- Nil rate – Income is less than £5 per week
The figure is then updated to take the factors below into consideration:
- How many children also reside with the NRP
- If the NRP or their partner are currently claiming child benefit
- How many children the NRP pays child maintenance for
- How often the child sleeps at the NRP’s residence
What If You Don’t Pay Child Support?
Not paying child support is likely to have a knock-on effect on the welfare of your child.
If you fail to pay the child support arranged by the CMS, it may take steps to make you pay, for example:
- Money could be deducted from your benefits, earnings or bank account
- In England and Wales, bailiffs may be instructed to take away goods to the value of the amount owed so that they can be sold
- You could be disqualified from driving
Use our Child Maintenance Calculator to find out how much you or your ex-partner should be paying.
If you are going through a child support battle with your ex-partner, Cordell & Cordell can offer a wealth of useful information and advice to help you through this difficult time in your life.
Contact Cordell & Cordell for more information.