When parents split up, whether because of divorce or relationship breakdown, they still have to agree how they will both support their children financially. This is usually by agreeing a figure for child maintenance.
Usually, one parent will pay the child support and the other will receive it, unless care is shared equally between the two.
You have three options available to you to arrange child maintenance payments. They are:
- Making an informal arrangement, sometimes known as a Family Based Arrangement
- Using a Government Agency
- Getting a Court Order
There are certain restrictions when applying for each of these options, so we explain them individually:
Child Maintenance Payments Agreed Informally
You and your former partner should try to come to an agreement about the financial side of caring for your children before exploring other options. But we know this can be difficult, particularly if the separation was acrimonious.
There are tools you can use to help you calculate how much child maintenance should be paid. You can use the child maintenance payments calculator on gov.uk website which also provides a draft agreement for you both to sign, but this agreement isn’t enforceable.
You could also arrange mediation, which could help you both to work through any issues in the way of reaching an agreement. You will have to pay for mediation, unless you are on a low income and are eligible for Legal Aid.
Agreeing child maintenance payments informally with your former partner is the cheapest and easiest way to make these arrangements, but you should note that any informal arrangement made, even those agreed in mediation are completely non-enforceable. The agreement can be broken at any time, without any sanctions.
You should know that these informal arrangements can form part of a Consent Order when getting a divorce. A Consent Order can cover lots of issues, including who the children will live with, the financial issues in your divorce and even child maintenance. When a Consent Order is issued by the Court, it’s legally binding and enforceable in England and Wales. This means that if either you or your former partner does not keep to the terms of the Consent Order, the Court can make them.