When parents separate one of the more difficult aspects can be the financial implications. Although the Law is very clear that financial matters such as child maintenance should not have any impact on child arrangements, unfortunately this can sometimes be the case. As a family solicitor, I will often be told that the reason one parent is being so difficult regarding child arrangements is financially motivated. No matter the financial situation it should not have any bearing on how often a child sees the non-resident parent. Even if a non-resident parent is not making any maintenance payments, this does not mean that the child should not be able to see them. Similarly just because a non-resident parent is making regular maintenance payments this does not mean that they automatically have any additional rights regarding their child.
The Child Maintenance Service is responsible for calculating and enforcing child maintenance issues. You can access the child maintenance calculator here to calculate how much maintenance you should be paying / receiving. This is calculated based on the non-resident parent’s income and how often the child spends time overnight with the non-resident parent. The system however is not perfect and there are some situations which will still require the involvement of the Court.
In certain situations you may be able to apply to the court for ‘Top-up Maintenance’ or even a lump sum payment. Such applications are dealt with under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. This particularly applies to non-married parents, as usually finances between married parents will be resolved within divorce proceedings.
The Court has a range of powers which include the making of:
When considering making an order, the court has to have regard to all the circumstances including:
(a) the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each person has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
(b) the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each person has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
(c) the financial needs of the child;
(d) the income, earning capacity (if any), property and other financial resources of the child;
(e) any physical or mental disability of the child;
(f) the manner in which the child was being, or was expected to be, educated or trained [CA 1989, Sch 1 para. 4(1)].
Typically applications will usually be made where the non-resident parent has much greater financial resources than the resident parent, or where there are private education fees of any child, or if a child has a disability which requires financial contributions.
If you need more information on Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 then please do not hesitate to contact Stephanie Layton on 0191 232 8345.