Child maintenance law


If you are separated or divorced from your partner, any children you have must be properly financially supported. If you require a family law solicitor to assist you agreeing maintenance payments or access to your child we will be able to help you.

How does child maintenance law work?

Child maintenance is a regular payment that you make towards the upkeep of your children after you have separated from your partner, wife or husband. Usually it is the parent without day-to-day responsibility of the child who pays child maintenance. It is important to ensure that all of your child’s financial arrangements including child-maintenance payments are properly agreed before your separation.

The payment or indeed non-payment of child maintenance can have a major effect on the child’s well-being and quality of life. If you separate with your partner, it is important that you have an effective child maintenance agreement in place. Under child maintenance law, there are two main ways of doing this:

  • Coming to a private agreement with the other parent
  • Using the statutory maintenance service (for current cases it's the Child Support Agency, but from July 2014 onwards new cases use the Child Maintenance Service) to calculate the maintenance due and collect it

If you opt for the first of the above options, you should contact a solicitor to help you draw up the agreement. If the agreement is in writing and sets out the payments to be made, there can be few disputes between the parents. Having a solicitor draft the agreement will also ensure that it is legally binding on both parties, as the agreement would form.

Making maintenance payments legally binding

It is also possible to ask the courts to turn your agreed child-maintenance arrangements into a Consent Order. This is a ruling by the court that is legally binding. You will need a solicitor to help you agree the level of maintenance that will be paid before approaching the court. Note that you cannot get Legal Aid to pay for the solicitor or court costs when applying for a Consent Order.

If you live in Scotland you can also go to court to make your child-maintenance arrangements legally binding. In Scotland the Consent Order is called the ‘Minute of Agreement’. If the party that has stated they will pay child maintenance fails to do so, the court can use bailiffs to collect the money that is owed.

Child maintenance can also be claimed from parents that are living abroad using the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders (REMO) that the UK currently has with over 100 countries.

Your local magistrates’ or family court can give you more details about REMO and how you can use this. Child maintenance law overlaps with other benefits laws. Receiving child maintenance payments may affect other benefits that you may receive. You should seek advice from a welfare benefits advisor on this subject.

For more information on family law issues affecting children, see our page on child law. CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) is an agency that works closely with families in England and Wales. They can give you help and advice about the financial arrangements you must make for your children. More details are on their website:

Are you unsure if you should be paying child maintenance payments, or believe you are paying too much? Contact Law can put you in touch with a specialist family law solicitor who can assist you in any questions you may have regarding child maintenance payments. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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