Family law and child support


Family law in the UK covers various aspects of the financial and child-related arrangements following the separation of parents.

Family law child support laws govern the payment of child maintenance, which is regular financial support to the parent with the primary care of the child.

Many people end up disputing child support, and it can be a tough issue to deal with.

What are child support laws?

Under family law, child support laws divide parents into the:

  • Parent with care (PWC)
  • Non-resident parent (NRP)

This is dependent upon which parent the child normally lives with. If you have a dispute over which parent the child will live with, you may be able to mediate to resolve this, or ask the court to decide according to family law.

Child support is governed by separate laws. However, even when a court grants joint residency to both parents, child support law still requires one parent to be the PWC and the other to be the NRP.

In some cases the person receiving child maintenance can be a grandparent or guardian, if the child normally lives with them.

Who do child support laws apply to?

Family law child support laws can cover children up to the age of 17, or 19 if they are in certain types of full-time education. There are certain circumstances which the child support laws will not cover. These include:

  • Step-children
  • School fees
  • Where the absent parent is resident outside the UK
  • If the parent with care is resident outside the UK
  • If the child is resident outside the UK

In these situations you may be able to apply to the court to make a family law order. The court can also make a family law order about other matters that the CSA can’t, including top-up orders where large financial orders are considered and meeting the particular special needs of a child.

Non-payment of child support

Complexities will also arise where you cannot find the other parent, or the other parent denies they are the natural parent, or refuses to pay maintenance. In such circumstances, the Child Support Agency and the courts have various powers to order investigation, and enforcement of child maintenance.

However, there are a range of benefits designed to support families financially, if one parent refuses to pay child support. These include:

  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Guardian’s Allowance

If parents or carers are unable to care for a child, or children, despite the financial assistance available from the government, the only option may be for the child, or children, to be taken from them either permanently or temporarily to be provided with proper care.

Non-payment of child maintenance can have serious effects on any child access cases, so it is always advisable to seek legal advice if you are struggling to pay any child support. A family law specialist can help you work out a suitable financial plan.

Are you unsure if you owe child support, or having a dispute over paying child maintenance? Contact Law can put you in touch with a family law specialist to help you reach a suitable financial outcome. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form.

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