What is Child Maintenance and when does it need to be paid?

04 August 2022 Family Law Clair Cranston

Raising a child comes with many financial implications and after parents separate child maintenance is often a very contentious issue. All parents have responsibilities and when a parent doesn’t have a child live with them full time or on a fully shared care basis, there is often child maintenance to be paid to support the upkeep of the child when in the care of the resident parent and to cover every day needs such as food, clothing and housing.

Both parents are legally responsible for the financial costs of bringing up their children, and if a parent is living and working in the UK they will fall under the jurisdiction of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). Although parents don’t require to use the CMS if matters can be agreed between them, the online calculator available is often a good guide for parents to know how much should be paid. CMS would normally regulate matters until the child is 19, if there was a dispute between the parents. This applies when the child is a ‘qualifying child’, in other words if a) they;re under 16, or b) they're 16 or over and in approved education or training (you can check what is classed as approved education or training on GOV.UK) and the child has never been married or in a civil partnership.

Even if a parent is not living or working in the UK or do not fall under the CMS jurisdiction, there is still an obligation of aliment (financial support) that can be due, but this would require to be imposed by a Court if parents can’t agree. Generally, any payments due cannot be backdated unless by agreement, therefore it is important to look into all of these matters as early as possible following a separation.

Aliment is based on ‘needs and resources’. The obligation to aliment of a child continues until they are 18,whether in full time education or not. If a child is then in full time  education after the age of 18, the obligation actually continues until the child is under 25 (immediately before their 25th birthday) but again only as long as they are in full time education. This can be a useful point for children at University/College who raise proceedings against parents seeking support where the parents’ own income has rendered the 
ineligible for Government funding but aren’t receiving any payment from their parents. This action would normally require to be brought by the child themself as an adult though and is a court action.

Maintenance and aliment are complicated areas of law but of great significance, both to those who are required to pay and to those who are reliant upon receipt. At Macnabs we are happy to help find amicable solutions to issues of child maintenance and aliment and advise you in relation to these areas of law.

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