Navigating child maintenance and understanding parental financial obligations

21 May 2024 Family Law Rebecca Coltart

Going through separation or divorce is often a very emotive time, made even more sensitive when children are involved and child maintenance needs to be addressed. Child maintenance is the financial responsibility that both parents owe to their children, ensuring their wellbeing and upbringing, even after a separation or divorce. It is paid when one of the parents does not live with the child and is money to help pay for a child’s everyday living costs. At Macnabs, we understand the complexities surrounding child maintenance and want to provide insight on this topic, especially in light of recent high-profile cases, like that of former Celtic boss Neil Lennon.

Child maintenance can be arranged in various ways, but perhaps one of the most common methods is through a Separation Agreement. This agreement allows parties to come to terms on financial matters, including child maintenance, without the need for intervention of the Child Maintenance Service or court intervention, if a parent fails to meet their maintenance obligations. Within such agreements, provisions for annual increases, aligning with inflation, are typical. Additionally, clauses regarding interest on arrears ensure accountability and enforceability, guaranteeing that the paying parent fulfils their obligations promptly.

However, as highlighted by the case of Neil Lennon, disputes over child maintenance can arise even when agreements are initially made. Lennon's situation, facing accusations of not paying £43,000 in child support for his daughter, underscores the importance of adhering to agreed-upon terms. In 2011, Lennon had consented to pay £1500 a month, but allegations now suggest failure to adjust payments in line with inflation, have led to a contentious court battle with his ex-girlfriend.

When parties cannot reach an agreement independently, the CMS (Child Maintenance Service) steps in. The CMS serves as a governmental body providing support and guidance in determining child maintenance arrangements. They calculate payments based on factors like parental income and the number of children involved, ensuring fairness and adequacy in financial support.

For parents navigating the intricacies of child maintenance, legal advice and representation can be invaluable. At Macnabs, our team of specialists offers comprehensive assistance in negotiating and formalising maintenance agreements through Separation Agreements. As well as specialists in Family Law and members of the Family Law Association, many of our solicitors are also accredited specialists in Child Law, and we always prioritise the welfare of children while advocating for our clients' rights and obligations.

The financial obligations of parents concerning child maintenance are paramount, ensuring the continued wellbeing of children post-separation or divorce. While agreements can be made independently, disputes may arise, necessitating legal intervention. With the assistance of experienced family law solicitors like those at Macnabs, parents can navigate these challenges with clarity and confidence, prioritising the needs of their children above all else.

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