When parents separate there is usually an obligation owed by one parent to pay child support to the other parent who is the “main carer” for the child or children of their relationship. The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is frequently asked to make assessments of the amounts payable and to collect those payments.
Although many parents will use the online maintenance calculator as a guide regarding the amount they should be paying, they may prefer to reach a private agreement with the other parent about child support. In Scotland this is often included in a separation agreement.
I am regularly asked to advise on the appropriate level of child support in the context of a separation. In my experience, most parents are willing to pay child maintenance at an agreed level and on time but from early 2019 there will be a greater range of punitive measures available to encourage parents to meet their obligations. New powers will be available to enable confiscation of passports of those who refuse to pay child support. Such parents could also find themselves subject to a curfew order or having to wear an electronic tag. Other powers will allow the government to remove cash from joint bank accounts or business bank accounts in which the non-paying parent has an interest. At present the worst offenders may find themselves disqualified from driving and that power will still exist. Such disqualification could impact on a person’s ability to work and therefore to earn money required to pay child maintenance. Whilst the government is optimistic that the new measures will prove to be effective, I predict that there will still be a minority of absent parents who refuse to fulfil their legal obligations.
The law in relation to child support can be confusing. If you are in doubt specialist legal advice is highly recommended.