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When To Use A Court

Most people agree child maintenance levels either privately, or through the Child Support Agency (CSA). However, in an exceptional circumstance, where you and the other parent cannot agree the level of support to be paid or received for your child's day-to-day expenses, you can apply to court for a decision if your situation falls within one of the following examples:

  • There are step-children;
  • The parent who is not the main day-to-day carer has income after tax of more than £104,000 per year.
  • The children are over 16 or over 19 and still in full-time education.
  • The parent who is not the main day-to-day carer lives outside the UK and works for a non-UK based company.
  • The parent who is the main day-to-day carer for the child lives outside the UK.
  • The child lives outside the UK.
  • The dispute is over school fees.
  • You and the child's other parent never married or formed a civil partnership and the dispute is in relation to housing provision or payment for other non-daily expenditure such as making a home suitable for a disabled child or meeting childcare costs.

If your situation doesn't fit into one of the above categories and you and the other parent cannot come to a private agreement as to the level of maintenance to be paid, you will need to apply to the Child Support Agency see Child Support Agency agreements.

If you are married or in a civil partnership and recorded the child maintenance as part of a court order, you can apply to the court to enforce that order if payments stop. When deciding whether to do so, you should bear in mind that any missed payments can only be backdated to one year from the date when you make that application.

In Scotland, arrangements for child maintenance can be made into a legally binding contract called a ‘minute of agreement'. The sheriff officer can collect payments and enforce them if payments are not then made.

Claims under Children Act 1989, Schedule 1

The court has the power to make financial orders to a parent for the benefit of a child or (in certain circumstances) directly to a child. These orders include:

  • periodical payments (see above)
  • lump sums
  • Settlement of property
  • Transfer of property

These powers are most often used by the court to require one parent to pay a capital sum to provide accommodation for a child (which the parent with day-to-day care can share) for the child’s minority. It is not an outright payment to the other parent but instead a right to occupy a property for a specific period of time after which the paying parent would reclaim the property. These powers are most often used by unmarried parents who have no financial claims in their own right and can only make claims on behalf of their child.

Married couples and civil partners will usually use the court’s powers available on divorce or dissolution - see The Steps Involved/The Financial Settlement

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