Child Maintenance- Should Wealthy Fathers Pay More?

Fiona Thornton Family Solicitor

Should wealthy non-resident parents be paying more child maintenance?

The current rules on Child Maintenance, supervised and enforced by the Child Maintenance Service, provide that a non-resident parent has a financial obligation to pay towards the care and support of their child, by paying Child Maintenance on a regular basis to the parent with ‘day to day care’.

 

Parents are encouraged to reach agreements between themselves, both as to amount of the maintenance but also the method of payment, but have the option of applying to the Child Maintenance Services to calculate the liability of the paying parent and to collect the payments if they do not agree to do so voluntarily.

 

The rules around maintenance liability provide that it should be calculated on the income of the paying parent, or more precisely, the gross weekly income. The exact amount depends on the amount of income, which is divided into bands, and deductions are made if the payer has responsibility for other children and if they have the child they are paying for stay overnight with them on a regular basis.

 

The element which is not considered by the current rules is any property, savings or other assets which the non resident parent has. If they have a low income it is that which is used to calculate their liability, even if they hold millions of pounds in the bank or in property. In a recent case in the Family Division of the High Court, Mr Justice Mostyn ruled that the current system is unfair and should be changed, considering a case where a mother was receiving just £7 per week maintenance despite the father having property worth £5 million. It remains to be seen whether any changes will be made to the rules.

 

There are other avenues available to allow parents to make claims for the support of their children, under the Children Act 1989. It is possible to make claims for financial support for children, such as to provide a home for them, using this legislation. The rules around Child Maintenance are complex and the jurisdiction for dealing with Child Maintenance payments lies with the Child Maintenance Service, but where caught in a situation where a property/ asset rich parent is claiming a limited income and therefore paying low or no maintenance, advice should be sought to establish if any further claims could be made.

 

If you have questions about arrangements for your children, make an appointment to see one of our qualified Family Law specialists.

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