Do School Holidays affect how much child maintenance needs to be paid?

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With COVID restrictions lifting and the summer holiday fast approaching, we wanted to explore how the holiday may affect any child maintenance that is paid. Louise Kelly, Family Solicitor at WSP Solicitors explores this further.

What is Child Maintenance?

When parents separate it is often the case that children will live with one parent and spend time with the other parent. This is the same whether the parents are married or not.

It can be a financial worry for the parent who is left primarily caring for the children going form a joint to a single income. Left wondering how they will manage financially. It is commonly known by parents and accepted by family court’s that raising and providing for children can be expensive.

It will be reassuring to know that there is a legal obligation on the parent who the children do not live with to pay child maintenance to the parent who the children do live with. Child maintenance is a contribution toward the living costs of children. Living costs are things such as food, clothing and housing. Essentially basic needs.

Child maintenance is payable until a child is 16 or 20 if they remain in full time secondary education.

What can child maintenance be used for?

The parent paying child maintenance often forms the view that the child maintenance should be used to pay for everything a child needs. The parent caring for the child will know, and it is commonly accepted amongst family lawyers and Judges that the amount paid in child maintenance does not stretch that far. Things such as school uniforms, school trips and extra-curricular activities are not classed as ‘basic needs’. It is not unreasonable for those additional costs to be contributed to on top of child maintenance.

How is the amount of child maintenance paid decided?

If possible, it is best for the parents to agree between them what amount of child maintenance will be paid. This is known as a voluntary or family-based agreement. This agreement could be made through discussions themselves, through the use of a family mediator or even through solicitors. The positive of family-based agreements are that they can be changed if a person’s circumstances change provided the parties are able to work together, be flexible and reach agreement. The down-side is that they are not legally enforceable.

If an agreement cannot be reached or the parent who the children do not live with refuses to pay any child maintenance the parent who the child lives with can apply to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). The CMS will help that parent work out how much maintenance should be paid and will contact the other parent to try to arrange payment.

The CMS will find out how much the non-resident parent earns gross a year. They obtain this from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The CMS also check if the non-resident parent is receiving any benefits.

There are things that the CMS will take into account that will reduce the gross income. For example, other dependent children that the non-resident parent supports. The yearly gross income is then converted to a weekly figure.

One of five rates are then applied. This can be easily calculated using the child maintenance calculator found on the gov.uk website.

The CMS will make an allowance for the number of children the non-resident parent has to pay child maintenance for. This includes any children living with them or any other children they pay maintenance for.

So what does this mean over the school holidays?

Where the child who maintenance is being claimed for stays overnight the CMS makes a deduction to the weekly child maintenance amount based on the average number of nights a week are spent.

If the children spend more time with the parent who they do not usually live with during school holidays this should be factored into the calculations by averaging out the total overnights in a year.

For more information on WSP Solicitors’ Children and Family law services you can visit our Family Law pages here. Alternatively, you can get in contact here or by calling us on 01453 847200.

Do School Holidays affect how much child maintenance needs to be paid?

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