Posts relating to children and divorce continue to be some of the most visited pages on this blog. Many first-time visitors arrive here after entering their children-related questions into Google or another search engine, and pressing the ‘Return’ key.
Certain queries and predicaments come up time and time again. I asked Mark Christie (left), the new head of our Children’s Department here at Stowe Family Law, to answer some of the child maintenance-related questions that have recently been asked by this blog’s readers.
The questions appear here as they were written. Sadly there isn’t space to answer all the questions that have been asked – last month alone, there were more than 1,000 – but if you have a question and it isn’t featured here, do leave a comment and we will try and point you in the right direction. Alternatively, if you live anywhere near our six offices in London, Yorkshire and the North West (contact details here), you can always make an appointment at one of our legal advice clinics, which run every lunchtime and provide free legal advice.
Do CSA payments stop if I take child abroad?
The CSA has no jurisdiction out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales. Unless an agreement can be reached for maintenance on a voluntary basis legal proceedings may need to be instituted in the legal system abroad.
17 year old and in full time employment, do I have to fill in a statement of arrangements for children form for my divorce?
There is no need for you to complete a Statement of Arrangements for a 17-year-old if he is in full time employment. The Statement must be completed for children under 16 but only for children between the ages of 16 and 18 if they are at school or college or training for a trade, profession or vocation. As your son is in full time employment the form does not need to be completed.
Can child maintenance increase if you married and your new partner earns money?
The amount of any maintenance order is always capable of being varied if there is a material or significant change in the circumstances of either the person paying the maintenance or the person receiving the maintenance. Unlike agreements or Court Orders relating to property or other capital assets maintenance can be the subject of a later variation for example if the person paying maintenance loses his or her employment. However if you have formed a new relationship then it will be necessary to firstly show whether or not incomes are being pooled so as to increase the total household income. It will also be necessary for the person receiving the maintenance to show whether or not he or she has a need for more maintenance and whether his or her circumstances have changed since the initial amount was agreed or ordered.
Can contact be stopped if a parent refuses to pay child maintenance?
The legal position is that contact and child maintenance are regarded as entirely separate issues. This means that a parent cannot stop another parent having contact to a child/children simply because the other parent refuses to pay the child maintenance. Similarly a parent is not legally entitled to stop paying child maintenance if the other parent terminates contact. Unfortunately couples often, and for understandable reasons, link the two but the legal position remains that they are completely unconnected.
I am a father who pays voluntary maintenance monthly. If I have my children for three weeks do I still have to pay the amount I normally do?
Generally speaking the obligation to pay maintenance is not suspended whilst you have the children for holiday periods and certainly where maintenance is paid pursuant to a Court Order or an assessment by the CSA. However as it is a voluntary agreement then there is nothing to stop you discussing this with the children’s mother to see if you can agree that it should not be paid during these periods.
I have a private agreement child maintenance. Can the CSA override it?
In a word, yes. Although you may have reached a private agreement about child maintenance, if either you or your former spouse/partner approaches the CSA and they agree to assess maintenance this will override the terms of any private agreement previously in place.
If a man resigns at work whilst the divorce is still in process, will the children get benefits from their father’s package?
The resignation will not necessarily benefit the children of the marriage, but any redundancy package received will be regarded as an asset of the marriage together with all the other assets and be taken into account as part of any financial settlement to the extent that it is not needed to fund the husband’s day to day living expenses if he is still out of work and the package is in effect his only source of income. If the resignation is motivated to reduce the husband’s legal obligations to his wife and family, the Court can, in appropriate circumstances, attribute a notional income to him in a similar amount to his previous earnings for the purposes of resolving any financial proceedings.
If a mutual child maintenance agreement was signed by both parents could they still go through CSA?
It would depend upon the terms of the Agreement but generally speaking if either parent approaches the CSA and asks for an assessment of child maintenance and this is carried out by them then that assessment will replace any previous arrangements. However the CSA does encourage the parties to enter into their own private agreements wherever possible. Even in circumstances where child maintenance is incorporated into a Court Order, within a year of that Court Order either party can approach the CSA and ask for an assessment and if this is done this will replace the maintenance provided for in the Court Order.
If I get married, do I lose legal right for maintenance for children?
Re-marriage will terminate the legal obligation of an ex-spouse to pay maintenance for the benefit of the other ex-spouse but not in relation to child maintenance. However if the re-marriage puts more money into the pot then the ex-spouse paying the maintenance may believe that he or she no longer has a need to pay maintenance for the children but this is seldom the case. Like spousal maintenance, child maintenance can always be the subject of a variation if there has been a significant/ material change in the circumstances of either party. Generally speaking re-marriage should not adversely affect child maintenance as the person paying the maintenance still has an obligation to contribute towards his or her children.
TOMORROW: Mark Christie answers your child contact questions.