When couples with children separate, one of their primary concerns, whether they are married or not, is ensuring that the children are supported financially. In legal terms, this is known as child maintenance.
Every non-resident parent has a legal obligation to pay child maintenance regardless of whether they were married to the child’s mother or not. In Jersey, the court uses the CSA 2000 guidelines as a starting point when assessing the level of child maintenance. However, the court will also take into account ability to pay and the particular circumstances of the child. In Jersey, payments for children will often be increased to take into account school fees and extras such as school uniforms, after school provision and school trips.
When should child maintenance be paid?
Child maintenance should, in most situations, be paid for minors (those aged 18 and younger). Usually, the “non-resident parent” pays money to the parent who is the main carer of the child “resident-parent”. The resident parent will be responsible for the child’s day-to-day expenses (housing, food, clothing) and regular child maintenance payments from the other parent ensures that both parents are contributing to these expenses.
Child maintenance can also be paid in circumstances where care of the child is shared between the parents (equally or roughly), but where their incomes differ. In this case the higher earning parent would be expected to pay some maintenance to the other so that the child can enjoy a consistent level of life style.
How long is a child dependant?
There is no law taking into account financial support for young adults. Maintenance is typically paid until the child is aged 16 or has finished full time secondary education. The reason being that once the child leaves full time education they will get a job and become financially independent. However, it is commonly agreed, and ordered by court, that if the child goes on to tertiary education (i.e. university) there should be a review. Wording is not normally any more detailed than this as unless the child is about to embark on a university degree after their A levels, parents simply do not know what their child’s future education will be, whether either of them will be in a financial position to support them and if so to what extent.
Child maintenance case study: Molly’s story
Molly entered into an agreement with her former partner, Tyrone regarding child maintenance for their daughter. For a few months Tyrone paid this regularly, but he has now sent her a text saying that he can no longer afford to pay it.
The maintenance makes a huge difference to Molly’s ability to manage financially and she now wants advice on what she needs to do to ensure that the child maintenance continues to be paid.
Viberts can advise separating couples on child maintenance arrangements. We offer this as standard for any divorcing couples who have children. We try to encourage an agreement that is fair and reasonable and has the children’s best interests at heart, so as to minimise any negative affect on them. Contact us if you need advice on: +44 (0) 1534 632267
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