When money is going out of your bank account each month in child maintenance it isn’t surprising that many parents question when the child maintenance will stop. Equally, if you are a parent looking after a strapping twenty-year-old who hasn’t got a job and can’t get one, then you will have a different point of view about when child maintenance should stop. In this blog children law solicitor, Louise Halford, answers your questions on when child maintenance stops.
When does child maintenance stop?
Child maintenance is the financial arrangement between you and the other parent of your child over the money payable to financially support your child after your separation or divorce. Parents make assumptions about when child maintenance stops. Common assumptions include:
- Child maintenance stops if the parent getting the child maintenance has remarried or is in a new relationship
- Child maintenance stops if the person getting the child maintenance is earning more than the parent who provides the child support
- Child maintenance stops if the parent receiving child maintenance refuses child contact and won’t let the other parent have a relationship with the child
- Child maintenance stops if there is someone else helping with financial support for the child, for example a grandparent.
All of these assumptions are wrong.
It is important to understand that child maintenance isn’t affected by the status of parental relationships or whether one parent is breaching a child arrangement order and refusing contact. You may however be able to stop spousal maintenance or start court proceedings to reduce or stop spousal maintenance or to enforce a child arrangement order.
How long is child maintenance payable for?
If child maintenance has been calculated by the Child Maintenance Service you will need to pay child maintenance until:
- Your child is sixteen or
- Your child is under twenty if they are in approved education or training or
- The Child Maintenance Service assessment is cancelled. For example, because the child comes to live with you or the care of the child is shared equally or the child is adopted.
If you are in any doubt about whether you can stop child maintenance when there is a Child Maintenance Service assessment in place it is best to take specialist legal advice as you don’t want to find out that you are still liable to pay child support and arrears have mounted up.
If you are paying child maintenance on a voluntary basis to the other parent then you can stop child maintenance at any time. However, stopping child maintenance early is likely to result in an application for a Child Maintenance Service assessment and you could be assessed as liable to pay more in child support than you were paying on a voluntary basis.
Stopping child maintenance payable under a court order
The court can only make child support orders in limited circumstances. For example:
- Where both parents agree to the making of a child maintenance order or
- To cover the additional costs of caring for a disabled child or
- To cover private school fees – referred to as a school fees order or
- To provide child support for a step-child who was treated as a child of the family during the marriage or civil partnership or
- To provide for additional child maintenance after the Child Maintenance Service has made a maximum award under the Child Maintenance Service assessment process. This is referred to as top up child maintenance.
If you are paying child maintenance or receiving child support under a court order it is best to take legal advice before stopping the payments or threatening court action. That is because the type of child maintenance order and the wording in the order may determine when child maintenance will stop or the court options open to you.
For example, a child maintenance order may say that the child support order will continue until the children finish their A levels, but if over a year has elapsed from the date the child maintenance order was made you won’t be able to apply to court to enforce the order.
For example, if an order is made for payment towards the costs of a disabled child the order may not be age limited if the child will continue to need specific disability related provision into adulthood.
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Varying child maintenance
Although you may not be able to stop child maintenance you may be able to vary the amount you pay either by:
- Asking the Child Maintenance Service to vary the assessment
- Asking the court to vary the child maintenance order
- Agreeing to a change in the amount of child support that is paid on a voluntary basis.
Circumstances justifying a variation could include:
- You losing your job or taking a pay cut
- Your caring overnight for the children on a more frequent basis
- The children going to boarding school
- The children no longer living in the UK and you having increased travel costs to see them.
It is best to take expert legal advice on child maintenance variation to see if you have the grounds to reduce child support rather than unilaterally assuming that you have the power to reduce the amount of child support payable. Remember that child maintenance can be varied upwards as well as downwards.
We are Manchester and Cheshire family solicitors
For fast friendly family law and child support advice call Evolve Family Law. Our specialist family law solicitors can help you with divorce proceedings, child custody and contact , financial settlements and child maintenance. Call us or complete our online enquiry form.
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