In the last couple of weeks, we have had a lot of questions regarding child maintenance and Covid-19. For those who do not know, child maintenance is normally paid by way of:
- Voluntary payment from one parent to the other
- Child Maintenance Service assessment (CMS)
- A Court Order
At Kleyman’s, we feel it is important to tackle any potential problems as early as possible and be aware of your position and options. We have therefore put together our most asked questions in a series of Q & A’s.
- My ex pays me child maintenance on a voluntary basis, but they have stopped paying due to the current situation, what can I do?
When this agreement is not put into writing and issues arise, such as income changes, the best thing to do is to communicate parent to parent. Communication is key as it gives both parents the opportunity to explain the circumstances they have found themselves in and allows the receiving party to explain their essential expenditure for the children. However, we understand that this is not always easy. The relationship may have changed since you made the first agreement, one party may be unwilling to communicate, or it might just not be working, and you cannot come to an agreement. If you find yourself in this position, then it may be helpful to involve a solicitor to assist with the negotiations. Communicating through solicitors can keep the relationship amicable and would likely result in any new agreement being put into writing – which may help you out in the future!
- I was working and now I’m at home because the kids are off school and I have to take unpaid leave, does my ex have to pay more?
Maintenance payments are based on:
- The weekly income of the parent who needs to pay maintenance
- The number of children that are looked after by the parent who has the day-to-day care
- Whether the paying parent has other children they maintain
- Whether care is shared
Therefore, if you are earning less due to your current position, unfortunately the other parent will not be required to increase their payments solely because of this. However as always, communication is key and a conversation explaining the situation may lead to a new temporary voluntary agreement. It can sometimes be helpful to have a third party involved in these negotiations and therefore a solicitor may be able to help with putting forward your case and put the new agreement into writing.
- I am now earning significantly less due to Covid-19, can I reduce my CMS payments?
If your child maintenance payment is made via the CMS and your income has been affected by the recent events, you need to contact CMS as soon as you can for them to adjust your payment. You can call them directly on 0800 171 2345. If your income has significantly changed as you are now only receiving a proportion of your salary;, you are taking unpaid leave; or you have lost your job then it is important to notify CMS as soon as you can to prompt a re-assessment of the maintenance.
- My ex appears to be working a huge amount of overtime at the moment due their line of work, can I ask for more Child Maintenance?
As explained above child maintenance is calculated on a range of different factors. If you believe you are entitled to more and your payment is made via CMS you should contact them as soon as you can. If the payment is made voluntarily or because of a court order you can attempt to negotiate to amend the current agreement on a temporary basis. Any new agreement you make you should put into writing. If you are agreeing to amend your court order you should ask a solicitor to draft or check the amendments to ensure that these will be accepted by the court.
- I have a court order which states how much child maintenance I have to pay, but I cannot afford to pay at the moment, what are my options?
If your maintenance payment is documented in a court order, then your first step will be to look at the wording of the order. The next step and starting point, where appropriate, should be to try and communicate with the other parent to try and amicably amend the agreement. If you can agree between you that the amount should be altered due to change in circumstances, then remember you are able to voluntarily agree to vary the terms of an order. If you agree that this is a temporary charge due to the circumstances or the new agreement will be in place until further notice it will be important to document all the changes and terms they have been agreed on. You should have the agreement drafted or at least looked over by a family lawyer to ensure that the new arrangements are not going to come back to bite you.
If it is not possible to come to an agreement between you or communicating directly is not appropriate in your circumstances you should instruct a family specialist to assist you. This may be communicating with the other parent to try and reach an agreement or by making an application to the court to have the child maintenance reduced.
You MUST however be aware that without a new agreement, if you do not pay the maintenance, you will be in breach of the order. This could lead to enforcement proceedings against you which I am sure no one needs at this time.
- My ex is not paying child maintenance as per our court order, can I enforce this payment?
Yes! If you have a court order in place and you have not received your child maintenance payment you can make an application to the court to have this enforced. You should take legal advice before making the application as there is a specific protocol you must follow in order to have your application heard.
- Proceedings have been brought against me for not paying my child maintenance as per my court order, can Kleyman & Co help?
Yes! If you have indeed found yourself in this position, the court has the discretion to assess the reason for the missed payments and if they consider this to be a genuine reason, for example your income has been suspended, then they may decide to dismiss this. If you need assistance in defending these types of proceedings against you, our team are on call to help so please get in touch.
Whether you need help to negotiate a new voluntary agreement, negotiate new/temporary terms of your court order, bring/defend enforcement proceedings or just a casual chat about your options, we can help.
We will listen to you and provide any help or assistance where we can. Please give us a call on 0203 887 8740 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a time to speak with a member of our specialist team.
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Assisting you and your family during Covid-19.