Understanding Child Support: Your Rights And Responsibilities

When a couple has children or other dependents and decide to separate or divorce, it is important to make sure that the children are looked after financially. Calculating child support is not always straightforward. It is usually paid in regular instalments to the parent, or other primary carer, with whom the children live after the split.

The money is then used to cover general living expenses and fund other things that the children need or want. However, this may not always be the case. Every situation will have its own nuances to negotiate What will always be true, however, is that both parents have rights and responsibilities around calculating child support and caring for their children to the best of their abilities.

What is Child Support?

Child support arrangements must remain separate to working out when and how often each parent sees their children. Child support is the money and other resources paid by one party to the other in the event of a couple with dependent children separating or divorcing. It can come in the form of monthly or other regular payments to the resident parent. Or, the paying parent can pay directly for things like school fees, hobby costs etc. as part of the arrangements. Calculating child support focuses solely on the wellbeing of the children. It is vital that emotions around the split and the effect it has on each party are kept away from the table as much as possible whenever child support is discussed. The priority should always be to protect and support the children involved and not succumb to negative emotions like frustration, anger or jealousy.

How is Child Support Calculated?

Calculating child support can be done in a number of ways. The divorcing couple can come to a private arrangement if the split is amicable and a mutually workable solution can be found. If this is not possible, a claim can be made through the Child Maintenance Service. This organisation will help you work out how much needs to be paid, based on each party’s income, outgoings and other commitments, such as children from another marriage or partnership. The Child Maintenance Service can also take action if the agreed amount is not paid. It can support parting couples in finalising residential arrangements and major parenting decisions and help track down the other parent if they go missing or refuse to engage. Finally, you can use the service to deal directly with the other parent if you do not want to remain in contact with them yourself.

What are your Rights?

As the parent required to pay child support, you have the right to be actively involved in decisions made around how much to pay. The agreed amount must be sufficient to support your children adequately and pay for such essentials as food, clothes, housing and educational and social activities. You are allowed to engage a family solicitor to help you work out what to pay and how to negotiate with your former partner for the benefit of the children involved. Both parties have the right to be kept informed about the progress on their child support claim and associated negotiations. You can also choose which family solicitor to use to help you navigate your way through.

What are your Responsibilities?

Parents have a legal responsibility to provide financially for their children, even if they do not live with them, or even see them anymore. This is known as financial responsibility and is separate to parental responsibility. You do not need to have parental responsibility to have financial responsibility, nor be named on the birth certificate to be required to pay. Paying for your child is also not dependent on seeing them a certain number of times. Calculating child support is an entirely different thing and should be done regardless of any other arrangements that may or may not be in place.

Calculating Child Support – Next Steps

If you are contemplating splitting from your partner, or are already in the process of a divorce or formal separation, you must secure expert advice regarding calculating child support. It is vital that you and your soon-to-be-ex partner come to a workable, practical agreement regarding who pays what, how often and what the money will cover. Speak to a family solicitor with expertise in child support law for more details and to help answer any questions.

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