Divorce, Children and Financial Support - How do you change child maintenance payments?

 

When you first split up from a partner one of the many things to sort out is child support. Top London divorce solicitors say parents find it hard to review and change the amount of child support. Why is that? I suspect it is because parents get used to paying or receiving a set amount in child support so do not want the hassle of discussing new child support payments with their ex.

 
Online child support calculator
 
The best London divorce solicitors recommend that parents agree on a figure for child support using the child maintenance service (CMS) online calculator or the figure prepared by their divorce solicitor. 
 
Many parents worry that if they use the online CMS calculator to work out the amount of child support they will have to ask the child maintenance service to carry out a formal assessment and collect the child support payments. That is not the case. You can use the online calculator as a helpful guide. 
 
Likewise, the child support figure calculated by a London divorce solicitor can be the starting point to discussions about child support. That is because, for example, if one parent agrees to pay for all the child’s clothes and school trips then expecting them to pay the full amount of a child maintenance calculation may not be appropriate. In other family situations, a parent will recognise that it is fair that he or she pays more than the child maintenance calculation to help pay for extras such as ballet or swimming lessons. Child maintenance payments should be looked at again if incomes and childcare arrangements change.
 
Sadly, not all parents are able to work together, even with the aid of online calculators and help from divorce solicitors, to agree on the amount of child support payments. They therefore have to look at their legal and formal options if payments either cannot be agreed or are not being paid.
 
How can OTS Solicitors help? 
 
As expert divorce, children and financial settlement solicitors the team at OTS Solicitors are experienced in advising on child support and negotiating and resolving child support payments. We look at your options, including negotiation, child maintenance service assessment and, if relevant, court proceedings. 
 
Our goal is to help you finalise the amount of your child support payments as quickly and as amicably as possible. We can also review any associated issues, such as the amount of any spousal maintenance payments or the parenting and contact arrangements. 
 
To discuss how OTS Solicitors can help you please call me on 0203 959 9123 for a confidential discussion.
   
The child support calculation
 
As a London divorce solicitor, I am used to parenting expressing surprise at the amount of a potential child support agency child maintenance assessment. Sometimes that is because the parent has not fully appreciated that child support is calculated by the CMS on:
 
• The payer’s gross income; and 
• The number of children that the payer pays child maintenance for; and  
• The number of overnight contact or access visits the payer has with the children; and 
• The number of other children living in the payer’s household. 
 
Relevance of household bills
 
When calculating child support the child’s needs (for the latest trainers, Xbox) and the payee and payer’s household bills (mortgage, gas and electricity, broadband) are not taken into account in the child maintenance service calculation.
 
This can appear to be very unfair to some parents. For example, if a father has given a mother more than half the equity in the old family home so she can get a new mortgage to house the child then, if their incomes are broadly the same, he may end up:
 
• With bigger mortgage payments each month as he took less than 50% of the equity in the old family home; and 
• Obliged to pay child support payments under a child maintenance service assessment that will not take into account his higher monthly mortgage costs and utility bills.
 
There are other scenarios that seem equally unfair, such as two parents who:
 
• Earn roughly the same amount of income;
• Have roughly the same mortgage or rent payments;
• Each spend a lot of time with the child but one spends a bit less than 50%;
The parent who is not classed as the parent with care of the child is still obliged to pay child support. That would be the case even if the parent who is classed as the ‘parent with care’ has a new partner and a second large income going into their household.
 
There are ways that top London divorce solicitors can try to address issues with the child support and the relevance of household bills, such as recording agreements over whether child support will be paid and, if so, how much in financial court orders. The best London divorce solicitors can also look at options such as global spousal maintenance and child support orders to try to avoid future anomalies or unfairness in child support payments.    
 
Partner’s lifestyle and child support payments
 
On other occasions, the surprise at the CMS figure is based on the parent’s knowledge of their ex-partner’s lifestyle. If a parent does not think that a CMS child maintenance assessment is right then the parent can:
 
• Ask the CMS for a revision or mandatory reconsideration if they think the agency got something wrong such as the payer’s salary or the number of overnight access visits;
• Ask the child maintenance service for a variation;
• Appeal against the CMS assessment;
• If parents are or were married (and there is no financial clean break order in place) apply to court for spousal maintenance.
 
This could be a solution if the amount of the child support payments combined with the household’s other income or potential earnings do not meet basic household expenses.
 
Grounds to vary a CMS child maintenance calculation  
 
Top London divorce solicitors advise that there are four grounds to apply for a variation of a CMS child maintenance assessment:
 
Assets over £65,000 – the payer’s home is not classed as an asset. The value of investments , savings and any equity in a second home is relevant;
Income not taken into account – this ground is used in situations where the payer can set their own income. For example, they are a company director who can declare dividends or use a directors loan account to fund their lifestyle;
Diversion of income – this ground is relevant where a payer owns their own business and employs a new spouse or family members at an artificially high salary in order to divert income;
Lifestyle inconsistent with declared income – this ground is relevant if, for example, an income of £40,000 has been declared but the payer’s mortgage payments alone are believed to amount to £30,000 per year. This ground will not work if the payer is getting money from a new partner to help pay the bills and finance his lifestyle.
 
How can OTS Solicitors help?  
 
It pays to take expert legal advice from a top London divorce solicitor on child support and the review of child support payments. That is because often spouses pay either too much in child support or too little. 
 
Taking expert legal advice from a top London divorce solicitor when child support is first looked at and when it is reviewed in subsequent years can make sure that both parents are paying and receiving the appropriate amount in child support.  
 
There are potential court based spousal maintenance options and other types of court order that may encourage the payer of child support to pay reasonable child support payments. Court options can be used together with a variation application to the CMS or as a stand-alone court application.   
 
For advice and legal support on child support, spousal maintenance and financial claims, please call me on 0203 959 9123 for a confidential discussion about how OTS Solicitors can help you.  
 

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