Child maintenance contracts are written or verbal agreements between two parents. One parent will agree to pay the parent residing with the child or children a fixed amount of money to take care of the child. The agreements can either be made by a private arrangement or by the use of a court order.
Private agreements regarding child maintenance can have their advantages and disadvantages. On one hand it may be more simple and straightforward than involving solicitors and the legal system, and it may enhance some form of trust and goodwill between the parents. On the other hand if disputes do occur between the parents then there is no guarantee that the parent who is paying the maintenance will stick to the agreed payments. If this happens then the only recourse for the resident parent may by to take legal action.
Verbal or Written Agreements
Although verbal contracts are legally binding it is always a wise move to have all agreements made in writing. By doing this the written contract can be referenced at a future date if disputes between the parents do occur. When drafting a contract the parents should discuss exactly the terms and conditions of the contract, how much is to be paid and the frequency of the payments. There should also be the possibility of a review date for changing any conditions. For example if one parent were to move abroad or remarry would the maintenance payments change or continue as before.
A family solicitor can help if the parents would like the terms and conditions to be of a more formal nature. It may also be a good idea to have the agreement witnessed, and also signed and dated by both parents. In many cases if both parents do have a good relationship with each other then there may not be the need for a formal written agreement. But there is no guarantee that this amicable relationship will continue in the future. It may be in the child’s best interests to have a written child maintenance contract in place.
A Legally Binding Private Agreement
Privately agreed child maintenance contracts can be made legally binding by using a consent order. If the agreements were made with the help of mediators or family solicitor then a court can grant a consent order to enforce the child maintenance contract if the paying parent breaks the agreement.
The consent order can only be granted if an arrangement between the parents regarding child maintenance has been agreed. A solicitor will then present the information to the courts; this is known as a statement of information. If the court decides the agreement is fair, and a consent order is granted, then the child maintenance contract will be legally enforceable.
Child Support Agency
The Child Support Agency (CSA) can be brought in to force parents to pay maintenance for their children. They will calculate how much the non resident parent should be paying and they will have different methods available for enforcing the payments. Non payment of child maintenance is taken very seriously and action can be taken through the courts to enforce any child maintenance contracts that have been made and broken, or if a parent simply refuses to pay the maintenance.
The consequences of not paying child maintenance can include arrestment of earnings, seizure of goods and a disqualification of the non payer’s driving licence. The ultimate consequence could be prison for the non payer.
Child maintenance contracts will always be a sensitive subject. For most parents, paying child support will be a natural and straightforward process. But there will always be some non resident parents who, for one reason or another, will not or cannot pay maintenance. It is exactly for this reason, and for the welfare of the child, that child maintenance contracts and the Child Support Agency exist, and should be used.
My husband and I have been together for 15 years. When he split from his ex wife, they made a verbal agreement that if he gave her the house and content, he would not have to pay maintenance for his 2 children, this was witnessed by her father at the time but nothing on paper.
He has always paid for half with school uniforms, trips and hobbies, taken them on yearly holidays, paid phone bills etc also.
2 months ago out of the blue, we recieved a letter for CMA for a monthly payment order. Do we have any legal rights to do anything about this as the agency would not take anything at all into account with what was arranged previously.
Sarah - 8-May-21 @ 1:11 PM
My ex is trying to say that if he is going to see his son then I have to do one drop or pay for one of his lifts? And I have to pay it out of the £62 a week he gives me? Which he doesn’t give me yet. Does anyone know if this is correct or should he be the one making the effort and paying to come and get his son?
Itsme - 14-Mar-20 @ 2:42 PM
Hi, I am planning to move back to my home country and need advice how can I enforce child maintenance if me and my daughter will live abroad. The father of my child pays child maintenance at the moment and we have a case with CMS, however he pays what he thinks is resonable and not the amount CMS has calculated. I'd like to make sure he will carry on paying after we move abroad. Would I need a court order? How long does it normally take?
Fiore - 6-Mar-19 @ 3:16 PM
My ex is living In the family home and after I’ve been paying for child maintenance for a while, it’s now been agreed by us that I won’t pay any maintenance so I can afford somewhere to rent myself.
What should I do to make this official?
Ann - 3-Feb-19 @ 8:22 AM
Loopyloo - Your Question:
We have been paying for my stepson for 18years consistently on a verbal agreement and agreed we would pay until he turned 18. he has. Now turned 18 and she has gone back on the agreement. And is asking for an extra £100 a month. we have no idea what to do
A few years ago, the rule making it compulsory for all children over the age of sixteen to stay on in further education came into force, meaning that parents have to support their children financially for longer. As long as the resident parent is eligible to claim child benefit, please see link here , then theoretically you are deemed responsible for continuing to pay child maintenance until the cut-off points listed. Your ex could take the matter to court if she wished to force the issue.
ContractsAndAgreements - 14-Jun-18 @ 12:56 PM
We have been paying for my stepson for 18years consistently on a verbal agreement and agreed we would pay until he turned 18.. he has. Now turned 18 and she has gone back on the agreement. And is asking for an extra £100 a month.. we have no idea what to do
Loopyloo - 12-Jun-18 @ 9:03 PM
I submitted my application for child maintenance and waiting to attend the court proceedings in April 2018. Just this week i spoke to my baby daddy and he says he will support. its been a year since he vanished and not poped a cent towards his son.
During our conversation he told me about debts and that he is paying for two other children maintenance. This was so discouraging to me, is it worth going ahead with the court proceedings or must i consider just taking care of my son like i was doing though its straining my finances.
What are the disadvantages of a verbal agreement and advantages of going ahead in court?
Mmmm - 5-Mar-18 @ 1:00 PM
I have a 9 months old girl and her father hasn't supported her for the past 4 months ge said to me ge can't.is it to early for me to go for maintenance court.
phizoy - 22-Dec-16 @ 8:49 AM
I have agreed a monthly sum with an ex-partner for our 6 1/2 year old Daughter. I have paid this amount for the last six year, never failing to make the payment. Can she go to the CSA and request that they now interven, in oder to gain more money from me?