Many families are going through a period of difficulty and may have a reduced income at the moment due to the current coronavirus situation. If you are experiencing a reduction in income or a change in caring arrangements and are paying or receiving child maintenance payments you might be worried how the current situation will affect these payments.
Depending on the agreement you have in place, whether this is a Court Order, informal agreement or through the Child Maintenance Service, there may be options available to you to help if you are experiencing financial difficulties or your situation has changed.
If you don’t have an agreement in writing, communication is vital between parents and any change in circumstances needs to be discussed as soon as possible. Any changes should be agreed prior to being implemented and parents should try to find and negotiate the best way forward, whether it is a temporary or permanent change to the agreed payments.
If you cannot come to an arrangement that is agreed between both parents, you can discuss your circumstances with a family lawyer who will be able to offer advice about the options available to you.Contact a member of our family team
Child Maintenance Order or Spousal Maintenance Order
If you have a child maintenance order or spousal maintenance order through the Courts, then you need to look at the Court Order to see exactly what obligations are contained within the order and read any clauses setting out when the maintenance should be reviewed.
Usually, the maintenance is reviewed on a yearly basis. If you have not reviewed the maintenance provisions recently, you should contact your ex-partner to ask if they can provide you with a breakdown of their income with copies of payslips or self-employed accounts, as well as details of expenses so that you can consider if their income has increased and whether or not they can afford to pay further maintenance.
A family solicitor can then negotiate an increased sum and arrange for the Court Order to be amended by consent, if possible, but otherwise by making an application to the Court for the Judge to decide the new levels of maintenance.
If meeting maintenance payments set out within an existing court order becomes a problem due to the coronavirus situation, or the amount you are receiving has changed, it is important to discuss any issues with the other parent in the first instance.
Any changes agreed should be documented in writing, even if the arrangements are only temporary. A family solicitor can help ensure any agreement is documented correctly to ensure there are no issues at a later stage.Contact a member of our family team
Child Maintenance Service
If you do not have a Court Order but child maintenance is paid through the Child Maintenance Service then you can ask them to review child maintenance because there has been a change in financial circumstances. It is rare that the Child Maintenance Service would review child maintenance without you asking them to.
If you are experiencing difficulties, or your circumstances have changed due to the current coronavirus situation such as:
- If you have lost your job
- If you are temporarily receiving no income while you are self-isolating during the outbreak of COVID-19
- If you are temporarily receiving statutory sick pay during the outbreak of COVID-19
- If child maintenance should no longer be paid because of a change in circumstances
- If you are adopting a child, or
- If you are reporting a bereavement
You should inform the Child Maintenance Service. New guidance has been published by the Child Maintenance Service, available here, which outlines what help and support is available if you are going through financial difficulty or struggling to make payments due to covid-19.
The guidance also looks at temporary changes to care arrangements due to covid-19, however, the guidance states that if your shared care arrangements have changed temporarily due to coronavirus, the amount of child maintenance you pay or receive are unlikely to change, as these changes to care arrangements are temporary.Read more about child maintenance