Family Law Q & A: Child maintenance payments

Q .    I separated from the father of our two young children four months ago. They see him once a week but live with me permanently. I do not work as I can’t afford childcare and I don’t have family living nearby. I have told my ex that he should be paying child maintenance and that he owes me for the four months that have already passed.   He says he can’t afford it. What can I do?


If the amount of maintenance is in dispute then log on to to calculate how much your ex should be paying you. If you have tried to reason with your ex and you do not believe that he will pay child maintenance voluntarily, you should make an application to the Child Maintenance Service (formerly Child Support Agency). They will make an assessment and you will both be informed of the outcome.

If your ex continues to refuse to pay, the Child Maintenance Service can take money from his earnings, benefits or bank account to cover arrears. Another option is that the court could order the bailiffs to seize property to be sold and raise the funds owed. As a last resort, the court could impose a charging order forcing the sale of a property and the proceeds used to settle the maintenance arrears. It is important to note that the arrears will only be counted from the date of your application, not from the date of separation. Therefore, you should apply as soon as possible. Unless your ex volunteers payment for the four months that have already passed since your separation, you are unlikely to be recompensed for this loss.

The Child Maintenance Service has recently brought in charges for parents wishing to us the service which means that your ex will suffer a financial penalty for not paying maintenance voluntary. The fee for the assessment is £20 and there is a 20% charge on each payment for the paying parent.

If you would like advice on any aspect of divorce and family law then call 0161 969 3131 and make an appointment.