It is fair to say that child maintenance is something that judges rarely have to make a decision about in the family courts. The reason for this is that in most cases the court does not have the power to consider it. That is the effect of section 8 of The Child Support Act 1991.
The amount of child maintenance which is supposed to be paid is however, a relevant fact for the court to take into account. If a father is paying £500 per month in child maintenance the court will view his income as being £500 lower. In the same way it will view the mother’s income as £500 higher.
The limited circumstances in which the family court can make an order about child maintenance are as follows:
- For a period of 12 months where the parties have entered into an agreement;
- Where there has been a maximum assessment by the child maintenance authorities (the paying party earns a lot of money) and the receiving party says more money is needed to support the children. For more detail see the case of Dickson v Rennie  EWHC 4306.
- In relation to school fees, where there is an application for a “school fees order”;
- In relation to meeting expenses attributed to a child’s disability;
- Where the child is resident abroad;
- In some cases where the non-resident parent is abroad.
In most cases the power to award child maintenance or to enforce it is held by the child maintenance authorities. The name of the relevant authority changes from time to time.
For detailed guidance and a calculator go to the Child Maintenance Options website: http://www.cmoptions.org/
On that site there is a very helpful 48 page leaflet called: “How we work out child maintenance a step by step guide”: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-we-work-out-child-mainten...