When you separate with your children’s / child’s father or mother, so many factors come into play. Such as how often they’ll visit the other parent, will you stay in the family home and how will you manage childcare if you’re working. One thing which is essential in establishing from the start, though, is child maintenance; it offers regular support for single parents raising their child without their partner regardless of what situation the relationship ended.
In the UK, over half a million children benefit from child maintenance and if you are considering setting up such an arrangement it’s worth looking into your options. Here are some of the most common ones when arranging child maintenance. It’s not always a one size fits all.
Family based arrangement
This is a child maintenance arrangement which is organised by the parents looking for flexibility and avoiding having to go to court.
It’s best if the two parents meet at a time suitable for both, to discuss their financial situations and to decide how much money their child needs on an everyday basis. This should factor in costs such as accommodation, clothing, school uniform, school trips, after school activities and groceries – these costs will vary depending on the age of your child so it’s a good idea to write out a list of exactly what is being spent.
You can then either split the difference of these costs, then the partner not living with the child transfers this money on a monthly basis or you can base it on a means tested basis. It’s a good idea to calculate how much would be expected to be paid if you were to take on a statutory child maintenance arrangement and base the costs around this. For more on what to include in a family based arrangement, take a look at the Child Maintenance Options website.
Statutory child maintenance
This arrangement is there for parents who cannot come to an agreement or if there is no contact with the partner no longer living with the child. Statutory child maintenance is arranged through the Child Maintenance Service and will require parents using the service to pay a fee of £20 and percentage fees for collecting the money owed.
However, these fees can help encourage a difficult partner to make their payments regularly, and the Child Maintenance Service can also track down the parent if you do not know their whereabouts after separating and also issue enforcement charges for those who do not pay their child maintenance on time or in full. This fee removes negotiation between the parents and instead the Child Maintenance Service will decide how much the other parent pays based on their income and situation. This is sometimes the better option where domestic violence was evident too.
If you have particularly low income, you can also claim child tax credit from the Government that is dependent on your circumstances. You can read more about these child benefit options here, as well as discovering how to apply for them.
It’s all quite a mine field but there is plenty of support site out there to help navigate these early months. Check out Gingerbread, which is a fabulous website for single parents.
This is a collaborative post