When a couple splits, it is still important that both partners ensure the child or children involved in that relationship are properly looked after. While one parent may be involved in the day to day care, child support (also known as child maintenance) payments are important to help them with the various costs involved with bringing up children. This can create some issues, which parents should be aware of in order to avoid any legal difficulties.

How it is arranged

Child support payments can be arranged in three different ways – this can be decided by the family, via a government scheme or by a court order. With a family-based arrangement this is not technically a legally binding agreement. However, if a partner withholds their payments, then you could approach your local government official to arrange a legally enforceable agreement.

Government schemes

The child support agency has schemes for couples who applied before and after 3rd March 2003. In recent times, these have been phased out and have stopped taking new applications, so it is worth contacting your local government to see the latest schemes are available.

Court orders

A court order for child maintenance may be necessary if a partner lives outside the UK, for additional expenses that are not taken into account (for example a child with a disability) or if you feel that your partner has a very high income, and therefore your children could get more maintenance than under a government-backed scheme.

One of the major benefits of applying through the courts is if a partner fails to make their payments then this can be enforced through the court.


If you receive child maintenance it will not affect your benefits, regardless of whether or not you receive means tested or non-means tested benefits. If you are the one paying child maintenance, then an amount will be taken out of your benefits every week in order to cover the payments.

With regard to tax, people who receive child maintenance don’t pay tax on the support they receive. If you are the one paying, then mostly you won’t be able to get tax relief (unless you are born before 6th April 1935, in which case there may be some potential exceptions, and you should get advice on this.)

Also, you can’t get legal help with the costs of arranging child maintenance; however, it may be possible to get help with any disputes involving access to children or the costs of arranging family mediation.

We can help

People often make the mistake of feeling that legal representatives are cold or don’t understand emotional situations. At Larcomes we pride ourselves on being a family firm, helping people through difficult times.

If you are concerned about arranging child support payments or are trying to get an agreement enforced, we can help. If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances, please contact our specialist team today, and we will be happy to go into more detail, to help ensure that your children are properly looked after.