Child Residence and Child Maintenance
Solicitor Emily Abbey talks about which parent children will live with after a divorce or separation, as well as Child Maintenance.
I am separating from my partner and each of us wants our children to live with us. How is it decided who the children will live with?
It is of overriding importance for any children involved to have a stable and safe place to live.
In most cases the children will live primarily with one parent and the other parent will have regular contact. Who the children live with can be negotiated with the help of a solicitor, collaborative lawyer or mediator. Factors influencing the outcome include whether one party has historically undertaken more of the day to day care than the other, the wishes and feelings of the children (considered in light of their age and understanding), the likely impact of any change and who is better placed to meet the ongoing future needs of the children.
In practice the law prefers voluntary agreements between parents rather than court imposed settlements as it feels that voluntary agreements are more likely to succeed in the long run. The courts will only usually become involved if both parents are unable to reach a suitable compromise. If a case does get to court then the court can order a "residence order" setting out who the children should live with.
In some cases shared residence orders are made for the children. For this to work it has to be in the childrens best interests and practical for the children to move regularly between homes without it being too disruptive and unsettling for them. Older childrens wishes and feelings are taken into account too in light of their age and understanding.
How much child maintenance do I have to pay?
All parents have a responsibility to provide financial support to their children, regardless of whether or not they have contact with them. Child maintenance and contact are not legally related.
Child maintenance is the payment of a regular sum of money to support the child's living costs and is payable by the parent who the child is not resident with. (In cases of shared residence the arrangements may differ.)
Child maintenance can be arranged by agreement between both parents, with the help of a solicitor, or through the Child Support Agency (CSA). The CSA use a set formula, which takes into account the parents" net income, number of children and number of overnight stays spent with that parent. For example if the child stays overnight one night a week then the amount of maintenance can be reduced to reflect this.
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