Are you married or in a civil partnership, or not? This makes some difference to the position, especially in terms of how the claims are resolved.

Top of the list here is child maintenance and where you and the children will live or spend time, if the children do not live with you.

Child Maintenance

All parents have an obligation to financially support their children. There is no difference between married or unmarried families; a maintenance formula exists to calculate the figure.  This is a minimum figure, not a maximum and is set by the Child Maintenance Service. Follow the link to work out what you may have to pay or will likely receive (CMS calculator)

A court will only intervene and order maintenance against a parent earning more than £156,000 a year before tax or who lives abroad, whether married or not.

Where children should live and how this will be funded

Married families can sort out all financial claims in one settlement (including child maintenance if this can be agreed). Claims for children are rolled into the claim by a husband, civil partner or wife. So you will make a claim for yourself and on behalf of your children. This tends to simplify the process as the housing needs and maintenance needs of the parents and the children are considered together.

The needs of children under 18 are the court's first consideration. Children at university will be taken into account, but do not have priority.

Housing will include a property which enables the children to live to a reasonable standard, and if possible, maintain continuity in terms of schools, friends and support. A balance is struck between the parents: the parent the children live with may take priority if “needs must”.

The needs of the children reflect the resources available and the circumstances of the family generally on divorce or dissolution.

For further information on the position for unmarried families please see our section on Cohabitation.

Other Claims

These are fact dependent, but may cover additional costs which your children need their parents to pay. A court can order school fees to be paid for example, whether the parents are married or not.


It is important to note that claims usually cannot be made in respect of adult children, although in some limited circumstances their needs may be relevant generally, as a part of the circumstances of the family. It is better to sort out claims on behalf of your children as soon as possible and certainly before a child reaches the age of 18.

    Frequently Asked Questions

  • What if the other parent isn’t letting me see the children?

    There is no connection between child arrangements and each parent’s financial responsibilities to the children. Child maintenance must still be paid regardless.

  • What if my ex is self-employed and doesn’t disclose all of their income?

    This makes matters tricky, as for self-employed parent’s the CMS will go by the paying parent’s latest tax returns. You can, however, challenge a calculation through the CMS if you believe it doesn’t reflect what should be being paid by way of child support.

  • Do I need a court order?

    No, the court does not have jurisdiction to deal with child maintenance. It is dealt with through the CMS, unless your ex earns more than £156,000 a year before tax or who lives abroad.

  • The CMS calculation doesn’t cover all of my children’s expenses. Can I apply for more?

    Child support is a contribution towards your children’s expenses. Any shortfall usually has to be made up by the other parent. If you were married to the paying parent, any shortfall can sometimes be made up by a contribution from spousal maintenance depending on your circumstances.

  • Can I control how my ex spends the child support I pay her?

    No, it is up to the parent in receipt of the child support how they spend it.

  • What if I am paying child support for my other children, will this be taken into account?

    Yes, the calculation takes into account other financial obligations you have and how much time the children spend with you. Follow this link to see how the CMS works out child maintenance.

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