THOUSANDS of single parents are missing out on child maintenance for their kids, even though it’s a legal requirement.
More than a third of single mums have also fallen into debt after their exes left them to cough up all living expenses on their own, research shows.
Getty – Contributor More than a third of single mums in the UK have fallen into debt after their partners refused to pay child maintenance
Even worse, 11 per cent of mums have been forced to depend on food banks to feed their children for the same reason, according to law firm Slater and Gordon, which specialises in family law.
And a further 39 per cent have been forced to take out loans or gone into their overdrafts in order to make ends meet.
According to the most recent stats by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 2.8 million single parents in 2017, a majority of them single mums. Around the same time, 101,669 married couples split up.
Meanwhile, the cost of raising a child to 18, including childcare costs, is a massive £183,335, according to Child Poverty Action Group’s latest report.
Getty – Contributor Thousands of single parents are missing out on child maintenance each year
Yet many single parents are missing out on the child support that they’re entitled to from their former partner.
Child maintenance is supposed to help covering everyday costs such as food and clothes, as well as housing.
It’s actually a legal requirement, and if your ex partner refuses to pay, you can escalate it to a government body that will arrange the payments for you based on their income.
Lorraine Harvey, family lawyer at Slater and Gordon, told The Sun: “We always advise parents to try to reach an agreement together, when it comes to how much child maintenance will be paid to the parent providing the day-to-day care of the child.
“If both parties are in a position to do this, it allows them to reach a decision on how much will be paid, when it will be paid and how it will be paid, without involving the authorities.
“This also provides flexibility if circumstances change, so the paying parent for example, could buy a new school uniform instead of making one of the regular payments.
“But we have seen cases where the parent providing the day-to-day care has fallen into debt because the other parent is refusing to pay regular child maintenance or has not been transparent about how much they earn, in the hope that they can avoid paying the full amount for their child’s care.”
Who pays child maintenance?
Child maintenance is paid to the parent looking after the children full time.
The paying parent is normally expected to pay child maintenance until the child turns 16, or 20 if they’re in full-time education up to A-levels.
If any of the below applies to you, you have a duty to pay, according to Citizens Advice.
You’re the child’s biological parent
You’re the child’s adoptive parent
You’re the legal parent because of donor insemination, fertility treatment or surrogacy
How much do you get?
The amount you can get depends on whether you make your own arrangements with your ex, or whether you two can’t agree and go via the government body.
Its guidelines state that child maintenance should be 12 per cent of your partner’s gross income for one child, 16 per cent for two children and 19 per cent for three or more.
So if you have one child and your ex earns the average salary of £27,000 a year, 12 per cent of that should be paid in child maintenance – totalling £3,240 per year.
Alamy Single parents are entitled to child maintenance – and it could amount to thousands of pounds per year
Just keep in mind that the amount you can get also depends on how much time the ex partner spends with the child – for example, if they spend time with the child overnight a deduction can be made.How to arrange it and what to do if your ex won’t pay
If you want to make your own arrangement, a so-called “family-based arrangement”, you can use this calculator on the GOV.UK website which helps you check how much you should receive.
To be able to use it, you’ll need to know how much your ex earns.
If your partner isn’t willing to cooperate, you can speak to a government body called the child maintenance service (CMS) who will make an assessment on their income – and backdate any missed payments.
The CMS will attempt to recover the money by deducting payments directly from your ex partner’s earnings or bank accounts or by freezing assets.
Just keep in mind that applications to the CMS where it needs to collect money come with an upfront fee of £20 plus additional costs, such as collection fees each time you make or receive a payment.
If you’re below the age of 19 or you’re fleeing domestic violence and have reported it to the police or domestic violence organisations, you won’t have to pay any fees.
Should your partner still refuse to cooperate, the CMS can then escalate it to court.
The only way someone can legally avoid payments is if they earn less than £7 a week, Ms Harvey said.
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Earlier this year, a man was ordered to pay £20k in child support for 13-year-old “daughter” he never knew existed.
A dad owing £10,000 in child support was also caught by fraud officers after he used imposter to cheat DNA tests.
Meanwhile, “deadbeat dads” could have their passports taken away as government plans to crack down on absent parents.
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