Child maintenance [legally defined as child support] can be broadly defined as providing financial help with a child’s everyday living costs, like food and clothes and helping to provide a home for your child or children.
Child support is typically money that the parent without the primary day-to-day care of a child, pays to the other parent.
The sum of money can either be agreed by consent between the parties via a private child support agreement (see our FAQs), via the Child Support calculator or in limited circumstances, by the family court.
What is Child Support (Child Maintenance) used for?
Monies paid by one parent to the other are to ensure that the primary carer has sufficient funds to provide an adequate standard of living for the child or children residing with that parent for their ‘everyday’ living costs.
What constitutes ‘everyday living costs’ should be quite an easy if long list, but as separation or divorce battles escalate, it can often be a significant point of contention.
Most parents would agree that child support payments are intended to assist the primary parent with providing food (daily meals and school lunches), clothing (both for personal and school usage) and shelter or a home for the children.
However, parents can often disagree about whether child support is intended to cover or is sufficient to cover additional items such as the renewal of passports, extracurricular activities and clubs, mobile phone contracts, tech items such as laptops/iPads, transportation costs (e.g. fuel or Go Cards for kids).
One of the biggest misconceptions around child support is that child support should only cover a child’s basic living expenses and should not be put towards things like entertainment or holidays. However, child support is intended to cover all of the living expenses for children and the parent who is receiving child support, is at liberty to determine where and how child support should be spent.
If a parent does not agree with the level of child support required to be paid by them or to them, they should first try and negotiate with the other parent directly. Failing that, the Child Support Agency does have a review/amendment process and/or legal advice can be sought to determine whether a private child support agreement would be appropriate/able to be negotiated and/or whether and when a court application might become necessary.