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Everything you need to know about child maintenance

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What’s included in child maintenance?

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What child maintenance is based on?

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How to recover payments and child maintenance arrears?

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Children maintenance lawyer

In France or anywhere else such as in the UK or in the USA, when a family breaks down, child maintenance is a payment made from one parent to another.

Children maintenance definition

Children maintenance is a set of payment made from one parent to another to help pay for your child’s living costs. It’s paid by the parent who doesn’t usually live with the child to the person who has most day-to-day care of the child and called ’child support’.

This payment is not only based on day-to-day care of the child but also on both parents’ earns.

Child maintenance in the Common law

In the Common Law, child maintenance is also called ‘child support’.

Paying a child maintenance is compulsory

In case of a divorce or separation, the payment of a child maintenance is compulsory. Regarding the French or UK law, paying a child maintenance is compulsory.

A parent will not have to pay a child maintenance only if he can’t afford to pay it and proves it in Courts.

Child maintenance and over 18 children

In France, paying child maintenance does not stop even if your child is over 18. The paying parent will have to pay child maintenance until the child can afford to pay his own bills and living costs.

There are also other differences such as ‘child needs’ that must be paid by a parent.

Some differences will be related in this article.

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Everything you need to know about child maintenance

What is child maintenance?

Child maintenance is money to help pay for your child’s living costs and education or training.

Who has to pay child maintenance?

In case of divorce or separation, Child maintenance is paid by the parent who doesn’t usually live with the child to the person who has most day-to-day care of the child.

You will still have to pay maintenance even if you both care for your child equally.

When is child maintenance due?

You will have to pay a child maintenance at the date mentioned by the Court or by the day of the final order.

When arranging maintenance through the Courts, this is immediately applicable.

In France, when you can stop paying child maintenance?

In France, despite your child is over 18 you will have to pay for child maintenance. Paying for child maintenance will stop only when your child is capable to pay for all the bills, living costs and rents on his own.

Paying for child maintenance will not stop in case of disability or guardianship order as well.

However if you child is over 35 and still at school, Courts can stop the payment of child maintenance.

If a private arrangement isn’t suitable for you, we advise you to contact our family law and mediators firm. During an in-depth appointment, we will identify how you can get the best arrangement regarding child maintenance.

We will also calculate child maintenance benefits you can get or have to pay in case of disagreement with your ex-partner.

Does child arrangement exist abroad and in the Common law?

Yes !

In the Common Law as in France, paying for a day-to-day care of your children does not end if you’re getting a divorce and are the child’s legal parent. Child maintenance is compulsory if you have :

  • Child under 16
  • Child between 16 & 17 who is not full-time at school but applied to work or they are in approved education or training
  • Child under 20 if they’re in approved education or training (A levels or equivalent)
  • They’ve never been married or in a civil partnership.


In case of a divorce or separation, spouses have 2 options to arrange child maintenance:

Arranging maintenance voluntarily with each other. This private or family-based arrangement can be lodged by the Court in case of a divorce by filling a consent order.

Applying to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). You can apply to the CMS if you can’t find an arrangement or don’t know how to contact the other parent even don’t have direct contact with the other parent. The CMS will check how much you might get.

The CMS can only arrange maintenance if both parents and the child are all resident in the UK. If one parent is not uk-based or you’re not resident, you will need to talk to a lawyer.

There are exceptions: when a parent is working abroad and is employed by the government ( ei : diplomats ), armed forces, UK-based company or legal local authorities.

Is there an equivalent for French child maintenance in the USA?

Yes !

Regarding the Common Law, Child maintenance is set by each state. The ‘US child support’ system is pretty much the same than in France.

Opposed to the French and UK law based on the age or the child circumtances, in most of US States, child maintenance stops when the child is 18.

The child maintenance amount and payment are fixed by the Courts.

The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, amended by 50 states says that the parent paying child maintenance must pay for reasonable and necessary expenses. Courts will look at the child financial situation, earns and assets of both parents, level of life the child would have had if the parents haven’t broken up, the Child’s emotional and psychologic state as his specific educational needs.

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What’s included in Child maintenance?

In France, what type of expenses are included in child maintenance?

Child maintenance includes most of day-to-day care of the child such as:

  • Clothes,
  • Housing,
  • Scholarship fees,
  • Food,
  • School bills.

Other expenses will be qualified as exceptional and won’t be included into the child maintenance calculation.

Exceptional expenses are not predictable and one-time-based. These expenses can not be fixed by the Courts and must be based on a mutual agreement.

Here are some examples:

  • Days and nights-out,
  • Driving licence test,
  • Private school scholarship fees,
  • School and linguistic trips,
  • Non-refundable medical fees,
  • Childcare centre fees.

    Expenses covered in scholarship have to be included such as sport or artistic practises, but also international trips.

    Those expenses are not common but still necessary for your child’s mental health and wellness. Both parents are sharing those expenses depending on their earns.

    In Common Law, what type of expenses are included in child maintenance?

    1st part : day-to-day needs

    As the French Law, child maintenance is money to help pay for your child’s living costs such as:

    • Clothing
    • Food
    • Housing

    2nd part : extra expenses coverage

    Regarding the Common Law, expenses covered in scholarship are not included in child maintenance but can be, if both parents can get to an arrangement.

    Regarding the US Law, expenses included in the child support can change between the States. Some states mention that dental and medical fees must be included into child support whereas some don’t. When some unusual expenses are not included in the child support amount, an agreement is possible between both partners.

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    What child maintenance is based on?

    How much is child maintenance?

    For divorced parents or in case of a faulty divorce, Courts decide on the child maintenance amount:

    • During the divorce process
    • After the divorce process

    In case of a mutual agreement on the divorce, child maintenance is recorded into the divorce arrangement by the Notaire. When spouses are not living together anymore, an arrangement for child maintenance can be found and recorded by the Courts.

    If you’re not married, you can write a parental consent order. This settlement will include every single aspect of your child’s everyday living costs. We advise you to send this consent order to your local family law Court.

    In France, how the amount of Child maintenance is fixed?

    Child maintenance is based on your incomes, bills and day-to-day care of your child.

    In Child maintenance, the child custody is included.

    Please note:  If you are taking care of your child during holidays, Child maintenance will not be affected as the amount is flat-rate based.

    In France, if you are paying child maintenance, 565 euros (per month) should be left to you.

    Child maintenance is also based on:

    • Specific needs (age, health, school fees…),
    • Both parents’ monthly earnings,
    • Taxes,
    • Debts,


    With our AI software, our family law lawyers and mediators firm can calculate the amount you will be paying or getting paid.

    Can Child maintenance amount be reviewed?


    Regarding the French Law, child maintenance can be reviewed at any time if a change of circumstances happens for the paying parent or for the receiving parent (article 209 du code civil).

    This review follows a change in your circumstances such as earnings and financial situation or a change in the child needs.

    The family law Court will then review the consent order or settlement by taking the amount down or up.

    Do I have to get a family law lawyer to get child maintenance re-arrangement?

    No, but we really advise to do so!

    If you want to change T&Cs in the consent order or what Courts have decided, you must fill this form in formulaire CERFA n°11530 and send it to the Court. You will then get notified when the trial will be.

    However, getting a family law lawyer is recommended to protect your interests during the process.

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    Recovering payments and child maintenance arrears

    How to pay your Child maintenance?

    Most of the time, child maintenance can be paid by direct debit or bank transfer or BACS. Payment terms are determined by the Court.

    Child maintenance can also look like as:

    • Direct payments for your child expenses,
    • Payments managed by a third-party company in charge of paying your child’s a pension (set of monthly payments based on a rate),
    • Properties ownership for instance,
    • Getting your child some properties generating incomes.
    What to do if your child maintenance is not paid?

    If your child maintenance is overdue or you’ve got arrears, you must get a family law lawyer who will advise you on how to recover overdue payments and arrears.

    If the arrangement broke down, you must do as follow:

    • Send a recorded letter to recover the arrears;
    • Remind the paying parent of his duties in this letter and ask for the arrears as well as the recovering process;
    • You could also contact the Child maintenance recovery agency;
    • You can also get an enforcement and debt recovery agency. This process allows you to get overdue payments taken from your ex-partner’s bank account.
    • Getting a Court judgment.
    In France, what are the different ways to recover arrears for child maintenance?

    4 ways of collecting your overdue payments:

    • Direct payment process
    • Caisse d’Allocations Familiales recovery help services. CAF is the french government family pension agency
    • Enforcement and debt recovery agencies
    • Government financial services through a crown prosecutor (called public prosecutor in French)

    Processes and terms are detailed in the following questions.

    French law: What is child maintenance direct payment process?

    The recovery payment process is about to get child maintenance payments and arrears through a third-party services (employer, banks).

    This recovery process can be on future or the last 6 months overdue payments.

    According to French law L213-1 à L213-6 and R213-1 à R213-10 articles, this way of getting your arrears is possible when the amount has been set up by Courts.

    The recovery process can start from the first overdue payment (one day behind schedule).

    How it works:

    • The parent who has to get the payments can ask a legal officer to collect the arrears. This legal officer has 8 days to notify the overdue payments to the third-party.
    • This third-party must reply within 8 days following the notice. He must advise if he can pay or not.
    • To avoid a 1500 euros fine, this third-party must stick to the payments schedule.

    A direct payment can be challenged in Courts.

    Caisse d’allocations familiales (French family pension services) arrears collection process

    According to the French law L581-1 à L581-10 and R581-2 à R581-9 articles, this way of collecting arrears and payments is only if you have a minor child.

    For this to be possible, the owning parent has to meet the following conditions:

    • Has a Court decision setting up the child maintenance amount
    • Do not get any child support from the French family pension services
    • Started a legal arrears collection process


    If these conditions are met, the owning parent has to fill in and send a recovery arrears form.

    The director in charge of the family pension services will list all the arrears. He can also make advanced payments to the owning parent on top of the paying parent payments.

    With the owning parent agreement, the director can also recover arrears from the debtor as per the child day-to-day and education costs.

    Child maintenance enforcement collection services

    The process is as following : the paying parent makes direct payments to the French family pension services instead of paying the owning parent. That government branch will then repay the ownin parent the next working day after the payment has been made (French law 373-2-2 and L582-1 articles).

    This process can apply whether the payment is overdue or not.

    For this process to be applied you will need a Court decision fixing the amount of the child maintenance.

    Since the 1st of March 2022, this process is automatically set-up once the Court agrees on the divorce consent order.

    This arrangement can be cancelled if:

    • Both parents don’t agree on this arrangement,
    • Courts decide on another way to collect the arrears following the paying parent’s financial circumstances (French law 373-2-2 Code civil article).
    What is the recovery payment process through the financial government services on behalf of the public or crown prosecutor?

    This process allows government accountability services to collect child maintenance arrears instead of the owning parent ( French law L161-3 et R161-1 articles).

    For this process to be set-up the owning parent must prove he has followed a private process collection and payments are still in arrears.

    This process can be on future or last 6 months overdue payments.

    How it works? the owning parent sends this public recovery order to the crown or public local prosecutor.

    The prosecutor will then establish an enforcement order which will be filed to the right government services to recover all the arrears. In case of a dispute, the Court will then decide.

    Once the owning parent sent the consent form for a public recovery process, no further action is needed or can be taken.

    What are the different recovery processes in the Common law?

    In the UK

    There are 3 different ways to arrange child maintenance. Some people arrange maintenance voluntarily with each other, others have maintenance calculated and collected under a government scheme and some have arrangements made by a court order.

    In the UK, there are 2 different ways to collect maintenance arrears:

    • If you had a private arrangement which has broken down: You can ask the CMS to arrange payments. You will need to call CMO and they will explain how you can get maintenance. You can also ask the CMS to collect maintenance and pay it to you. You and the paying parent will have to pay a fee to use Collect and Pay.
    • If the other parent doesn’t agree to repay arrears:

    The CMS can try to get the arrears from the other parent’s earnings, benefits, or bank or building society account. This process looks alike the French one.

    If that doesn’t clear off the arrears, the CMS can apply to court for a ‘liability order’. This means they can ask bailiffs to take goods from the other parent and sell them.

    If the other parent owns their home, the CMS can also ask a court for an order to sell it. The CMS can use any money raised to pay off the arrears.


    In the USA :

    In the USA, the Child Support Enforcement Act allows district attorneys and state attorneys to get child maintenance arrears. They are also entitled to give fines to the Debtor as taking away the other parent’s passport or driving licence, sending them to prison or sending bailiffs to collect assets and belongings.

    The process begins when you apply for child support services or when your local child support office receives a referral from another public assistance program. Then your local child support office works to find the other parent, legally formalize parentage, set the order, and route the collected funds to the parent owed support.

    When the parent doesn’t pay the full amount or doesn’t pay at all, your child support agency enforces the child support order. Other enforcement methods might include withholding child support from unemployment or worker’s compensation benefits, intercepting income tax refunds, and reporting delinquent child support payments to credit bureaus.

    Every state is different, so contact your family law lawyer to learn more about the process as it applies to your case.

    The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act allows you to get a Court enforcement order even if the debtor lives in another state.

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