Do I have to pay maintenance if I have joint custody when we’re co-parenting equally?
15 July 2021
Question by D
My wife and I have recently separated. The equity in the house is going to be split 50/50. We don't have any other meaningful assets. We have agreed to co-parent the children equally. My wife is requesting that I pay £200/month in child maintenance, and an additional £150 for child care and school expenses. The CMS document "How we work out child maintenance", states that shared child care results in no child maintenance payments. However, I do agree with the child care and school expenses payments. Our daughter has Autism Spectrum Disorder, and my wife gets £430 per month for her in Disability Living Allowance. I do not get any of this. My wife also works full time on at least £30k. If I don't pay the £200 child maintenance, plus £150 child care and school expenses, my wife is threatening me with making a claim for spousal maintenance, and taking half my pension. My pension isn't worth a great deal anyway. Should I pay the £350/month or take my chances in court?
Answered by Boring Money
I can really sympathise with your situation, as it sounds like you are both having some good honest conversations with each other for the sake of the children. I can understand why you feel it's not fair to pay the £350 per month, if she receives the benefits to help financially support your daughter.
The court has no jurisdiction over child support, unless the payee’s income is over a certain threshold (£3000 per week). Assuming that’s not the case, the court would consider a few other factors, like:
How many children you have
The paying parent's income
How much time the children may be spending with the paying parent
Whether the paying parent is paying child maintenance for the other children
I believe that sharing the care doesn’t necessarily mean exactly 50/50 nights, and the courts are generally not keen on seeing children as commodities in that way, (which I know you also are not). What I mean is, there are cases where one parent will deliberately suppress the nights the other gets in order to get more maintenance, or perhaps the paying party will try to increase their nights in order to reduce the liability.
As you are married, your wife may well have an entitlement to your pensions and/or share of other assets, but really a solicitor should advise you on this, as it is not a foregone conclusion that she'd get 50% of your pension. There are other factors involved such as:
Your ability to rebuild the pension pot
If you haven’t done already, seek some guidance and advice from a divorce lawyer. Often they can give you free guidance before you commit to a decision.
I would also encourage a third party to perhaps be present during a conversation with your wife. You may also like to consider a before seeking legal advice. This may be less costly for you, and they can support and guide you. I would also recommend contacting a financial planner, as they will be able to advise you on what different scenarios look like for you. They'll be able to assess the financial implications of different options, to see what effect this will have on your financial situation.
I wish you all the best. Give me a shout if I can be of any further help.