Family-based arrangements are where child maintenance is agreed between the parties directly, as opposed to applying to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to agree payment arrangements.

Recent research carried out by The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) shows that family-based arrangements are now more popular amongst the parties involved and more successful in terms of avoiding a breakdown of the agreed terms at an early stage.

There are many advantages to directly negotiated arrangements including: –

  • It is a private arrangement between yourself and the other parent, there is no need to share details of your finances with the CMS or the court.
  • The agreements can be tailored to the individual needs of your family, as opposed to being calculated generically
  • They are quick and easy to arrange
  • They are flexible. No need to reapply to the Child Maintenance Service or the court if your circumstances change.

The main disadvantage is that these agreements are not generally legally binding (unless built into a consent order as part of the divorce proceedings). If one party should stop paying as per the agreement terms, then the other side would not be able to enforce the agreement. Even so, the options of applying to the CMS or to the court are still available to you.

The trick to keep all parties involved happy is to get the agreement right to begin with. Take your time to look at the income of both parties, the needs of the children and then decide together a level of regular maintenance or lump sums that are appropriate. Once agreed, it is vital that you continue to review this agreement on an ongoing basis as circumstances change all the time.

The fact that a direct agreement between parents can be less stressful and more manageable for the whole family should not be undervalued, particularly when there will be existing stresses anyway. If you need to make changes to the agreement this can be done quickly ensuring that there is less disruption to your children’s lives.

Please note as well as child maintenance you might be entitled to benefits, such as child benefit, tax credits etc and also spousal maintenance.  There are also other financial remedies available under the Children Act 1989 and so it is worth seeking legal advice to really understand what income you might be entitled to if you have children.

Emma Murphy – rhw Solicitors LLP 

If you think that a family-based arrangement might work for you or if you require legal advice on any family law matter then we can help.  Please contact a member of the Family Law Team on 01483 302000 or email