Figures reveal extent of unpaid child maintenance

New figures released by the Child Support Agency have revealed that unpaid child maintenance in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK totalled £3.837billion as of December 2012.

In the last quarter of 2012, £307.4million of child maintenance was successfully collected by the CSA in respect of 902,500 children, with £1,214.9million collected over the whole of last year. While the statistics show that a large amount of child maintenance is being collected successfully, and quickly in the majority of cases, there is still a significant problem with parents failing to fulfill their financial commitments with regard to the children of their previous marriage.

The Minister for Child Maintenance Steve Webb commented that a third of children now live in separated families, and that child maintenance payments is now "just considered the norm by people". He also pointed to recent research by You Gov which said that 90 per cent of people polled believe that it is better for parents to agree the details of financial support for their children between themselves after a divorce.

Lenore Rice, a solicitor specialising in family law at Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast, commented:

"Child maintenance arrangements are just one of the many important issues that divorcing couples need to agree on during the process of their separation. Other issues such as child custody, who lives in the matrimonial home, how assets are to be split, and others, are better resolved if the couple can sit around a table together and talk them over without asking a Court to make the decision for them.

"The collaborative law approach to separation, sometimes referred to as the 'friendly divorce', allows couples to sit down with their respective solicitors, and having resolved not to go to court to agree the details of their divorce, talk through the various issues connected with their split.

"In some divorces, the relationship breakdown is so severe that this method is not a realistic possibility, but where it is possible, couples are able to save money, avoid the stress of a court hearing, and it can improve their ability to maintain a co-operative relationship after the divorce."

If you require legal advice in respect of child maintenance, child custody, child access, or on another aspect of separation, contact one of the divorce solicitors at Wilson Nesbitt by calling 0800 840 1363.

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