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The Three Ages of Child Support

Published: 15 November 2023
Time to read: 4 mins

Happy family wearing colorful rain boots

Family units can take many shapes and sizes and circumstances are often unique from one family to the next.  For those with children there are financial obligations beyond the less tangible support, love and nurturing required, but how much and for how long do we need to financially support our children?  In this article we outline the law around child support and set out the three stages of a child’s life and what is required during each stage.

Stage One: Birth to Eighteen

Both parents have an obligation to support their child or children.  They may also have an obligation to support a child accepted as a child of the family.  There is no set formula for what you must pay in relation to child support (or “aliment” as it is also known) unless the matter is being dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service.  It can be helpful to look at what the law says about aliment in general and use this as a guide for their calculating child support.  Aliment is calculated on the basis that a parent will provide such support as is reasonable considering the needs and resources of the parents’ and the child, as well as, the parties earning capacities and generally any other circumstances which apply to them.  In effect, it is a very broad and flexible “formula” dependent mainly on a parent’s earning capacity, needs and lifestyle.

If parents are separated, then the Child Maintenance Service, a government agency, provides a numerical formula for what a child support payment should be.  This is based on the “absent” parent’s gross salary and the number of nights that the child spends with that parent.  The payment is made by the parent who has fewer overnights with the children, to the other parent.  If the parents have shared care in place (50:50 overnights) then there is no obligation for one parent to make a payment to the other by way of child support.  If the absent parent is a particularly high earner or the child has additional needs, then it is possible to request a “top up” aliment payment from the Courts, which will look at the general principles set out in the previous paragraph.

Stage Two: The Student

If your child is under twenty-five and a student or training for employment within a trade, profession, or vocation then they may be entitled to support from you as their parent.  This form of child support is payable directly to the child, rather than the parent with the greater care responsibilities.  Determining what a child should receive is dependent on your own and your child’s needs and resources; all parties earning capacities; and generally, all circumstances of the case.  It is an obligation to provide what is reasonable in the circumstances.  This may not be cash support but perhaps the ability to live at home, bill free with food provided.  It is for the student child and the parents to work out between themselves what is reasonable.  Ultimately a student child can ask the Court to decide and make an order against their parents if agreement cannot be reached.

Stage Three: The Graduate

A child will only have a claim for child support if they are under the age of 25 and reasonably and appropriately undergoing instruction at an educational establishment or training for employment, a trade, profession or vocation.

Following graduation or reaching the age of 25 they are no longer entitled in law to aliment from their parents.  An individual that graduates and then goes on to vocational training or a post graduate qualification must ensure this is reasonable and appropriate if they still require aliment from their parents.  It will however end, whatever their circumstances, on their twenty fifth birthday.

If you would like to find out more about child support arrangements, please get in touch with a member of our experienced Family Law team to discuss further.

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