High Court ruling to review child maintenance payments

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A well-known football player, in his mid 30s, has won a High Court ruling for a review of the child maintenance payments he had been ordered to pay by a Deputy District Judge.

In this recent case, widely reported in the media, the father was originally ordered to pay a total of £60,000 in child maintenance a year – £30,000 for each of his children. He has two children with different mothers. The father’s gross annual income was assessed at £190,000. The father said that £60,000 represented almost a third of his gross income and was too much.

The father appealed on several grounds but he was successful on the ground that the Deputy District Judge had been wrong to order that he pay such a high proportion of his net income. Mr Justice Mostyn found that the original order of £60,000 was 31.5% of the father’s gross income, almost double the 16% rate prescribed by the formula in the Child Support Act.

Hearing the appeal, Mr Justice Mostyn said that the Deputy District Judge who made the original Order had made mistakes in the way she formulated the figures and should reconsider the case. Mr Justice Mostyn halved the amount the father is to pay to a total of about £30,000, pending the outcome of any fresh hearing. However, he hoped that the father and the two mothers could reach an agreement and avoid the need for a further hearing, with perhaps the interim order being accepted as a final order.

Mr Justice Mostyn heard that the father was in arrears and said he would “have some explaining to do” if the arrears were not discharged in the “near future”. It should be noted that the Court may hold the non-payer in contempt of Court and potentially order a prison sentence if it is found that the non-payer had financial resources to make the payments but failed to do so.

Whilst the Court does not usually have the power to make Orders in respect of Child Maintenance, with the power falling on to the Child Maintenance Service instead, there are some exceptions to this. One of the exceptions is where the paying parent, in this case the father, earns in excess of £3,000 per week. In these cases the Court has the power to make Orders for Child Maintenance.

Unlike the Child Maintenance Service, the Court is not tied to specific formulae and has wide discretion as to how it calculates the sum to be paid. However, the Child Maintenance Service formula is an important starting point and in this case, Mr Justice Mostyn found that the Deputy District Judge had failed to justify such a departure from the formula.

For more information, help or advice, please contact our Family team.

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