Children: Maintenance

Justice written question – answered on 21st July 2014.

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Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether courts link maintenance and contact with respect to children following the separation of the parents; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The payment of child maintenance and the operation of children arrangements are two separate issues which are both vitally important for separated parents. Children have a right to care and support and parents have a responsibility to provide it, regardless of whether they are separated. There is also great benefit to most children of continued contact with both parents, regardless of the financial circumstances. A dispute about child maintenance should not therefore deprive a child of meaningful contact with the other parent and vice-versa.

The purpose of the child maintenance scheme is to make sure that parents fulfil their financial obligations to make provision for children with whom they no longer live. The Government believes that this is something parents should be able to manage for themselves through a family-based arrangement (in the vast majority of cases). The Department for Work and Pensions provides support to help them do so through the Child Maintenance Options Service, contactable on 0800-988-0988 or via:

www.cmoptions.org

The family courts deal with arrangements for children where parents have been unable to come to an agreement themselves. Here again, parents are encouraged to resolve their differences themselves. The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced, from April 2014, a legislative requirement on those who seek to issue certain family proceedings to first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to find out about family mediation. The other party is also expected to engage in the process.

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