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This includes how overseas income and occupations are treated under the 2012 child maintenance scheme, and how maintenance arrangements can be recognised across certain countries. The impact of the UK’s departure from the European Union on child maintenance is also detailed.

The briefing primarily relates to Great Britain; information on Northern Ireland’s similar, but separate, statutory child maintenance system is provided in section 6 of the briefing. A summary of the key issues discussed in the Briefing is included below. 

“Habitual residence”

An application for child maintenance under the statutory child maintenance scheme can only be accepted, a maintenance calculation made, and payment requested by the CMS from a Non-Resident Parent, if the Non-Resident Parent, Person with Care and Qualifying child are all “habitually resident” in the UK (this does not include the Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man).

If a parent lives abroad and works for certain organisations, it may be possible to contact the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) and make a new maintenance claim. This includes working abroad as a civil servant, for the Diplomatic Service, as a member of the Armed Forces; for a company based and registered in the UK and which makes payment arrangements in the UK, for the NHS or for a local authority.

Enforcing ongoing maintenance if a Non-Resident Parent lives overseas: Involvement of the courts

The CMS must cancel a child maintenance calculation if the Non-Resident Parent, Person with Care or Qualifying Child is deemed to longer be habitually resident in the UK. If this happens, the courts may make, vary or revive a maintenance order. A maintenance order is when the person with the higher income is told by a court to make regular maintenance payments to help with the other person’s living costs.

An individual considering legal action abroad should seek legal advice from a solicitor in that country. The UK Government maintains a list of lawyers abroad.

If they agree, individuals can also decide to make a child maintenance arrangement themselves, if one or both parents live abroad.

The “REMO” system

In some cases where the Non-Resident Parent lives abroad, it can be possible to seek the payment of child maintenance through a Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Order (REMO). A summary of the REMO process is available on Gov.uk at Child maintenance if a parent lives abroad.

Under the REMO system:

  • UK residents can apply to enforce or change an existing maintenance order or make a new maintenance order against a person resident in another country.
  • Residents of other countries can enforce or change an existing maintenance order or make a new order against a person resident in the UK (i.e. if a Person with Care is habitually resident outside the UK in a country with a REMO agreement, and the Non-Resident Parent is habitually resident in the UK, then the Person with Care may seek ongoing maintenance from the Non-Resident Parent via their relevant central authority).

Section 4.2 of the briefing describes the REMO process and Section 7 provides a list of contacts. A list of REMO countries where child maintenance decisions made in UK courts may be enforced or changed outside the UK is maintained by the UK Government.

Arrangements post-Brexit

The 2007 Hague Convention on the International recovery of child support and other forms of family maintenance is a multilateral treaty that provides rules for the international recognition and recovery of child support and family maintenance. It seeks to provide certainty to parents and their children when one parent has moved abroad, enabling, for example, a parent to put in place enforceable child maintenance obligations. The EU is currently the contracting party to the 2007 Convention, and the UK continues to adhere to the Convention during the Brexit transition period.

When the UK was an EU member state, the EU’s internal civil justice cooperation framework took priority over the 2007 Convention regarding maintenance enforcement amongst EU states through EU Regulation 4/2009 (with special rules applying to Denmark).The UK is currently in a transition period until the end of 2020, with pre-existing rules applying until 31 December 2020. The EU Regulation will continue to apply where cases, applications and requests for assistance have begun, or maintenance is due to be paid, before exit day.

The UK Government is currently legislating for the UK to become a contracting party to the Convention in its own right in Autumn 2020 through the Private International Law (Implementation Of Agreements) Bill [HL] 2019-21. The Bill applies to the whole of the UK.

Other laws, such as, but not limited to, the Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement) Act 1920, govern the enforcement of maintenance arrangements between the UK and other relevant states. Such arrangements are unaffected by the Hague Convention or the UK’s leaving of the European Union.

Other Library briefings on the statutory child maintenance system


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