It is not uncommon for relationships to end but when children are involved, things can get a little tricky. Which parent does the child live with, how does the parent fund living costs as a single parent – these are just a couple of questions raised when a relationship breaks down.

Following a break up, it is important to share out living costs for your children between you and your partner.  Adjusting to single parent life can take a toll on your finances so it is important you come to an agreement with your partner about childcare costs to ease that impact. Normally the parent who doesn’t live with the child pays maintenance to the other parent. Traditionally this can be organised through one of two ways – a family arrangement, which is an informal agreement organised by the parents themselves, or a statutory child maintenance arrangement, which is where the government calculates how much a parent will need to pay each month and failure to keep to this formal agreement could result in legal action.

It is encouraged that families try to organise an informal arrangement because this can be adjusted with ease. Change in circumstances can be negotiated easily and there is much more flexibility. However family arrangements cannot always be agreed upon, there might be disagreements about the amount of money paid or contact between the partners might become difficult. Statutory arrangements can be beneficial in ensuring you receive finances for your child and the government can even handle payments between you and your partner to avoid any tension.

Having said that, in PayPlan’s latest research on the topic of child maintenance, one of the concerns a participant had when looking at the arrangements available is what would happen in the event of a relationship reunion. For example what happens to the child maintenance arrangement if the parents were to get back together? Family arrangements are set amongst the parents themselves so as long as both are happy they can decide upon the money arrangements between themselves. With a statutory child maintenance agreement it is still relatively easy to change. However the receiving parent will have to request the arrangement is closed and state that they are going to arrange childcare through alternative means.

It is important to understand that the Child Maintenance Service helps parents share the childcare expenses – it is an option if one of the parents feel that this would be the most necessary method of managing payments. It can also be changed to an informal arrangement at the request of the receiving parent.

If you have separated from your partner and you think a reunion is a possibility or you are on relatively good terms, it might be better to try the family arrangement first. This is not always possible and we understand circumstances surrounding family breakdowns can be complicated so if you feel the statutory service would be more appropriate we would certainly encourage it. Child maintenance agreements are there to help your family so whatever works best for you is always recommended.

If you would like more information on child maintenance, PayPlan have created a new resource hub – featuring a calculator to help you decide which type of arrangement might be best for you and your family. We have also published a simplified guide explaining the child maintenance process and put together a graphic to show some of the costs associated with raising a child