Five steps to a successful family-based arrangement
Five steps to a successful family-based arrangement
Most people who talk to Child Maintenance Options would rather make their own child maintenance arrangements than use the CSA. In fact, more than half a million children in the UK now benefit from child maintenance arrangements set up without the CSA’s involvement.
Most of these are based on agreements made between the parents themselves, called family-based arrangements.
The main advantages of family arrangements are that they are quicker and easier to set up than those that use the CSA.
Compared with other types of child maintenance arrangement, family-based arrangements are far more flexible than other options, and you can tailor them to suit you and your children’s unique needs. And they’re much more likely to keep both parents involved positively in your children’s lives.
The key to setting up a successful family arrangement is to make sure you get things right from the start and then regularly review your arrangement to make sure it’s working for you, the other parent and your children.
Setting one up isn’t always easy. But there’s plenty of support out there to help you. And getting it right means that everyone involved is likely to be better off.
Follow our five steps to get the most out of your family arrangement.
1. Find the right time
With so many demands on your time, working out your child maintenance arrangements can seem daunting.
If you’re still sorting things in your relationship out with the other parent or if your financial picture isn’t yet clear – if you don’t know how much rent you’ll be paying in the future, for example – waiting before sorting out child maintenance may be better.
But sooner is usually better than later. The quicker you can work your arrangement out with the other parent the clearer your future will seem – and the more you can focus on your relationship with your children. (And remember that if you can’t make a family arrangement work you can fall back on other options.)
If now isn’t the right time to put a permanent arrangement in place then working out a simple temporary arrangement may help in the short term – just remember to review how successful it is later on (see Step 5, below).
2. Do the right sums
Working out child maintenance is a balancing act. “How much” isn’t the only question; the “what” and “how” of the parent without the main care of the child pitching in will change according to the needs of the child, his or her other parent, and you yourself.
Remember that child maintenance doesn’t just have to mean one parent paying money to another. Sharing the care of your child and buying their clothes can sometimes count. It’s all about what parents can agree, and how they can best help the child. It’s also worth remembering that families have different needs depending on children’s ages and personal situations.
Child Maintenance Options has an online calculator that gives separated parents an idea of how much their child maintenance payments would be if they used the government’s child maintenance scheme. The calculator uses several factors to suggest a rough child maintenance figure:
• the weekly net income of the parent without the main day-to-day care of a child
• the number of children they must pay child maintenance for
• the average number of nights per year on which they have the main care of the child; and
• the number of other children living in their household
Go to the Child Maintenance calculator
3. Agree the best outcome for everyone
Working out the best possible arrangement won’t be easy, but it may help to remember this guidance from our Communication pages:
“Because things may not always go smoothly it helps to be really clear about what your most important goals are for the future and for parents there are two that stand out:
1. To commit to supporting your children in having a free and uncomplicated relationship with the other parent and
2. That whatever your feelings are about each other, you will not let them interfere with your co-parenting relationship.
There are lots of details that you will need to add to make this work in practice but these principles will be the foundations for everything else that you do as co-parents.”
Your arrangement is likely to be far more successful if you can keep these principles in mind.
4. Write it down
Family-based arrangements are flexible and private. And, compared with the cost and paperwork involved in setting up other forms of child maintenance arrangement, it’s easy to see why they’re so popular.
It’s still worth putting your agreement down on paper, though, and making sure both parents sign it to confirm they understand what they’re promising to do.
Family-based arrangements are most successful when both parents agree the arrangement is clear and fair on both sides. Writing the agreement down is the perfect way to achieve this.
The easiest way to get your agreement on paper is through Child Maintenance Options’ Family-based arrangement pack – just call them free to ask for your copy.
5. Do it – and review it!
Writing your agreement down and signing it can feel like you’ve taken a big step in the right direction. But in some ways the hard work is just starting. Your challenge now is to make your arrangement as successful as possible for your children.
This can be split into two further steps. Firstly, you’ve got the job of carrying out what you’ve committed to do in your arrangement. This can be rewarding or it can be a struggle – and it can often be both.
The second key task is to set out times to review your arrangements, and make sure you carry out your review. Everyone’s needs will change as your children grow, so it’s important to ensure your arrangement takes care of everything it needs to.
You could decide to review your arrangement every year, or when children reach milestones like significant birthdays or changing schools.
When you review your arrangement you can come back to these five steps to reach a new one. The steps will ideally repeat themselves as your children grow into adulthood: you make an arrangement, you carry out what you’ve agreed, you review it, you make a new arrangement and so on.
If you want to chat further about any of this – if you ever feel that your current arrangement isn’t working as well as it could, or if you want to talk about child maintenance in general – then call Child Maintenance Options free on 0800 988 0988 or visit the website at cmoptions.org.
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