Divorce and How it Affects Children

Out of every 3 marriages today, two ends in divorce. The sad fact is that more than half of the divorcing families have kids, a situation that necessitates thorough knowledge in child maintenance options. Divorce is never easy on anyone, and most parents often are pre-occupied with their pain and financial worries that they do not give their children nearly the attention they need at that difficult time. Despite the difficulties, parents till are the most important people in the lives of their children.

Most parents at the verge of separation or divorce constantly worry about the effects the divorce will have on the children both in the short term and long term. While the parents maybe dealing with the devastation of the divorce, children are often confused, frightened and feel that their security is being threatened.

Some parents are sometimes so hurt that they turn to their children for comfort, which in turn puts undue pressure on the kids.

Age By Age Guide On How Children Are Affected By Divorce

The truth is that divorce is often traumatic to children, regardless of their age. Let us look at some of the signs of trauma in children after a divorce, and how to help them ease up to the situation.

Children Of Up to 18 Months

At this stage, the child can only sense the tension in the home (especially between the parents) but cannot understand the reason of the conflict. When the tension increases, especially towards the final stages of the divorce, the baby becomes irritable and clingy. The baby may have an aversion to new people. This stage is often characterized by numerous emotional outbursts. The child can regress or show some signs of developmental delay.

To ease the transition, maintain a routine as children of this age are comforted by familiarity. It helps a lot to stick to a routine, especially meal time and bed time throughout the divorce process. Provide the child with their favorite security items or toys and take hold the baby a little longer for physical comfort.

From 18 Months to 3 Years

At this age, the child has learned to bond with both parents; any major disruption in the family life will be difficult to comprehend and accept. Additionally, this is the year when most kids are self-centered, and can easily interpret the situation as their fault. The disruption can cause the child to regress to such activities as thumb sucking and bed wetting. They may also want more attention and cry a lot for fear of being abandoned, and may have trouble sleeping.

To ease the transition, both parents should work on a plan to maintain a predictable routine that the child can easily follow. At this stage, it is important that both parties also give the child as much attention as possible; read books together, play etc.

From 3 Years to 6 Years

At this age, the children can clearly tell when there is an issue, but do not yet comprehend the finer details of what a divorce entails. However, they would prefer the parents not to separate regardless of the tension in the house. At this age, since the child wants to control everything, may feel helpless and blame themselves. This is manifested in anger outbursts, uncertainty about the future and other unpleasant thoughts that cause nightmares and troubled sleeping patterns.

To ease the transition, the parents should talk openly to the child about the issue. They should make sure that the child understands that it is not their fault. Be sure to maintain routines that assure the child of security. Both parents should spend time with the child on a pre-planned regular schedule.

From 6 years to 17 years

If the child was already used to a nurturing environment, a divorce may present a sense of abandonment on them.  Younger children may not clearly understand the concept of divorce, and may feel like they are being abandoned, rejected, and feel a sense of extreme loss. They worry about the separation and secretly want the parents to reconcile. Older children may blame one parent as the cause of the separation, and angrily express their blame. This is the age where children act out in school, become depressed and withdrawn and experience constant health issues.

The ease the transition, parents should work towards rebuilding their security and self-esteem. It is important that the parents have a conversation with the child to understand what is on their mind. It is important to reassure the child of their importance. The parents should work towards destroying the blame game, assure the child of their love and work on restoring security and safety.

Side Note

Children of school going age are vulnerable. However, as part of helping the child cope with the new situation at home, the parents should encourage participation in extracurricular activities, events and other activities they enjoy. These enjoyable activities help rebuild self-esteem and reduce chances of withdrawal and depression.

How to Sort Out Finances after a Divorce

There are a lot of issues to sort out after a divorce. For starters, it is important to agree on who will be granted custody, how much will be required to cover the costs of raising the family and how both parties will handle it.

In some instances, the divorce is clean and the parents agree on a simple co-parenting plan. The parent who does not have custody agrees to give the other parent a specific amount of money periodically to help settle the bills.

In most instances, however, the divorce is bitter and both parents cannot seem to agree on anything. In such circumstances, there is a need to involve Child Support Agency.

Child Maintenance Options after a Divorce

Legally, both parents are responsible for all the costs associated with bringing up their children. After a divorce, one parent is granted custody of the children. The parent who has no custody still has parental rights and obligation, and is required to make periodic payments to the parents with custody. This periodic payment is called child maintenance or child support.

Child maintenance is a regular financial payment used to take care of the children’s daily living costs. Both parents can agree on how to share the responsibilities. There are provisions to allow the parties to come to an agreement, or have the government assist. If the situation is complicated and you cannot seem to agree on much, this is where Child Services Agency comes in.

What Are the Available Child Maintenance Options?

Child maintenance options are;

  • Family based where both parties come to an agreement
  • Government scheme where both parties agree to let the government make the rules of engagement
  • Court order where the court determines the rules of engagement

Let us look at each of these options briefly.

Family Based Child Maintenance Plan

This is usually the easiest and fastest way to plan for child maintenance. This option requires that both parties come to an agreement on how to sort out parental responsibilities. This arrangement is based on a gentleman’s agreement; it is not legally binding. As such, if an agreement is not honored, you cannot go to court to enforce it.

However, if for some reason the family based arrangement fails to work, you can still consider other legally enforceable child maintenance options.

There are cases where a family based agreement cannot work, especially if there has been a history of abuse or domestic violence. In other cases, the parents cannot agree on the amount that should be paid as child support. In such cases, a government child maintenance scheme is more appropriate.

Government-Arranged Child Maintenance Schemes

The government can step in to help divorcing parties sort out their child support issues. There are three government schemes from which you can make a choice. Remember that these rules are known as statutory schemes and are legally binding.

  • The 2012 Scheme

The 2012 Child maintenance scheme is a statutory scheme run by Child Maintenance Service. It is open to all new applicants who cannot come to agreement. Applicants from Wales, England and Scotland will be required to cover the application fees for this scheme.

  • The 2003 and 1993 Schemes

These statutory schemes are run by Child Support Agency. The 1993 scheme handles all cases that were opened before 3rd of March 2003. The 2003 scheme handles all cases that were opened on or after 3rd of March 2003.

It is important to note that Child Support Agency has since stopped taking new applications into these two schemes. However, the agency still manages all the cases opened under these schemes, and will continue to do so till the schemes are phased out.

Court-Arranged Child Maintenance Scheme

All new applications go through the Child Maintenance Services. However, a court is authorized to deal with a new application under these special circumstances.

  • Your co-parent lives outside the UK so you cannot apply to the CMS
  • There are extra childcare expenses not considered by CMS such as the extra costs associated with raising a child with a disability
  • The ex-spouse has a high income and can pay more child maintenance than the CMS can direct

Once a court order is issued, the ex-spouse is required pay as stipulated. The order is enforceable by law should the ex-partner fail to honor the arrangement.

You may need more information about the application process if;

  • You have been married
  • You have been living together
  • You have been in a civil partnership

Divorce and child maintenance arrangements are often a complicated matter. As such, you will need as much information about the legal processes so as to know what your options are. You can call Child Services Agency on 0843 455 0070 today to know more about the options available to you.

How to Contact Child Services Agency

Child Services Agency lines are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm, and Saturday from 9am to 4pm, excluding holidays.

You are free to ask any question regarding child maintenance options available, the legal process of applying for child support as well as any other financial assistance you can get to assist with raising a child. All the information you give will be held in utmost confidentiality.

Need help? Here are the Child Support Agency numbers you can call.

Description CSA Number to Call
CSA number for new applications 0843 455 0030
CSA number for existing applications 0843 455 0070
CSA National helpline 0843 455 0070
CSA Falkirk (Scotland & North East England) 0843 455 0071
CSA Belfast (East England) 0843 455 0072
CSA Birkenhead (North West England) 0843 455 0073
CSA Dudley (The Midlands) 0843 455 0074
CSA Hastings (South East England) 0843 455 0075
CSA Plymouth (South West England) 0843 455 0076

If you are placing a new application, call CSA number 0843 455 0030 and if you are following up on an existing claim, call CSA number 0843 455 0070

How Does Child Maintenance Affect Eligibility for Other Benefits

  • If You Get Child Support

Child maintenance is not seen as income when determining means tested benefits such as Housing Allowance, Job Seekers Allowance or Income Support. Therefore, the amount you can get as benefits will not be dependent on whether or not you get child maintenance.

  • If You Pay Child Support

Any parent who should pay child support and gets government benefits is required to pay £7 every week when on a CSA or CMS aided arrangement. If on a family-based arrangement, both parents can agree on the amount payable from the benefits.

Does Child Maintenance Affect Your Taxes

It is important to note that you are not required to pay tax on any child maintenance services you get.

It is equally important to note that child maintenance payments are not eligible for tax relief. However, if you are required to pay child support and were born before 6th April 1935, you may be entitled to certain tax relief packages based on the circumstances.

Have you just signed the divorce papers? Are you wondering what your next step should be? Call Child Support Agency on 0843 455 0070 today and get a head-start.