Child maintenance if a parent lives abroad

There are several ways to arrange child maintenance if a paying parent lives abroad. The best option for you may depend on which country the paying parent lives in.

Making a family-based arrangement

You can make a family-based arrangement with your child’s other parent, even if you live in different countries.

Many parents find that this is the quickest and easiest way to arrange child maintenance, as it doesn’t involve anyone else and it can be adapted to your individual circumstances.

Using the UK’s statutory child maintenance services

If the paying parent lives abroad, you may still be able to use one of the UK’s statutory child maintenance services (the Child Support Agency or the Child Maintenance Service), if the paying parent:

  • is a civil servant
  • works in Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service
  • is a member of the Armed Forces
  • works for a company that is based and registered in the UK
  • is working on secondment for a ‘prescribed body’, like a regional health authority or local authority

If the paying parent lives in Australia

If the paying parent lives in Australia, the Australian CSA may be able to help with child maintenance.

For more information visit the Australian CSA website

If the paying parent lives in the European Union

Since 18 June 2011, countries in the European Union (EU) must enforce:

  • court orders for child maintenance
  • decisions made by a UK statutory child maintenance service (the Child Support Agency or the Child Maintenance Service)

This means that formal legal arrangements (for example court orders) for regular child maintenance payments can be enforced if any of the following apply:

  • the paying parent now lives in the EU and the receiving parent lives in the UK
  • the receiving parent now lives in the EU and the paying parent lives in the UK
  • the paying parent has valuable assets located in the EU - for example, property cars or money

EU countries can only enforce the payment of child maintenance arrears if both of the following apply:

  • The arrears are from a Child Support Agency or a Child Maintenance Service case
  • the arrears are from when both parents lived in the UK

If the paying parent lives outside Australia and the EU

Parents with a court order for child maintenance can try and get this enforced in a foreign country. If you want to do this, you will need to contact the court where the order was made.

Parents can also ask foreign authorities to create an order for child maintenance on their behalf. If you want to do this you will need to contact your local magistrates’ court (or sheriff court in Scotland).

Find your local court using one of the following links.

Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders

The UK has international agreements with more than 100 countries about child maintenance. These arrangements are called Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders (REMO).

If a REMO is put in place, it means that:

  • child maintenance orders made by UK courts can be registered and enforced in other countries
  • child maintenance orders made in foreign countries can be registered and enforced by UK courts

To find out more about REMOs and how to put one in place, visit www.gov.uk.