LEGAL COMMENT: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt dispute child support as divorce rumbles on

As Hollywood reflects on high profile child support dispute - what is the view in the UK?

This week there have been reports that actor, Brad Pitt, has failed to pay what Americans term “meaningful child support” for their six children. Mother, Angelina Jolie, claims that Pitt has failed to honour the informal agreement they reached in September 2016 following separation and is seeking back pay. It is thought Jolie’s lawyer will apply for a Request For Order for the establishment of a retroactive child support order. But how do things differ this side of the pond?

Linzi Perriman, Solicitor in the Family team at Weightmans comments:

“In the UK, parents can reach informal agreements like Pitt and Jolie which are known as ‘family-based arrangements’. This allows parents to keep their affairs private and there are no fixed rules, so it offers a greater deal of flexibility which can be tailored to a family’s situation.
“If this type of arrangement isn’t for you then you can apply for maintenance via the Government’s statutory child maintenance service, which works out how much should be paid based on a standard formula and they can, if required, collect the payments from one parent and pass them to the other. Alternatively, if a couple is in the process of getting divorced and finalising financial matters, child maintenance can be referenced within any consent order submitted to court.
“However, in the UK if you have a family-based arrangement and the other parent fails to pay the amount agreed, you cannot recover arrears in the way that Jolie is hoping to. If you are within the government’s statutory child maintenance service and a payment is missed, the service will contact the other parent to establish why payments have stopped and arrange for them to pay what is owed, if necessary by utilising their strong enforcement powers.
“If you currently have a family-based arrangement and the other parent stops paying you maintenance, you would be advised to try and speak to them about it, as there might be a reason for it, such as them having lost a job. If they refuse to discuss it with you or provide reasons for the non-payment, do not delay in making an application to the child maintenance service. Every family situation is different and therefore it is important to seek proper legal advice if you’re unsure of your rights.”

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