Q: How much should I be paying as child maintenance to my ex-wife?
The issues I have are quite straightforward. How much should a man be giving as maintenance to his wife/ex-wife for the children because the amount calculated by the Child Support Agency is ridiculous?
Also, how can it be justified if the father has to pay such a large amount while the mother is on full benefits and that is not taken into consideration?
Islam always bases many of these transactions upon accountability. For example, there should be templates to say that we hold ourselves accountable for the decisions we have made. It would be very reassuring for me as a father to have a signed template from the mother declaring that the money given to her will not be abused and spent upon the children and if spent wrongly, she will hold herself accountable in the Court of Allah.
The same can be said of Debts owed and also Private Agreements made and also the fact that the Will Template produced by you is an excellent example of how the legal and Islamic side can be taken care of at one time.
الجواب حامدًا و مصليًا و منه الصدق و الصواب
A: The responsibility to provide food, raiment and lodging of a child without means, whether male or female, rests solely upon the father. If the child has means i.e., the child owns property, whether goods and chattels or whether real property, then the maintenance of the child will devolve first upon the child’s own property. The father may require that such property is sold to meet the maintenance requirements of the child before he is obliged to meet the same.
In the case of a male child this obligation lasts until the child is able to provide for his own needs through his own labour even if he is still a legal minor. The father can require that such child is set to work or is taught a trade that will enable him to earn his own living. If the child cannot find employment, or is ably engaged in ‘worthwhile’ study, or is unable to earn because of a disability etc the father remains obliged to provide maintenance for the child even if he has reached the age of legal majority.
In the case of a female child, this obligation lasts by default until she is married after which it devolves upon her husband. However, if before marriage, she is able to earn a living in a safe and secure manner and without breaking the rules of Sharīʿah, such as rules related to hijāb and seclusion with a non-mahram, then the father can require her to earn her own living. However, the father will have to meet any shortfall, if any, from what is deemed as sufficient for her maintenance.
When the father is required to meet the maintenance needs of his child the amount of maintenance payable is based on what is sufficient to meet the basic food, raiment and lodging needs of the child. It is not based on the ability of the father to pay and nor is it commensurate with his affluence. i.e., if the father is of little means he must provide what is sufficient to meet the basic food, raiment and lodging needs of the child, even if this requires that he must take out a loan to do so. Equally, if the father is affluent he is still only required to provide what is sufficient to meet the basic food, raiment and lodging needs of the child. He is not required to provide more than the basic level of need. This is in contrast to the maintenance that is provided to a wife which is based on the social norms and financial position of both husband and wife.
A mother can validly come to an agreement with the father as to the sum due for the maintenance of their child. Should the sum agreed upon exceed that which the child requires, the surplus need not be returned to the father, but if the sum agreed upon is insufficient, the father must raise it to the necessary amount.
For the purposes of this question, there are principally three types of social security benefits that may be received.
· Benefits that are received by an adult in their individual capacity. e.g., Job Seekers Allowance.
· Benefits that are awarded to a parent/carer even if they are because of the child. e.g., Child Benefit, Child Tax Credits.
· Benefits that awarded to the child, even if they are deposited in to the account of the parent/carer. e.g., Disability Living Allowance.
In light of the above, when a father is required by Sharīʿah to provide maintenance for his child, this is only to meet the basic food, raiment and lodging needs of the child. The child does not have any claim beyond this basic level. Such maintenance is not ‘means tested’, i.e., is not based on the ability of the father to pay and nor is it commensurate with his affluence.
If the child receives a social security benefit of which he/she is made owner, such as Disability Living Allowance, or has other goods and chattels or real property, then the maintenance obligation will devolve upon such benefit and property before the father.
If the mother is in receipt of Child Benefit, Child Tax Credits, Job Seekers Allowance or any other benefit of which the mother is made owner, this will not diminish the father’s obligation to provide maintenance where applicable.
If the mother and father come to an agreement as to the sum due for the maintenance of their child and the sum agreed upon exceeds that which the child requires, the surplus need not be returned to the father, but if the sum agreed upon is insufficient, the father must raise it to the necessary amount.
For a detailed breakdown of the sources used, please see the Child Maintenance research paper on the Al Qalam website.