Who Pays Child Maintenance?

13 Dec 2021 | Lisa Pepper
father and son

Child maintenance is regular, reliable financial support that helps towards a child’s everyday living costs.

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS)  usually follows 6 steps when working out the weekly amount of child maintenance.

The ‘paying parent’ is the parent the child doesn’t live with. The parent or carer they live with is the ‘receiving parent’.  Note that when care of the children is shared, the CMS look at the number of overnights, and if the difference is only one night per week, the parent with 3 nights will have to pay the parent with the 4 nights.

Once it’s been decided, the child maintenance will be reviewed annually, and any changes in circumstances are taken into account.  An earlier review can be requested for example if the paying parent loses their job.

How is Child Maintenance Calculated?

1 – Calculating Income

The paying parent’s yearly gross income is ascertained from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Benefits (tax credits, student grants and loans) do not count as income.  Bear in mind our blog about when capital can be counted as income.

2 – Matters affecting income

The Child Maintenance Service will look at things that may alter the gross amount of income, such as pension payments or other children being supported. They then convert the yearly gross income into a weekly figure.

3 – Child maintenance rates

One of 5 rates will be applied, based on the gross weekly income of the paying parent:

Gross weekly income Rate
Below £7 Nil
£7 to £100, or if the paying parent gets
benefits
Flat
£100.01 to £199.99 Reduced
£200 to 800 Basic
£800.01 to £3,000 Basic Plus

If the paying parent earns more than £3,000 gross per week, then it is a maximum assessment.  The maximum assessment for one child is a payment of just under £300 pw (£294) or £1,293 pm.

The CSA does not have jurisdiction to decide the figure beyond the maximum assessment amount and the Court will decide the level of child maintenance (a ‘top up’), if the parents cannot agree a figure.

4 – Other children

The number of children the paying parent has to pay child maintenance for will also have to be taken into account. This is including other children living with them and any arrangements that have been made directly with an ex-partner.

5 – Weekly amount of maintenance for Children

Basic rate and Basic Plus rate

Basic rate

The Basic rate of child maintenance applies if a paying parent’s gross weekly income after Step 2 is £200 or more, up to £800.

If the Basic rate applies, the amount of child maintenance depends on the number of children the paying parent must pay child maintenance for at Step 4:

  • If a paying parent has to pay child maintenance for one child, they must pay 12 percent of their gross weekly income.
  • If a paying parent has to pay child maintenance for two children, they must pay 16 percent of their gross weekly income.
  • If a paying parent has to pay child maintenance for three or more children, they must pay 19 percent of their gross weekly income.

Basic Plus rate

If a paying parent’s gross weekly income after Step 2 is more than £800 up to a limit of £3,000, the Basic Plus rate of child maintenance applies as well as the Basic rate.

If the Basic Plus rate applies, the amount of child maintenance depends on the number of children the paying parent must pay child maintenance for at Step 4:

Number of children needing child maintenance Percentage applied to the first £800 of gross weekly income Percentage applied to gross weekly income over £800 (up to a limit of £3,000)
1 12% 9%
2 16% 12%
3 or more 19% 15%

 6 – Shared care arrangements

This takes into consideration circumstances when a paying parent’s child stays overnight with them.

In these cases, there will be a deduction made to the weekly child maintenance amount based on the average number of ‘shared care’ nights a week.

More information can be found on www.gov.uk/child-maintenance

Osbornes Law are leading divorce lawyers in London. The firm is ranked in the legal directories and has been named as one of the best law firms in England since 2019. We have two offices based in Hampstead and Camden. The firm is also shortlisted as London Family Law Firm of the Year 2022 at the Family Law Awards.

Lisa Pepper is a partner in the family department specialising in Divorce, finance and children matters. She is also an accredited mediator. Lisa specialises in helping parties with considerable international assets. She is ranked as a leading lawyer in Chambers UK, Chambers HNW, The Legal 500, Spears HNW directory and Tatler Advisory.

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