Child maintenance - How Much Should You Expect To Pay
- Family Law
Child maintenance is a big topic and one which my colleagues and I are asked to advise on regularly. As such, I have prepared this short blog on what child maintenance is, when it may be paid and how decisions are made about it.
How is child maintenance calculated?
You can arrange child maintenance payments with the other parent through a ‘family-based arrangement’. Alternatively, it can be worked out for you by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) if an agreement cannot be reached.
Theoretically, any payment can be agreed for child maintenance between the parents. That said, it is generally best to try to agree a payment which is similar or identical to the child maintenance which would be due under the calculations of the CMS. The reason being that either parent can seek a review of the maintenance payable from the CMS if they believe too much or too little is being paid. This may put either or both parties in a difficult position if the CMS changes the sum due on review because of the uncertainty caused.
The CMS online calculator can be found at https://www.gov.uk/calculate-child-maintenance.#
How much child maintenance is payable?
The level of child maintenance is set by statute and it will be payable if one parent is responsible for more of the day-to-day care of the children than the other. The parent paying child maintenance is often referred to as the non-resident parent since they are the one with less of the day-to-day care of the children.
As the non-resident parent, the child maintenance payments will be calculated by applying specific rates to your gross weekly income (i.e. before tax and national insurance payments are deducted). These rates are as follows:
- Basic rate
- Basic rate plus
- Reduced rate
- Flat rate
- Nil rate
If the paying parent’s gross weekly pay is between £200 and £800, then the percentage of their income that they will pay will depend upon how many children you are responsible for. The levels being as follows:
- 12% of their gross weekly income for one child
- 16% of their gross weekly income for two children
- 19% of their gross weekly income for three or more children
Basic plus rate
If the paying parent’s gross weekly income exceeds £800, then any sum earned over this will having the following percentages applied to it to achieve the child maintenance calculation:
- 9% of their gross weekly income for one child
- 12% of their gross weekly income for two children
- 15% of their gross weekly income for three or more children
The above rates will be applied to any of the paying parent’s gross weekly income over £800 and up to a limit of £3,000.
If the paying parent’s gross weekly income is more than £100 but less than £200, then the child maintenance payable will be at the reduced rate. The paying parent will pay the following on their gross weekly income of up to £200 per week:
- £7 PLUS 17% of any gross weekly income between £100 to £200 for one child
- £7 PLUS 25% of any gross weekly income between £100 to £200 for one child
- £7 PLUS 31% of any gross weekly income between £100 to £200 for one child
A flat rate of £7 will be paid by the paying parent if their gross weekly income is below £100, or if they are on benefits.
You do not need to pay any child maintenance if your gross weekly income is less than £7.
Deductions from the child maintenance due
How the time spent with the children by the paying parent affects child maintenance
The amount of time the paying parent spends with the children will reduce the payments they have to make for child maintenance. The reductions are based on them having the children overnight for a certain number of nights over the course of a year. If they spend time with their children overnight, then the child maintenance is reduced by 1/7th once they are spending at least 1 night per week (averaged out across an entire year) with the child or children concerned. The reductions being as follows:
- 52 – 103 nights: child maintenance is reduced by 1/7th
- 104 – 155 nights: child maintenance is reduced by 2/7th
- 156 – 174 nights: child maintenance is reduced by 3/7th
- 175+ nights: ½ (50 per cent) plus an extra £7 a week cut for each child in this band
If the paying parent is also supporting children from another relationship
If the paying parent is also paying child maintenance to any other parents, then the child maintenance payable will reduce the amount of their weekly income as follows:
- One other child, their considered income will be reduced by 11%
- Two other children, their considered income will be reduced by 14%
- Three or more children, their considered income will be reduced by 16%
Examples of child maintenance calculations
Ted is the father to 2 children with Sally. Ted earns £52,000 per annum gross giving him a gross weekly income of £1,000. He spends between 52 to 103 nights per annum with the 2 children and does not pay child maintenance to any other children.
Ted’s child maintenance is therefore calculated as follows:
£800 x 16% (basic rate) = £128 per week.
£200 x 12% (basic rate plus) = £24 per week.
Total = £152 per week or £658.67 per month.
Reduction of 1/7th for time with children = -(£21.71 per week or £94.09 per month)
Child maintenance payable = £130.29 per week or £564.58 per month
George is the father to 1 child with Laura. George earns £180 per week gross. He spends between 52 to 103 nights per annum with his child and pays child maintenance for one other child to another former partner.
George’s child maintenance is therefore calculated as follows:
£180 reduced by 11% for one other child £160.20 per week to pay child maintenance
£160.20 x 17% (reduced rate) PLUS £7 = £34.23 per week.
Total = £34.23 per week or £148.33 per month.
Reduction of 1/7th for time with children = -(£4.89 per week or £21.19 per month)
Child maintenance payable = £29.34 per week or £127.14 per month
Maximum child maintenance and top up payments
If the parent paying child maintenance earns over £156,000 per annum gross, then the CMS will not have jurisdiction (i.e. the authority) to request child maintenance payments for any of their income over this sum – even if it is substantially more than this amount. Instead, the Court would have jurisdiction to consider top-up maintenance orders under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 if the parents are unmarried or under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1972 if the parties are married and a financial order has not yet been made as part of their divorce (the same would also apply for Civil Partners).
What should I do next?
The issue of child maintenance is a complex area of the law and one where you may benefit from legal advice. If you would like to discuss potential or existing child maintenance claims, then we at Summit Law would be happy to talk through your options with you. The family team at Summit Law have experience and expertise in advising on, and dealing with, these cases involving child maintenance. We will be able to help and support you by providing friendly and bespoke advice tailored to you, your case, and your needs.
Our family team can be contacted on 020 7467 3980 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.