What is child maintenance? Child maintenance is financial support that helps towards your child's everyday living expenses and is paid on a regular basis. The parent to pay the child maintenance is the non-resident parent i.e. the one who does not live with the child or have day-to-day care for the child, to the parent that the child lives with (the resident parent). In some cases, this may not be a parent, such as a grandparent or guardian with full care.
Why pay maintenance?
Paying maintenance for your child is extremely important. The person with full care of your child will no doubt be doing their best, however, the extra money that you pay can help to give your children a more stable and better quality upbringing. Maintenance payments will generally go towards food, clothes, school trips, books, toys and games, toiletries, medicines, childcare, activities, etc.
How much to pay?
The amount of child maintenance that you have to pay as a non-resident parent depends on a number of factors such as income, the number of children living with you and the number of children you have, whether you are the resident parent, are in receipt of benefits and whether or not the child also stays with you sometimes. We give a break down of the general rates and payments below.
Types of maintenance arrangement
There are two main ways to arrange child maintenance:
Child Support Agency Maintenance
If you are on good terms with the resident parent, it may be that you can come to some arrangement about how much you pay and how often.
The alternative and most popular option is to pay maintenance through the Child Support Agency (CSA).
How is child maintenance calculated?
The CSA calculates maintenance, whilst taking into account several factors. The CSA calculates payment by applying one of four rates to the non-resident parent's net weekly income. This income includes earnings from employment, pensions and some benefits after paying National Insurance, income tax and any contributions to a pension scheme.
The four rates applied to the non-resident parent's net weekly income include:
If a non-resident parent earns £200 or more per week, the CSA calculates the amount of maintenance they should pay as a percentage of their net weekly income. For one child, this is 15%, for two children this is 20% and for three or more children it is 25%.
If the non-resident parent earns between £100 and £200 per week, they will pay a flat rate plus a percentage of their weekly income. This will vary depending on how many children they have that require maintenance. The flat rate is £5 per week, plus 25% of their income for one child, 35% of their income for two children, and 45% of their income for three or more children.
If the non-resident parent earns between £5 and £100 per week, they will pay a flat rate of £5 per week. This includes people who are on state benefits, Job Seeker's Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Bereavement Allowance, Income Support, State Pensions and certain other benefits. This rate will be the same regardless of how many children they have. In the case of state benefits, the child maintenance is usually deducted at source.
If the non-resident parent earns less than £5 per week, for example if they are a full time student, are under 16 years old, in prison, 18 or under in further education (no higher than A level) or are in a care home, the nil rate will apply. This means that they will not be required to pay anything.
What if a parent has other children?
If a resident parent has children with several different non-resident parents, the CSA will make these calculations separately. For example, if a woman has two children by one father and one by another man, the men will only pay for their own children respectively. Similarly, if a non-resident parent is paying money to several children in different households, the CSA will generally divide the money equally between the children.
If the non-resident parent has some CSA arrangements and some Family-Arrangement maintenance then unfortunately, the CSA cannot take into account the Family-Arrangement maintenance paid. It can, however, take into account any court orders in relation to maintenance.
What happens if the child stays overnight with both parents?
If the child stays overnight with the non-resident parent at least 52 nights a year i.e. on average at least one night a week then both parents have "shared care".
In the case of the basic and reduced rates, the amount of child maintenance that the non-resident parent has to pay is reduced in equal proportion to time the child stays with them. For example, if a parent is to pay £35 per week in maintenance but the child stays with the resident parent for 2 out of 7 nights per week, that £35 will be split into sevenths i.e. £35 divided by 7 nights x 5 nights that the child lives with the resident parent = £25. This is in addition to the flat rate of £5 which is always to be paid.
For the flat and nil rates, the amount to pay is nil.
What happens if the parent with care claims benefits?
Previously if the resident parent was claiming child maintenance, they were not always able to claim in full for benefits . However, since April 2010, benefits will not be affected by the amount of child maintenance received.
What happens if the non-resident parent is self-employed?
Calculations are made in the same way for self-employed non-resident parents as those who are employed. The CSA does have to calculate the earnings differently by working out the average weekly earnings for the past tax year. If this cannot be done, i.e. the business has not been up and running for a full year, then the CSA will use the gross income of the business to date. Reasonable business expenses and VAT are then deducted to obtain a weekly income figure, which is used to determine which rate of child maintenance should be paid.
What happens if the non-resident parent refuses to give their financial information to the CSA?
If a non-resident parent refuses to give information and it cannot be obtained from other sources, then a "default maintenance decision" is applied. This is a default rate which is as follows:
£30 a week for one child
£40 a week for 2 children
£50 a week for 3 or more children
The non-resident parent must pay from the date that the default maintenance decision was applied.
The CSA can also consider other elements before making a determination on maintenance payments. These can include fees for boarding school, special expenses that the non-resident parent pays for disabled children who live with them, mortgage payments for a property in which the parent with care and the child/children live (as long as the non-resident no longer has a legal interest in it) or loan payments for a loan taken out for the family's benefit while the non-resident parent was still living with the parent with care and the child/children.
Challenging the Decision
If you are not paying child support or have an application against you can find out if you have to pay child support. It is possible to ask the CSA to review a decision on maintenance payments.
Do you have to notify the CSA of changes to your circumstances?
The answer is yes. If you have a change in circumstances, you must notify the CSA immediately. If you are paying less than you should be then your child could suffer. Additionally, if the CSA finds out, you may have to make up for what you should have been paying. More positively, you could be paying too much and the figure needs to be lowered. You must also keep the CSA informed of any change of address.
I need help. I am an Asian married to a British. We live in the middle east. Which law to follow on child custody?
lee - 25-Jun-15 @ 9:11 PM
@Lammi - I have included a leaflet via the CSA regarding the annual review and what is taken into consideration here. I have also included a link to the CMS calculator here which allows you to work out how much you should be paying. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 25-Jun-15 @ 2:46 PM
I have a 15 year old daughter, I have paid for her maintenance since her birth, by arrangement and then through the CSA. I have maintained contact and have tried to be a part of her life but this is becoming strained as her mother is stressed and I fell like I am constantly under threat of a review of my monthly payments. I earn approx £1,600 per month and pay CSA £200 per month which is always paid on time and am curious as to what any review of my payments may be. I have no other dependants , have an average mortgage, pay into a pension etc.
Lammi - 23-Jun-15 @ 9:59 PM
I assume your wages are £17500 gross? Then you will be paying roughly £173 per month based on seeing your daughter and her staying over average 1 night per week. This is on the assumption that she is still in full time education.
Sailormonkey - 18-Jun-15 @ 2:48 PM
My partner has his children (sleep over) 6 days out of two weeks, he pays for their schools meals, activities, other school fees, activities with their mother (camping) clothes, christmas/birthday presents, etc, we pay for the same things when they are with us.
They were are cohabiting couple and have parted on bad terms, she has asked for a monthly maintenance fee so that 'she can live, and that the children don't lose out, she only works two days a week and the boys are both in full time school, she refuses to get more work.
She is about to move into a large house with her boyfriend and is still expecting this monthly allowance from my partner, he currently does not give her anything as he pays for all these things for the children, he also is still paying for the house they own together that he does not live in or her. She is also asking for money for rent that she has paid since she has moved out!
What are my partners rights with these extortionate demands?
nutsandgrapes - 11-Jun-15 @ 5:43 PM
Hello my ex has been paying £200 amonthfor my 2 children and has now asked if he can use that money to take them clothes shopping I tried to explain it's not all for clothes shopping as other bits are needed thro the month he now saying well half of it then isn't all that money ment to come to me for kids and if he won't to buy them clothes it comes out of his own pocket many thanks for reading
Missy - 10-Jun-15 @ 10:39 AM
@boo - if you are claiming maintenance through a family-based arrangement, then the figure is negiotiable. However, you don't say whether he has given a reason for the drop. If you think it unfair, then you could go through the CMS in order to make his payment official, but this does cost and it may end up that he is paying less once the costs are factored in. However, you can contact the CMS via the link here if you wish to speak to someone about this further. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 4-Jun-15 @ 10:33 AM
@Kelly 22x - I have included the 'how we work out child maintenance payments' leaflet here which explains further how child maintenance is distributed between separated families. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 4-Jun-15 @ 10:19 AM
@johnnyboy - you can check through the Child Maintenance Options calculator via the link here how much you should be paying. You can apply for access through the courts should you want regular contact with your child. If granted, this would make the contact official and if your ex denied access once a court order was issued, then she would be in breach. In addition, if you do pay maintenance under this obviously very precarious family-based agreement, then make sure you are not paying cash, as should you ever need to prove it through the courts then you wouldn't be able to. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 3-Jun-15 @ 12:05 PM
@kim - if you think you have been treated unfairly by the CSA/CMS, you can complain via the link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 2-Jun-15 @ 2:28 PM
Hi. My sons dad has been paying me £45 a week maintenance for the last 4 years, but now he wants to drop it by £10 a week. I offered to meet him half way and except £40 a week but he has refused. He has two other sons but are both over 16 although one is in university. He is now living with another women who has a 16 year old. Where do I stand on trying to secure maintenance payments from him?
boo - 2-Jun-15 @ 9:42 AM
Hi if the non resident parent (the dad) has 2 children living with him and is living with the mother of those children , but has another child with another woman elsewhere . Does it impact how much maintenance the other woman gets for the 1 child because the non resident parent already has 2 children at
Home with him to care for ?
Kelly22x - 2-Jun-15 @ 6:55 AM
My ex wont pay maintanance even though hes been self employed for 7 years.csa wont help as they say theres no.proof hes worked.he came into quite a bit of money from his nan passing yet still stays on dole and has rent council tax payed for him.how does this work
lolly - 1-Jun-15 @ 5:48 PM
I earn £17,500a year how much should I be payingfor my 17 year old daughter.
ade - 1-Jun-15 @ 3:19 PM
i have one child with an ex partner. Been apart for a long time I was paying her cash weekly for my child. I have finally moved on and settled after a period of time. She got wind of that, very jealous stopped any contact with my child. Still expecting payment I complied and soon realised no money was going to my child. I stopped payments to her, unless I could have access.I would continue payments. She never complied. Of late after 10 months she has started making contact and bartering with my child asking for money. I have started paying again yet she is still making excuses and I have had my child for ten minutes in 10 months. Other than going through courts. What is the amount I should pay officially.
johnnyboy - 31-May-15 @ 6:11 PM
I have a 4yr old child and separated from the father . I dont get any child support or any sort help or financial assistance from my ex . I tried to apply for child support through the CSA but havent been able to get much help from them . My ex is in fulltime employment working more 20hrs per week and is also a student at university . When the CSA got intouch with him to try and get child support from him he told them he could pay child support because he cant afford it since he is a student but did not disclose that he still works fulltime . He hasnt been supporting the child in any way and has managed to get away with it for so long . I've tried getting intouch with CSA several times and even informed them that he does work . All they say is they'll investigate but never get back to me with any feedback . Please help with any advice . I don't know what to do anymore .
kim - 29-May-15 @ 9:42 PM
@Fazeress - it depends what he earns, or says he earns (if he's self-employed), as £31 does seem rather low. She would need to get on to the CMS, or she can complain or appeal against the decision if she thinks she thinks the decision is wrong.
MattK - 28-May-15 @ 10:19 AM
Hi, my daughter and partner split. They have two children and my daughter and he both work. My daughter pays the mortgage on the house and bills including nursery fees as child care,but it would appear that 'dad' is only liable for £31.00 per week as he has them for 2/3 nights a week. He was paying more through their own private arrangement but he's now refusing to pay and with £31 per week she won't be able to afford to pay the bills. Is this taken in account with payments? Thank you
Fazeress - 25-May-15 @ 11:50 AM
My ex has residency but I have my daughter in all school holidays as I live to far for weekly visits I cover all her needs when she is with me do I still have to pay child maintenance I only work part time also
mel - 22-May-15 @ 4:33 PM
@Trojan - When working out net income, the CSA exclude the income of any partner living with the parent. But, they may take into account the contributions he makes to the household income, or his protected income, which might affect how much he has to pay.
Jenna - 14-May-15 @ 12:37 PM
Hi there, my ex husband currently pays maintenance for our 2 children. If he moves in with his girlfriend (who has 2 children herself , no relation to him. She works full time and receives a small amount of maintenance from her ex for her ownchildren) would this then affect how much maintenance he pays me?
Trojan - 12-May-15 @ 5:19 PM
@Tanky - you can see how much you should be paying via the Child Maintenance Options calculator here. Yes, your maintenance payments would be calculated solely upon your income and as a percentage of it. You can also ring up and speak to an advisor should you have any further questions to ask. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 12-May-15 @ 12:40 PM
Hi,after I pay my bills including child maintenance then I am left with £40 a week to live on. With this I have to get food petrol etc. Myself and my ex-wife came to an agreement over the amount of money I would pay. But would the CSA take in to account my overall financial situation? Also for example during the Easter holidays I had my children for two weeks which meant an increase in petrol and food costs.Should the figure payed be adjusted to reflect this
Tanky - 10-May-15 @ 8:59 AM
My child support payments are ridiculously high nearly 50% of my earnings...is this legal! They leave me with no money every month can't even afford get a birthday or Xmas presents...my child doesn't speak to me anymore because she thinks I don't love her...I've tried explaining that CSA takes so much money that I can barely feed myself!! Thanks CSA
Dean - 1-May-15 @ 11:05 PM
I have one son whose biological father is currently in Australia for a 18 month work visa. Can csa still collect from him as his payments are irregular and low. I am aware he is on a good salary over there.
jessie - 1-May-15 @ 10:02 AM
@Rach - I have included a link to our partner article Shared Care of a Child here which should answer your question. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 30-Apr-15 @ 10:30 AM
Hi, my daughters father is currently not working and on jsa but has been employed on and off over the past year. I have just submitted a claim to csa and was wondering If I will only receive the flat rate of £5 per week or If they take into account his income when he was working over the year when calculating what he should pay? Thanks
jenny - 29-Apr-15 @ 2:13 PM
What if I keep my kids 2 wks out of a month every month is it right for my cs to still be extremly high
ken - 27-Apr-15 @ 11:48 PM
Me and my husband have just won shared care of this children.
We do all the travelling 2 hour return journey.
We have the children 180 days a year and she has then 185 days a year.
So do we have to pay her child maintance?
Rach - 27-Apr-15 @ 2:08 PM
Can the agency collect on behalf of a PWC who lives in Dubai whilst the NRP lives in the UK?