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 was married in India due to my partner being pregnant, we were based in UAE. We were both born in UK.Her parents are Indian.
We have two daughters together and have been separated for 5 years now, I have paid every month money to her in India ( children reside there).Now I wish to divorce she has asked more money for the children. Can you tell me what % of salary should I pay for maintenance.
Chef - 27-Mar-15 @ 1:41 PM
@Bigbill - if you are unhappy with the service from the CSA and you don't think this estimate is fair because you have been receiving JSA, then you can complain via the link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 20-Mar-15 @ 10:04 AM
Gets a phone call you owe us £2700 and then came out with it's actually £4780 for periods I was getting jsa and they wasn't taking any money out of it why has this happened and is it right ? And it's got to be payed back within 2 years
Bigbill - 17-Mar-15 @ 6:30 PM
@fathernorights - yes, you will have to still support your son wherever your ex lives. I am sorry to hear about the breach of court order, which you will have to take back to court. If you do not have the funds and it will go through a UK court, then you can self-litigate, see link Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 13-Mar-15 @ 12:23 PM
Hi, please advise, my ex now lives on barracks in Germany with my son, i have tried to contact with payments i have been ignored, she has denied contact and breached the contact order, now i will need my money for court, is it right i have to pay csa while she is living abroad?
fathernorights - 12-Mar-15 @ 12:40 AM
I am foreigner awaiting paternity results from a UK fling - I am willing to support financially only, with an amount deemed fair and just by an adjudicator.
I am focusing on rebuilding the damage I did to my wife and children.
Might I run into any issues upon returning to the UK next week?
MarBro - 11-Mar-15 @ 2:28 PM
@waybo - I don't see there is any reason why you can't still complain. Should you wish, you can use the complaints service via the link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 5-Mar-15 @ 10:11 AM
may be 10 years ago I had a very low pad job less than 200 a week after tax and most times before tax so I only payed 25 pound I have never missed a payment I have always used the csa I only had one child then lost my job and signed on than got new job told the csa and my payment restarted was only paying 25 again then about 2/3 years later they asked for about 3.500 pound in unpaid payments was no discussion thay just made me pay they had most of my wage left me with 103.29 a week for nearly a year I did some over time lots nearly killed me and still don't understand if it was a cock up on their half I don't think I should of had to be the one to suffer.
waybo - 5-Mar-15 @ 6:52 AM
@Augusta13 - The UK has Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders (REMO) with a number of other countries. Austrialia is on the list, therefore I have included a gov.uk link herewhich gives you extra information on how you can enforce a maintenence decision. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 27-Feb-15 @ 10:47 AM
Bit of advice, my sons father recently emigrated with his new family to Australia, I was informed by the csa that his payments had stopped and they closed our case here, he's not forwarded any new address or contact information. How do I go about into trying to track him down out there as he's not set up anything else
Augusta13 - 25-Feb-15 @ 12:01 PM
@Mug - if you are unhappy with the service you have recieved, then you can complain. You should have been put on a reduced rate when you were unemployed. Please see link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 23-Feb-15 @ 10:53 AM
Basically I'm having money taken out my wages. I lost my job informed csa and signed on 1month later I was given my job back and again I got in touch with then. 3 months later I got a letter stating they are taking 400£ a month I've spoke to them about this and nobody cares it's just not fair
Mug - 20-Feb-15 @ 2:05 PM
@Marc - yes, if you are a paying parent then the CMS can re-assess the amount of child maintenance you are paying if you have special expenses of more than £10 a week, or £15 if your income is £200 or more. It comes under 'other financial commitments', please see link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 18-Feb-15 @ 3:04 PM
@Ok Dad - it comes under the legislation of REMO which as stated by NI Direct is the process by which maintenance orders made by UK courts on behalf of UK residents which can be registered and enforced by the courts or other authorities in other countries. It also states that this is a reciprocal arrangement which means that foreign maintenance orders in favour of individuals abroad can be registered and enforced by UK courts against UK residents. For more information please see the NIDirect link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 18-Feb-15 @ 2:48 PM
Hi I have a 8 years old son who lives 80 miles away. I have been paying around £250 a month until 2 years ago to his mother, however as Im self employed, this as become irregular due to poor trading ect. I still see my son on average every 3 weeks, however his mother never drop him off, or half way. It's a 320 miles journey to pick him up on a Friday them drop him back on a sunday, costing around £80 in petrol. Could some of that be part of child maintenance? Also, his mum would send him down without spare clothes (I used to buy him loads of clothes/shoes ect before), so I had to ensure he has all he needs at my house, specially if we go away on holidays. Can this also be taken into account as child maintenance? Thanks
Marc - 17-Feb-15 @ 2:32 AM
I separated in 2008 and CSA has been in place since 2009. I have not seen my children since 2012. I have heard from a third party that they may have been removed from the UK and are now living in Spain. Am I still liable to pay CSA for UK non-resident children?
OK Dad - 16-Feb-15 @ 11:49 PM
@Joncross - only if she declares that you are paying the loan, and or you can prove that the loan went to her. Can't you agree the maintenance between you, and take into account this loan?
Danny - 13-Feb-15 @ 3:00 PM
Please could I have some assistance.
I separated from my sons mother about 5 to 6 years ago. We have always had a good relationship after this. A couple of years ago she asked me to guarantee a loan for her to buy a car and to help with Christmas for my son and her other children. I did this but my ex stopped making the payments which meant I had to. The loan had a huge interest rate on it so I decided to tak a personal loan out my self to pay this off. The payment for the new loan is 110 per month. I then agreed with my ex that instead of her paying the loan I would use her maintenance (100per month) I usually pay her to pay the loan that she agreed to
All was well until recently, where now I think she will want to claim maintenance through the csa.
Do you think the loan payment will be taken into consideration when calculating how much I have to pay? I have done some research which suggests it could be but suggests only if we were still together when the loan was took out.
I have my son every weekend fri to sun and occasionally sun night.
Joncross - 12-Feb-15 @ 11:26 PM
@Jonny - I have a few of suggestions here. Firstly, if you are unhappy by the way you have been treated by the CMS or CSA and think you are paying too much, you can appeal a child maintenance decision about payments via the link here. You are also allowed to ask for other factors to be taken into account when working out child maintenance. See link here. On another note and regarding court fees, if you are finding them too expensive, you can represent yourself with the help of a McKenzie friend. It is something a lot of fathers are doing with a good deal of success, see link here. You may also find our Separated Dads Facebook page helpful. Just before Xmas we had a posting about how to represent yourself. There were some very informative comments from those fathers who have been succesful in doing this. I hope this helps. There is support out there.
ChildSupportLaws - 9-Feb-15 @ 10:40 AM
I would just like some information as I don't agree with having to pay for csa when I have my daughter 3 nights a week and the mother has her 4 nights. The mother claims every benefit going including disability allowance for my daughter as she has a very mild case of cerybal paulsy. Baring in mind I don't live in the same town as my daughter so I have to travel every weekend there and back on a coach. I pay for everything my daughter needs when she is in my care. I don't get any help from any one for my daughter. I have recently just been through court for full custody of my daughter as the mother had her put on a child protection plan by social services because she is suffering emotional abuse she's still on the plan now.And I didn't win custody this world is one messed up place. That cost me thousands and I'm still paying the debt now. Why do I have to pay her money yes I work but I get 6.50 a hour and not even getting my full weeks work as Thers not enough.
Jonny - 8-Feb-15 @ 12:06 PM
@Laddox - I can't advise you on how much you pay as there will be other mitigating factors, but I can direct you to the Child Maintenance Options calculator link here . I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 4-Feb-15 @ 10:21 AM
Can you give me a rough idea regarding my current payments to my EX.
I earn 25.000 pounds per year and take home roughly 415 pounds per week. I pay 120 pounds per week to my EX she works full time and earns 27000 pounds per year, she receives child allowance and claims child tax credits, she is doing ok. I have my son at least one night a week and several afternoons every week, what would I expect to pay if I contacted the CSA and why. Thanks in advance Laddox
Laddox - 2-Feb-15 @ 6:07 PM
@CeilaParadza - our partner page How the CSA Works, link hereshould help.
ChildSupportLaws - 26-Jan-15 @ 3:02 PM
@DICK TURPIN'S NEMIS -The only thing I can suggest is that if you feel the situation is unfair then you can appeal against the decision (especially if your income differs from month to month) and I have included a link here . There is also a Child Maintenance Options calulator which helps you work it out yourself to see if you are paying too much, link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 26-Jan-15 @ 11:49 AM
My child's father is self employed thru a limited company and CSA has failed to trace him. He works in Belgium now but no one knows for whom.
Hod to l get a payment thru CSA
CeilaParadza - 24-Jan-15 @ 11:15 PM
This system is corrupt, grossly unfair and flawed. I have two children with one mother whom I was in a relationship with for thirteen years and have payed direct maintenance to but also spend a lot of time with my kids. I have another young daughter from a three year relationship with a bitter, vindictive, alcoholic mother who refuses me access even by telephone. Until six months ago I was paying her directly too before she cut me off from my little girl completely. Now she has filed for payment. The CSA and CMS took £430 in one week out of my wages the week before xmas for one six year old daughter. After lengthy conversations with the aforementioned parties informing them of my financial commitment to my other two kids, one of whom they already knew about, they said that I would now pay a combined 19% between the three children. In the meantime they have now written to the directly paid mother giving her details of my earnings (where is my data protection?), informed her that I must pay £145.44 every week until the end of 2015 (but my earnings differ week to week and there was no mention of percentages). The other mother is being overpaid and given 39 days to respond to the updated transfer from the CSA under the 1993 scheme to the CMS under the 2012 scheme. I am just inside the 40% tax bracket and get raped by the taxman each week. In turn... The CMS are now raping me by granting what looks like 25% OF MY GROSS to both mothers including one who won't let me see my daughter. These departments are committing daylight robbery. If I was to become unemployed tomorrow after paying taxes all my life I would be awarded an embarrassing amount of around £60 to survive each week as an adult. My six year old daughter is getting £117 a week from me when her mother is earing £25000 per annum. This is to a mother that has no reason other than being spiteful for not letting me see my little girl. All the agencies are interested in is the money Instead of focusing on the lives instead.
DICK TURPIN'S NEMIS - 23-Jan-15 @ 11:26 PM
Am resident in the UK, my ex girlfriend and Iare expecting a baby soon but we fellout and we are not marrie. I want to know the the legal amount, I should pay monthly to support my child. Also she is refusing to give me her account to makepayments, we might agree on. What should I do?
Moses Karim - 15-Jan-15 @ 7:56 PM
@DR - I have included the link to Child Maintenence Calculator here.
ChildSupportLaws - 13-Jan-15 @ 2:20 PM
@Pensive - I think in this case I would give the Child Maintenance Options a call on 0800 988 0988 as they will advise on the most appropriate way forward.
ChildSupportLaws - 13-Jan-15 @ 10:59 AM
Good afternoon. I live in England. My ex partner is responsible for and is currently paying CM through the CMA DIRECT PAY for our 1 year old daughter. There is a very strong possibility that he will be emigrating to Canada next year. Would it be a good idea for me to get a Notice of [intention to proceed with] an application for a financial order or court ordered child maintenance in place now, in the event that he leaves and stops payment?