How much child maintenance should I pay?

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Introduced in December 2021 by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), child maintenance ensures that children with separated parents, that cannot come to their own monetary arrangement between themselves, receive enough financial support, but how is this figure calculated? If you’re the ‘non-resident parent’ that doesn’t provide the majority everyday care for the child, it can be difficult calculating exactly much child maintenance should you be paying.

This is because the exact amount of child maintenance that the ‘paying/non-resident parent’ will need to pay to the primary caregiver (the ‘receiving/resident parent) depends upon a variety of factors including their employment/living situation, the amount of time they spend caring for the child and the number of children they have.

To find out more about child maintenance, how much you should be paying and when/how you should be paying it from experienced family law experts, simply carry on reading. Alternatively, you can always give a member of our team a call if you’d prefer to speak to someone about your specific child maintenance queries or issues.

What does child maintenance cover?

Child maintenance is designed to cover the cost of the child’s basic needs. This includes everything from food and clothes to covering the cost of housing and sanitary essentials. Additional expenses such as school fees are not covered under standard child maintenance costs. Parents interested in discussing and sharing these extra expenses between them should therefore use a ‘family-based arrangement’ to come to an agreeable financial solution.

The parent that does not commonly provide daily care is the parent that will be liable for paying child maintenance to the parent or that does perform these essential duties. The parent receiving the child maintenance can be referred to as the receiving parent, resident parent or parent with care, while the parent paying the child maintenance is typically known as the paying or non-resident parent. Occasionally, the receiving parent may be a grandparent or even a guardian, like a godparent.

Can I page child maintenance direct to my child?

Direct pay

Typically, child maintenance is paid directly to the receiving/resident parent/guardian that provides the majority of the care for the child(ren). This is known as direct pay is the quickest and easiest way to pay your child maintenance. It can transferred either as a standing order or through another suitable and mutually-agreeable payment method.

Collect and Pay

In the event that the CMS is required to be involved (for example, if the parents of the child can’t agree on the payment amount or method), this child maintenance can be paid via Collect and Pay. This CMS service collects payment from the paying parents though either Direct Debit, their earnings or their benefits.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that a collection fee of 20% is applied on top of the child maintenance, while the receiving parent will also have 4% deducted from this figure. It’s therefore preferable in many cases to use direct pay where these additional fees won’t affect the required amount of child maintenance each week.

Direct Debit

Alternatively, the paying parent could also choose to set up a Direct Debit – either over the phone or online. The child maintenance will then be regularly taken from this account and sent to the receiving parent.

If the paying parent is employed, the child maintenance amount can also be deducted from their earnings either voluntarily or by the CMS if they owe child maintenance or have not agreed to pay the correct amount to the receiving parent. This is known as enforcement of child maintenance non-payment. Similarly, child maintenance can also be collected from the paying parent’s benefits if they are unemployed or unable to work.

Collection or payment schedule

The final method of child maintenance payment is through a collection or payment schedule. This involves the CMS sending the paying parent a schedule (often a 12-month schedule) of child maintenance payments – including the required amount and when it needs to paid to the receiving parent. The receiving parent will be sent the same schedule, so they know when and how much to expect from the paying parent.

Family-based arrangement

Unlike child maintenance that is often collected through the CMS via the paying parent’s wages, benefits or through a Direct Debit, a family-based arrangement is often transferred without the involvement of this third party. However you decide to pay your child maintenance, it’s essential that you make a reliable record of every payment in the event that you need to prove how much child maintenance you have paid over the years.

How much is child maintenance?

If you share care equally with the other parent, are a full-time student with no income or are in prison, you will not be required to pay child maintenance. However, if you are liable to pay child maintenance, then there are several factors that can affect the amount of child maintenance that the paying parent needs to provide. This includes;

  • Income (and anything that affects income)

The paying parent’s gross annual income or the amount of benefits they receive is taken into account alongside other factors that could affect this income such as pension payments and whether the parent is financially supporting another child or children. This yearly income figure is then converted into a weekly child maintenance amount.

  • Child maintenance rates

According to the basic child maintenance rate (there are four different maintenance rates based on the amount of gross weekly income), you’ll be required to pay 12% of your gross weekly income financially supporting one child. For two children, this figure is increased to 16% of your gross weekly income. For three or more children, this figure is yet again increased to 19% of your gross weekly income.

  • The number of children concerned

As mentioned in the income and maintenance rate sections, the number of children that you are required to financially support will also affect the amount of child maintenance that you are responsible for paying. Naturally, the more children you have, the greater the amount of child maintenance will be required to cover their basic living costs if you are the non-resident parent.

  • Family-based arrangements

A family-based arrangement refers to child maintenance paid in a way that suits both parents. It includes any money given to the resident/receiving parent from the non-resident/paying parent in order to cover the child’s living costs. The greatest benefit of agreeing to pay child maintenance in this manner is that neither parent will have CMS collection fees deducted from the agreed sum.

  • Number of ‘shared care’ nights a week

Once the amount of child maintenance has been calculated based on your gross weekly income and the above factors, the number of nights that the child is with the non-resident/paying parent will need to be deducted from the amount of child maintenance. If the paying parent looks after the child for at least one night a week (52 days a year) or more, then the amount of maintenance will be reduced. Put simply, the more shared care nights taken on by the paying parent, the less they’ll be required to pay to the receiving parent in the form of child maintenance.

Still wondering “how much child maintenance should I pay”? One of the easiest ways to calculate how much child maintenance you should be paying is by using the UK Government’s child maintenance calculator. To ensure accurate results, you’ll need to know your income, pension, benefits and the number of nights that the child stays at your residence. This calculator can also be used by main resident parents to calculate how much the other parent should be paying in child maintenance. They will require the same information.

How long do you pay child maintenance for?

In the UK, child maintenance payments are typically continued until the child is 16 years old. However, you may be required to continue paying child maintenance until they are 20 years old in the event that they are in full-time education studying A-levels, Highers or an equivalent course/qualification.

How to reduce child maintenance payments?

One way to reduce the amount of child maintenance you’ll be legally required to pay is to increase the amount of ‘shared care’ nights or split care 50/50 between both parents. If you can prove that you are contributing an equal amount of daily care for the children, then you won’t need to pay child maintenance.

However, if you simply increase the number of ‘shared care’ nights, you will only see a reduction in the amount of child maintenance you’ll be required to pay. For example, if the child stays at your residence for three nights a week, you’re likely to see a drastic reduction in the amount of child maintenance you are legally required to pay to the receiving parent.

If you are struggling to meet the required sum of child maintenance, it’s well worth getting in touch with legal professionals with experience in family law (like ourselves) or contacting the court to adjust your child maintenance payments according to your current financial situation.

Family law at Freeman Jones Solicitors

One of the leading law firms in Chester, we offer bespoke legal support for clients across the Chester area as well as many other UK locations including Wrexham, Liverpool, Warrington and even North Wales. Regardless of whether you want to find out more about child custody and maintenance law or wills and probate, we provide feasible and effective solutions for a wide range of legal matters.

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Author Colin Freeman View Profile
Colin qualified as a solicitor in 1998. He specialises predominantly in family law, litigation / dispute resolution, wills, probate and settlement agreements and has notable cases reported in the Court of Appeal and High Court.
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