Child maintenance - the facts
This fact sheet covers frequently asked questions about child maintenance.
What matters should I consider if looking to agree child maintenance?
You could start by considering the amount each parent has coming in and going out. It could then be considered what the child’s needs are. For example school activity costs, clothes and uniform cost, days out etc. Finally you could look at how those costs can be met from both parents.
Where do I go to get child maintenance assessed if no agreement is reached?
If parents cannot agree between themselves the amount of child support, you can ask the Child Maintenance Service to calculate an appropriate figure. Child maintenance is appropriate for children who are either under 16 or under 20 in full time education no higher than A Levels. The child and the parent with primary care must live in the UK. Grandparents or other guardians can also apply to the Child Maintenance Service if they are the primary carer of the child.
How is the figure calculated?
The Child Maintenance Service will look at the non-resident parent’s gross income. Gross weekly income may be reduced by payments into an occupational pension scheme or if there are other children they support. The procedure is no different if the non-resident parent is self-employed, save that they will have to provide their own evidence of income. There are five possible rates that may apply depending on the non-resident parent’s gross income.
These are as follows: Gross weekly income
Below £7 Nil
£7-£100 (or receiving benefits) Flat
£100.01 to £199.99 Reduced
£200 to £800 Basic
£800.01 to £3000 Basic Plus
There is a reduction for each night of the week that the child stays overnight with the non-resident parent. This is often referred to as ‘shared care.’ If care of the child is shared exactly, there will be no liability for child maintenance. If the non-resident parent has other children in their household or they are making child support payments to more than one other parent, a reduction is applied.
What happens if the non-resident parent’s income is not known?
If there is not sufficient information known, an interim maintenance assessment can be made. The following rates will then apply:
- £39 p/w for one child
- £51 p/w for two children
- £64 p/w for three or more children.
This is a temporary measure and can be revised at any time.
What fees apply?
There is an application fee of £20 and collection and enforcement charges if these services are required.
Can I vary any child maintenance assessment?
Either parent can ask the Child Maintenance Service to consider further information or a change in circumstances. This may be appropriate if the non-resident parent is paying a mortgage where the child lives or if they are paying significant costs in maintaining contact with the child. It also may be appropriate if unearned income such as property income or dividends need to be considered.
What happens if the non-resident parent earns more than the Child Maintenance Service will consider?
A top-up order can be applied for under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. This will allow for additional regular maintenance payments.
What if I already am receiving child maintenance?
The Child Support Agency and associated rules will continue to apply. Only new applications are dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service.
Is there any other assistance available?
If the parents are married (or in a civil partnership) the court can order the transfer of property or a lump sum to go to a child within the divorce proceedings. If the parents are not married, the court cannot consider matters beyond the maintenance which would be dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service.
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