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Child maintenance: What am I paying for?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 27 Jul 2021 | comments*Discuss
 
Child Maintenance Payment Cms Cms

What is child maintenance?

Child maintenance is financial support paid from one parent to another to assist with a child's everyday living costs.

It is paid in respect of:
  • Children under 16 years
  • Children under 20 years and in full time education, up to A level or equivalent
  • Children under 20 years and living with a parent who is registered to receive child benefit for them

Child maintenance is by its nature often paid under difficult circumstances, following the end of a relationship. However it is important to remember that it is not designed to punish parents without full time care. It is simply a way to ensure that both parents contribute towards the cost of raising a child; one of the responsibilities of being a parent.

How is child maintenance decided?

Parents can choose to agree a child maintenance sum and frequency of payment themselves. This is commonly called a 'family-based arrangement'.

The Child Maintenance Service encourages parents to try to agree a child maintenance figure between them. If you need assistance with this, you can speak to Child Maintenance Options:

  • 0800 0835130
  • Monday - Friday, 8am - 8pm
  • Saturday, 9am - 4pm

If you can't agree (and have already tried speaking to Child Maintenance Options) you can apply to the Child Maintenance Service. They can assist with:

  • Locating the other parent
  • Sorting out parentage disputes
  • Calculating the payable sum
  • Collecting and passing on payments
  • Re-assessing the payable sum when changes in circumstances occur (eg redundancy)
  • Taking enforcement action if payments aren't made

If the matter is more complex (for example one party lives outside the UK, or the child's living/care expenses are likely to be higher due to significant disability), then either party can apply to the courts.

Note: If you apply to the court in respect of child maintenance (and no other issue), legal aid is not available. However if you are considering apply to the court, you can still get free independent legal help from Citizens Advice Bureau.

How much will I have to pay?

If you have a family-based arrangement, then you can agree any amount between you. If you apply to the Child Maintenance Service, they use a more complex calculation based upon annual gross income and expenses. They have an online calculator which you can use as a guide: www.gov.uk/calculate-your-child-maintenance Note that the Child Maintenance Service will also charge a £20 application fee, a collection fee (if paid to them to pass on), and enforcement charges for delayed payments.

What does child maintenance pay for?

Child maintenance is designed to pay for a child's needs, for example food, clothing, and housing. It is however a nominal sum - ie the receiver does not have to submit receipts or justify what they spend the money on.

'I pay child maintenance to my ex, but she just spends it on booze and her nails. It's meant to be for the kids. How is that fair?'

It may not be fair. Unfortunately as she doesn't have to justify what the money is spent on, there is little you can do. Social services will only get involved if the child / children are being neglected.

What about other expenses?

If you have part-time overnight care of your child/children, then the amount of child maintenance you pay (if the Child Maintenance Service have calculated it) will be reduced accordingly. For example: John looks after his 2 children overnight 1 night a week. His child maintenance payment sum will therefore be reduced by 1/7th. If you are paying less money due to the overnight care, then it is likely that your ex-partner will expect you to pay for any day-to-day basics that the children may need whilst with you (for example food and nappies).

If the is dispute re who pays for what when you have care of the children, perhaps consider mediation to resolve this. If each party's expectations are managed, conflict / arguments are less likely.

'I pay child maintenance to my ex-partner. However she now wants me to pay additional sums for school trips and uniform on top of that sum. Can I refuse?'

Yes, you are not obliged to pay anything more than your child maintenance sum. I would however encourage you to consider any requests on a case by case basis. Ultimately the money is to pay for your child and so you may want to pay a little extra on one-off occasions so that your child doesn't go without. If you are worried about your ex just pocketing the money, consider arranging to pay the school direct or giving your ex a cheque made payable to the school so only they can cash it.

Help is available.

If you are having difficulty agreeing child maintenance sums, or disputes arise re other items, you can seek help from any of the following:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Child Maintenance Options
  • Any local family law solicitor (Note: Legal Aid may not be available)

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Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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I currently have my children 3 nights per week. I have a verbal agreement to pay my ex £220.00 per month which I pay have never missed a payment. I have asked for 50 / 50 access for the extra day ever fortnight and she is refusing. I think knowing that she'll loose her maintenance payments. I pay this and pay for my own clothes, clubs, uniforms anyway. I work two jobs 6 -7 days a week and I'm still flat broke at the end of the month. By Saving moneyI could quit the second job andfact I get to spend that extra night my children that extra night is a winner. I'd get to spend more time with them and arrange more days out and provide a better living for them. She's threatened me with CMS and I'm at the point of telling her to go to CMS because I'm financially at rock bottom, and I don't care anymore. Do I have a case or am I being greedy to want the extra night stayover? Any advice would help me dearly. Thank you in advance.
L - 27-Jul-21 @ 4:32 PM
My kids live with me, they're 12 and 14 and see their mum two nights a week. When this first happened, we agreed that maintenance would stop and we'd just provide for them when they were with us.My ex is now, out of the blue, insisting on paying maintenance, when she's never offered before. I can't help think she has an ulterior motive so my question is, would I as their primary and main carer have to pay her maintenance for the two nights they visit her? We don't get on at all so can't see why she'd do this unless she has something to gain from it!
Lowski - 23-Jun-21 @ 8:30 AM
After a bit of help, I pay my ex £70 a wk for my daughter and I have her every Monday and Wednesday night sleep over and every other weekend, she has now started a full time job and has to put our daughter into school clubs and school holidays clubs which she is asking me to pay 2 days a wk during school holidays. So she is asking £70 a wk child maintenance aswell as £55 for the child care. Don’t know where I stand as she is now working more and earning more and then wants more from me. I also pay half towards clothes and shoes. I feel I don’t need to pay that. Thank you
Stretch - 17-May-21 @ 5:54 PM
I am at words with this rubbish. I live my partner whos ex has stopped his daughter from seeing him.and on top of that shes 11 and *trans* her mother influences her to change her to a boy.. yess she does .. Fast foward my partner had a letter from child maintainance this morning for his child he hasnt seen in 9 weeks!!2grand a year on 19 k a year with debt and on top of that she has gone bankrupt against the house deliberately..i will call social services that this evil wicked * mother who drink drives earns 26k a year gets child benefits and ontop is gunna pocket 2kyear for what..her drink her hair her own life and not her child. Luckily i can afford to take her to the cleaners...just remember the law is backwards and dodgy...explain!! what if this mother was abusing her daughter which she is mentally ..throw 2 k a year at a unfit mother thats ok is it!!! The child has issues 1 big issue is her mother!!!!
Kaykay - 8-May-21 @ 8:44 PM
I haven't done this but were would a seperated Dad stand legally if he decided to pay the child maintenance into a pre-paid debit card and passed that card to the Mother? Whilst not preventing the mother from spending the maintenance on items not directly for the child, it may act as a deterent as the father would see all transactions. ATM withdrawls could also be disabled. Is there any legal requirement on the method that child maintenance has to be paid?
Chas - 5-May-21 @ 1:10 PM
Bit of a long one but need some advice. I have kids with my ex and pay her £200 maintenance. Whilst we were together, we moved away from my home town (about 130 miles away). We split up, I moved back to near my family. I earn minimum wage so struggle to be able to afford to see my kids. I pay for them monthly and that money is never late and I make sure the kids have all they need in terms of clothes, shoes, stuff for school etc. I call a couple of times a week and the kids have tablets that they can contact me on if they want to talk any other time. I’m doing the best I can with what I can. I want to be able to see my kids more but it works out at a £200 weekend on top of my £200 maintenance due to having to get a hotel and pay for petrol. I really just don’t know what to do at this point.
GRP - 19-Jan-21 @ 2:03 PM
Dear all, Thanks for your comments. It has helped me to ge a better insight into this issue and gave me an awckard feel that I am not alone (unfortunetely). I can see many people is complaining about CMS. I have been put on Deduction from Earnings Order unfairly. The service is very poor. Now the amount I have to pay is 20% higher and also paying fees on top. And this can't be changed in six months. I have raised a complain and need to speak to CMS. If no sensible solution is given to me I am going to raise the complain through them and also the Ombudsman. Has anybody here have had any experience complaining to CMS? The system is not working for many fathers in many ways and this should change.
Tortu - 23-Dec-20 @ 3:18 PM
My advice to separated fathers especially those not married to their ex. 1. Put the welfare of the children first. 2. Negotiate or use Mediation Service to agree sensible split of assets and reasonable child support. 3. Avoid solicitors at all costs and avoid Schedule 1 proceedings in court. 4. Avoid CMS if you can 5. Set up agreeable access to the children and don't discuss issues with them 6. Respect your ex as mother of your children - it's not an easy job! Solicitors and courts are not on the side of the Father. My experience is that Solicitors and Barristers on both sides will clean out all your cash and equity in any assets you have and award her the rest. Be careful and avoid if you can.
G - 9-Dec-20 @ 10:54 PM
Well here goes, split with my ex 3 and half years ago, always supported her every month even paying for holidays and foreign trips for her to go on with friends and to see her family, regularly having my son more than 4 or 5 nights a week even though I work full time, first lock down came and my place was not suitable for him to be back and forth between us, so spent four months on pretty much a camp bed in his room at his Mums so she could still do her 16 hours a week in a supermarket. In 4 months she only bathed him twice and maybe put him to bed 4 or 5 times, as I was furloughed I did 99% of the cooking cleaning washing etc.. (why we split in the first place)Had the nerve to tell her friend in front of me I was living there rent free (£600 a month paid to her and still had to pay my bills on top) that lock down ended so made sure I got a new place on my own with 2 bedrooms just in case it happened again! Sure enough it did this time he’s started school so she enrolled him in breakfast club a few days so can take him to school before work and she only has to twice a week, it’s going to be a struggle with work and financially especially as back on furlough so thought would see if I can get any help as he’s with me pretty much all the time again (not entitled to a penny) Never looked into it before, but disgusted to find out that for over 3 years nothing is being taken into account of what I give, turns out better to be on benefits than work, the more I earn the more I have to give over but benefits stay the same!! only thing I got from that exercise is very angry and realised I have been giving far to much. Makes me feel like it’s better to get sacked and go on benefits. I am Lucky as I do get to spend so much time with my son but what a joke the benefits system is. Rant over
Benefitsareajoke - 16-Nov-20 @ 4:04 AM
Well here goes, split with my ex 3 and half years ago, always supported her every month even paying for holidays and foreign trips for her to go on with friends and to see her family, regularly having my son more than 4 or 5 nights a week even though I work full time, first lock down came and my place was not suitable for him to be back and forth between us, so spent four months on pretty much a camp bed in his room at his Mums so she could still do her 16 hours a week in a supermarket. In 4 months she only bathed him twice and maybe put him to bed 4 or 5 times, as I was furloughed I did 99% of the cooking cleaning washing etc.. (why we split in the first place)Had the nerve to tell her friend in front of me I was living there rent free (£600 a month paid to her and still had to pay my bills on top) that lock down ended so made sure I got a new place on my own with 2 bedrooms just in case it happened again! Sure enough it did this time he’s started school so she enrolled him in breakfast club a few days so can take him to school before work and she only has to twice a week, it’s going to be a struggle with work and financially especially as back on furlough so thought would see if I can get any help as he’s with me pretty much all the time again (not entitled to a penny) Never looked into it before, but disgusted to find out that for over 3 years nothing is being taken into account of what I give, turns out better to be on benefits than work, the more I earn the more I have to give over but benefits stay the same!! only thing I got from that exercise is very angry and realised I have been giving far to much. Makes me feel like it’s better to get sacked and go on benefits. I am Lucky as I do get to spend so much time with my son but what a joke the benefits system is. Rant over
Benefitsareajoke - 16-Nov-20 @ 3:14 AM
I have recently split up with my partner we have 2 young kids (sons 5 daughter 3) Anytime I try to get in contact with my kids we end up arguing.in 1 breath she tells me not to ring her fone or turn up to the house to see the kids then next thing she’s ringing me to come and deal with the kids because she can’t cope, How am I surpose to deal with this how am I surpose to have a relationship with my kids like this What am I surpose to do??? HELPP!!!!
Airz - 11-Nov-20 @ 1:06 PM
I pay £840 a month and had to give my ex half the equity in our house, so she has no mortgage, works part time in a good job and also gets tax credits and child benefit. I estimate she nets about £2500-£3k whilst I pay off the mortgage I took on to buy her out. Can't see as that's particularly fair, especially when she sends them to school in uniform with holes in or 2nd hand from the school stall. Seems to me that at some levels child maintenance is actually borderling spousal maintenance.
Harry Potter - 6-Nov-20 @ 4:09 PM
I pay £160 to ex for food, told her if kids need clothes let me know and i’ll pay half, i spend £200 a month on food for when kids come mine for tea 2/3 times a week, they stay over at the weekend, i also spend about £120 a myh on treats at weekends when they stay but ex says i dont pay enough, when we were together she spent £80 a week on food that was for 4 of us
Ac - 2-Nov-20 @ 6:50 AM
At the moment I am paying child maintance to the csa. What was calculated for me to payed for my 2 sons I have to be doing 2 jobs to meet the payments I have two property's but nothing coming in from them often paying the mortgage I just got a letter from the inland revenuemy sx - partner asking for more money. And also lumpsum from the property can she do this she has known shares in the properties we wasn't married. Was only leaving together please advice me on my rights to this.
Amity - 30-Oct-20 @ 2:09 PM
I have been paying csa for 3 years for my 3 children. I have an agreement with my ex-wife. We agreed I would pay less during lockdown as I had them more than my usual 3 nights a week. Due to the extra days it works out I have had them 4 nights a week. On top of CSA I contribute towardsschool uniform, tennis lessons aswell as food shopping, clothing and holidays when they are with me. I do not ask my ex for any contribution towards anything I purchase or spend on regarding the children. Any advice.
topher8 - 18-Sep-20 @ 2:04 PM
Does the father have to pay weekly if they have them a week in summer just one week out old 4/5 weeks the mum has the daughter re Dad has her every other Friday 6pm - Sunday 6pm That’s it no half terms
Nc. icole - 15-Aug-20 @ 12:13 AM
@,S.C,well on abrighter note .the child might get see my head stone when in the grave yard .but I highlydoubt that as well .this is the hand dealt so note to self suck it up boy get on with your own life not much time left so start living .
Christopher - 29-Jul-20 @ 1:24 AM
@s.c.my reality is I will die at a young age I think heart failure 100 percent . and never see my daughter i am (not complaining it is what is) .would have been good to meet the girl before I do die but that is not going to happen .so I found peace with that now .but good luck to all you younger dads I hope you all get to see your children .
Christopher - 28-Jul-20 @ 9:49 PM
@s.c.i never payed support never new where the child lived or school she went to never spent a birthday with her or Christmas. I have never known if she been in hospital or has any illnesses. Never held my daughter when she hurt herself I never known anything about her .but this is normal for the men who are my age .i just like to read these comments and see what other younger men do these days. What I worked out men have changed big time .
Christopher - 28-Jul-20 @ 8:01 PM
@s.c.after I read these posts and the way father's are these days,I realise how old I am my daughter who is 16 doesn't even know me or I her .i don't even no what she looks like .oh well things where different back in my day .men where different two today's younger men .i guess it is what is .
Christopher - 28-Jul-20 @ 7:40 PM
I have one 8 year old child, I have paid regular maintenance for the 5 years ( never missed a payment) I also have my daughter every weekend and holidays This summer she is staying with us for 8 weeks because my ex refuses to pay for child care!?! ( this is completely fine with me as we get to spend much more time together) however, I asked the ex send some of my daughters with her she refused and said we need to buy some, that’s also Ok my daughter gets a new wardrobe !! Is this right? Does maintenance cover clothing for my daughter to bring to our house ? Advice is greatly appreciated
S.C - 28-Jul-20 @ 10:56 AM
I have my 2 kids 13 and 11 boy and girl ,I pay every month for them .i am taking them on holiday next week but they have no clothes .i asked there mum to buy clothes for them but she said they do not go anywhere so they don’t need anything .is there anything I can do ?
Gavmarko - 3-Jul-20 @ 10:18 AM
I had a one night stand with the mother of my child... still pending DNA results.i work alot from my home, weeks on End so dont see my child very often. I pay just under £250 a month agreed with her without CMS. Shes now asking me to pay half for his nursery fees and I have the feeling that she'll ask for more and more saying that I need to pay towards her rent and Bill's even though she doesnt ask for any money from her other childs Dad isnt involved at all. I agree that you should pay for your childs up keep and maintenance,but would it be advisable to go through Cms to prevent more and more money being asked for. Any advice would be grateful.
Charlie - 18-Feb-20 @ 10:25 PM
My last year child maintenance was calculated on a base of 26.7 k as my gross annual income because that’s the figure they had in their system. But in reality I’ve made only 23.5k so I phoned and told them about it but I was told they won’t change my child maintenance rate because it’s not 25% more or less from the figure they’ve used and unless I’ll make 25% more or less from 26.7k they won’t change my rate. Now after annual review they’ve put my child maintenance rate up even though I haven’t exceeded 25%. So how does this annual review works ? Is amount of income from a year before matters?
Confused - 25-Sep-19 @ 6:12 PM
Hi. How is fair that child maintenance is worked out on gross earnings and they don't take into consideration what we are spending on the basics to live on? With all the benefits and working 40hrs a week my ex gets more a month then I do. I can't even afford to rent a room and am living at my mums and that ain't permanent.
Ammer - 25-Aug-19 @ 5:49 PM
@dc123.i think and(know )everyone is going to (ok ).your post stuck a cord with me .(i myself miss my daughter gods truth ).the gods truth is (i love my daughter) .i never went though the courts for rights but I still care for my daughter .i know a few people going though divorce after many Years together and I feel for them gods truth .they ask me for advice how did you do it ?.not see your( only daughter) .well I said this was the hand I was dealt .
C.laurie - 24-Aug-19 @ 11:27 AM
Reading through these is really hard, I am going through a divorce at the moment and my ex is responsible of the breakup, however as she pressed the divorce button (to save the £550.00 divorce fee as she is on UC) I am now having to foot her legal bill on top of £800 per month. My ex technically earns more than me some months as I am in sales and earn commission, if I dont earn any and pay her the £800, her universal credit is £810, she gets £400 from her part time job and also £100 per month for child benefit - those mathematicians will work out that is £2100 per month - thats equivalent to a £30,000 a year salary! The money I pay covers the mortgage and her car and she has the same lifestyle prior to our split.. however because of my earning potential I am also about to loose 80% of the equity in my house and only be allowed 20% of it when she chooses to sell... I know we all have it bad and our own journeys all suck! But the silver lining for me is that I am no longer in a loveless relationship. I am free from it, its taken me awhile to realise that. it kills me that I dont see my children everyday and that I am starting from scratch... but you have to look at the positives and just try and get through this stuff one step at a time. good luck to everyone on here and I hope we are all ok in the end!
DC123 - 23-Aug-19 @ 2:36 PM
Why is it right that a non residential parent pays for children during the time they are not in their care? It's a legal obligation but that doesn't make it right and shouldn't just be accepted as such. It is wrong on so many levels. If both parents paid for the children for only the time they had the children. Then it clearly follows that best arrangements for how time with children is shared will be reached. Which is in the interest of everyone. Financially rewarding one parent for limiting access is wrong and the government needs to stop meddling and change the law. One parent can't afford to look after the children then the other parent should have the chance to increase there time with them. If that doesn't work reach a personal solution. It shouldn't be the case that separated households are financially linked. Every other aspect in life you have a day in how your money is spent. It is not the place of the government to meddle, especially as they make thinks so much worse. CMS is not fit for purpose if the organisation cant ensure the money is spent on the children. Their remit is to ensure the legal obligation is met they are not doing that. It would be difficult for them to do... I get that but if they can't then they shouldn't be doing half a job... They are simply taking money off someone on the pretense that it is for their children then handing it over to someone else and doing nothing to ensure it is benefiting the children. Child maintenance and the legal obligation is wrong it does far more damage causing further disruption and hardship to families. This isn't a minor problem it has resulted in the lose of lives and needs sorting. The question should be being asked who is benefiting from this system, its not the children... The legal system is, they make millions dealing with these cases and the government is they have made 100,000s in fines from CMS since its introduction.
CMS is broken - 17-Jul-19 @ 12:41 PM
@cbs.yeah report her .i live in hostel and i am on disability pension and just loath fraudsters .when people like me need it and give as a bad name .REPORT HER ASAP.
c.laurie - 30-Jun-19 @ 12:14 AM
My ex wife and I split in November, and I moved out a month later. My ex is gracious enough to allow me to stay here alternate weekends and every wednesday, as I live now in a shared house. My ex has been a gambling addict over the years, which largely led to our split-she couldnt get a library card with her credit-never mind a credit card!! Since I moved, I;ve been paying various bills IN LIEU OF MAINTENANCE-such as Sky at my old home, the Broadband, her mobile phone-and the credit cards which, whilst in my name, she certainly contributed more than her fair share of running up whilst we were together!! I also pay for a cooker here. She has now begun asking me for money, saying that, if I dont pay it, she will take me to the cleaners with the CSA, and stop access to the kids! In addition to me staying here every other weekend, and every wednesday, the remaining time, she has her new boyfriend virtually live here-whilst she claims single person occupancy council tax discount, benefits financially by him GIVING HER A CAR, and virtually every weekend that it's her child free weekend, she goes on jollies-I really don't know where I stand, if anywhere? Do I count myself lucky and pay, or do I report her for the benefit fraud she is committing?
CSB - 29-Jun-19 @ 10:37 PM
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