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A Guide to Child Support Payments

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 19 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Child Support Maintenance Parent Child

The second in our series of separated dads guides relates to child support and the issues surrounding it.

Child support is designed to make parents responsible for maintaining their children. This means that non-resident parents (who do not live with the child) make periodical payments to resident parents (who do live with the child and are responsible for the child's day-to-day care).

Parents may agree these payments via a maintenance agreement. The Child Support Agency manages the child maintenance schemes that were introduced in 1993 and 2003, but only deals with existing applications. You can contact the National Helpline for advice on 08457 133 133.

The Child Maintenance Service manages the 2012 onwards child maintenance scheme. There is a £20 fee for applying to the Child Maintenance Service. In the first instance, you can call Child Maintenance Options on 0800 988 0988.

What is a maintenance agreement?

A maintenance agreement is an agreement between parties made out of court. This allows you to preserve good relations and address your wishes more specifically. They can also help reduce costs. If you and your former partner have a good working relationship, a maintenance agreement can be a great way to agree matters that you both agree to stick to in writing.

There are some problems with maintenance agreements however:

  1. They may cease to apply if you divorce / remarry / cohabit with someone else. You need to ensure that the agreement addresses the end date of payments.
  2. It is not possible to exclude the court's jurisdiction and so parties can still apply to the courts at any time. The courts will however consider the agreed terms in making their decisions, though they are not guaranteed to follow them.
  3. Maintenance agreements are contracts and so must be enforced in the civil courts. This can be expensive and very time consuming which is not always ideal in situations where young children are concerned.

How is child support calculated?

Gross income
Child support is based upon your gross weekly income. If you are employed, this includes your wage, any bonuses or overtime and statutory sick pay. Income tax, national insurance and any pension payments are disregarded. If you are self-employed, your gross income is based upon your total taxable profits.

The CSA/CMS will calculate a suitable child support amount upon application by either the resident or non-resident parent. However parents may agree a different amount.

Much like when you pay council tax, certain categories of people pay a reduced rate or are exempt from paying child support altogether.

Exemptions and deductions
You may be exempt or qualify for a reduced rate if you:

  • have a gross weekly income of less than £7.
  • is in prison
  • is under 16 years old
  • is a 16- to 19-year-old who has left school but is registered for certaintypes of government-approved training courses
  • is a 16- to 19-year-old who is in full-time, non-advanced education (up
  • to and including A-level or equivalent standard
  • is a 16- to 17-year-old who receives Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • is a 16- to 17-year-old who is included in their partner’s claim for Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income related Employment and Support Allowance
  • A care home or independent hospital, for which you are receiving help with fees.

Shared care
If your children stay with you overnight, you may be entitled to a reduction of your child support payments. They must stay with you a minimum average of 1 night per week.

If you share care equally, neither of you has to pay maintenance to each other.

If you don’t tell the CSA/CMS about your shared care arrangements, they will estimate that the children stay with you one night a week. This means you’ll usually pay one-seventh less maintenance.

What happens if I have children from a new relationship?

If you have other children this could affect the amount of child support you will pay. Other children relevant to the equation are those for whom you (as the non-resident parent) or your partner receive child benefit for.

Other relevant children are taken into account before the calculation is completed. This is by taking a percentage off the original weekly net income prior to starting the calculation. If you are paying the basic rate then the reduction is:

  • 1 other child 15% off net income
  • 2 other children 20% off net income
  • 3 or more other children 25% off net income

When do Child Support payments stop?

Child Support is paid until the relevant child is at least 16 years old.

If the child continues to study full-time (at least 12 hours per week) after this date, you will still have to pay child support. Full-time studies include A level standard but do not include university / professional studies after this level. Child support payments will end when the child turns 20 years old, even if they are still in full-time studies.

What happens if I dispute that I am the parent of a child?

When parentage is in dispute, a maintenance calculation should not be done by the CSA/CMS until the matter is resolved. There are some exceptions when parentage will be assumed however:

  • If you were married to the mother at any point between conception and birth of the child
  • You are registered as the father on the birth certificate
  • You refuse to take a DNA test or a DNA test shows you are the father
  • There has been a previous declaration of parentage
  • Court proceedings have decided you are the father

If you deny parentage, you must communicate this to the CMS/CSA or you will still be liable to pay child support.

What could happen if I don't pay my child support payments?

The CSA has various enforcement methods available to ensure child support is paid. These include:
  • Deduction from earnings
  • Committal to prison for up to six weeks
  • Disqualification from driving

The CSA is under review and a single system of child support maintenance that is easier to enforce is anticipated to come into effect from 2015. The new collection agency will become the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC).

If one of you dies, what will happen to the children?

Whilst we never want to think about death, it is an important and responsible thing to consider when you have children. You need to know that they will be looked after should anything happen to you.

Guardians

In your will, you have the opportunity to name a guardian (or guardians) to look after your children if you are no longer here to do so. A trusted family friend is a popular option. Guardians are not paid to look after your children, but will usually get money from your estate to help with the additional costs of caring for children. It is usually better to name just one guardian, as problems can be caused if co-guardians separate in the future.

Other parent

If the resident parent were to die, the non-resident parent has rights to the children as a parent. This does not mean that you will automatically get custody of a child you have not previously lived with, however the court will look to see if you are a suitable parent to have full custody. If you are suitable, you will get custody over any named guardian in your partner's will. If you are not suitable, custody is likely to go to the named guardian, which is why it is important to name someone in your will who you trust.

We know that some of the dads on here don't have much free money. So we are offering the guides for free.

To help us develop more guides and other products to help separated dads we would really appreciate a small PayPal donation. Our content is written by a qualified barrister. It would really help us and we would appreciate it.

We hope that we can help you in some small way with your Child Support application or questions.

Need to write to the CSA?

We have produced a series of letter templates to accompany the guides relating to maintenance and support. Why not take a look at these easy to use templates.

Separated Dads Chat Room & Forum

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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[Add a Comment]
Hos - Your Question:
My ex and I are thinking of sending child to private school. If I pay the fees, can I deduct part or all from child Maintenance payments?

Our Response:
Unless negotiated between you, you would not be able to reduce child maintenance payments if those payments have been assessed vis CMS. If you choose to send your child to a fee-paying school, then you would pay this in addition to your child maintenance.
SeparatedDads - 19-May-17 @ 2:41 PM
AndrewG - Your Question:
What can I do about my situation in which my former spouse forced me out of my own home by threats of death in August 2014.She then divorced me in December 2014 only to be subsequently remarried in January 2015. I was paying for all four of my children up to October 2016. I refused to continue to pay as she has claimed child benefit, working family tax credit and over £1000 of rental income per month on three flats of which there is joint ownership.She refused to comply with my ancillary relief request in January 2017, claiming that she cannot afford the court costs, yet now that the flats are in receivership she has as of yesterday 18/05/2017 made a child support claim for the two youngest children.How can this be fair? I don't have access to the children, I don't receive anything for them, I was forced out of my own home so that she could be the receiver of child support and I would be the one paying it. She made no claim in the last seven months yet once the property is going to be sold and she has no control over the finances of it she can now claim child support what an abuse of the system, what can I do? Please help me, please can you advise me?

Our Response:
I'm afraid, regardless of your position or what your ex earns, receives in benefits, what her financial situation is and whether you see your children or not, as their father by law you are still deemed jointly financially responsible for their day-to-day care. If you wish to see your children and your ex is denying you that right, then you can suggest mediation and if your ex refuses take the matter to court in order to apply for access. Child access and child maintenance have no bearing on each other. If you cannot afford legal representation, you can self-litigate, please see link here. However, if your ex claims through Child Maintenance Service then you may fall into arrears if you refuse to pay. Therefore, please beware of falling into that situation through a principled refusal to pay.
SeparatedDads - 19-May-17 @ 2:37 PM
My ex and I are thinking of sending child to private school.If I pay the fees, can I deduct part or all from child Maintenance payments?
Hos - 19-May-17 @ 12:11 PM
What can I do about my situation in which my former spouse forced me out of my own home by threats of death in August 2014. She then divorced me in December 2014 only to be subsequently remarried in January 2015. I was paying for all four of my children up to October 2016. I refused to continue to pay as she has claimed child benefit, working family tax credit and over £1000 of rental income per month on three flats of which there is joint ownership. She refused to comply with my ancillary relief request in January 2017, claiming that she cannot afford the court costs, yet now that the flats are in receivership she has as of yesterday 18/05/2017 made a child support claim for the two youngest children. How can this be fair? I don't have access to the children, I don't receive anything for them, I was forced out of my own home so that she could be the receiver of child support and I would be the one paying it. She made no claim in the last seven months yet once the property is going to be sold and she has no control over the finances of it she can now claim child support what an abuse of the system, what can I do? Please help me, please can you advise me?
AndrewG - 19-May-17 @ 11:27 AM
Paul - Your Question:
HI I don't know if anyone can help but I'm on the old CSA scheme and have recently moved aboard to the republic of Ireland. They want to put everyone on to the new scheme and my account is up for renewal. I understand because I don't work for a UK company I don't have to pay CSA is this correct ?

Our Response:
Every non-resident parent by law is responsible for paying child maintenance if they are earning, please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 16-May-17 @ 10:45 AM
If my 16 year old is leaving the Uk for 2 months to stay with relatives after her exams, do I still have to pay child maintenance to her mother who i know doesn't spend it on them? My daughter says she is going to college afterwards but I can't see this happening due to her behaviour at school.
Pete - 15-May-17 @ 6:34 PM
In 2009 when I divorced from my ex wife an agreement of child maintenance was put on our court order £160 per month per child(2 kids) now 8 years later after a verbal agreement to reduce the amount paid to my ex wife due to losing my job we both agreed in 2011 that we would both use the csa calculator to calculate the amount I needed to pay to her. I have always paid my maintenance according to csa calculator. But she is now saying the verbal agreement didn't happen and because we didn't legally change the court order I now owe her for child maintenance payments that were the £160 per child per month. Is she owe that ? As we agreed and both have used the csa calculator for years. How can she now justify this if we agreed to void the court agreement due to changes. Since that agreement I have remarried and had 1 child with my current wife this is causing us a lot of stress and we never reduced any of her payments after we had our daughter I've always done right by my children.
adamgem - 15-May-17 @ 12:38 PM
John - Your Question:
My ex partner is charging me £100 a fortnight for our daughter for clothes school and trips but she is still wanting more money and I am only on benefits how much am I supposed to be paying towards my daughter?

Our Response:
If you use a statutory child maintenance service and you receive benefits, you will be expected to pay a flat rate of child maintenance. If you have a Child Maintenance Service case, the flat rate is £7 a week.
SeparatedDads - 15-May-17 @ 12:12 PM
HI I don't know if anyone can help but i'm on the old CSA scheme and have recently moved aboard to the republic of Ireland.They want to put everyone on to the new scheme and my account is up for renewal.I understand because I don't work for a UK company I don't have to pay CSA is this correct ?
Paul - 15-May-17 @ 11:40 AM
My ex partner is charging me £100 a fortnight for our daughter for clothes school and trips but she is still wanting more money and I am only on benefits how much am I supposed to be paying towards my daughter?
John - 14-May-17 @ 4:09 PM
BB - Your Question:
My Husdand has a wonderful son and has always paid every week for him by DD now he is 17yrs going on 18 yrs can my Husdand pay his maintenance to him as he is a car owner and driver has a part time jod and at college Classed as full time. His need is greeter then his mums he has always paid for school trips photo etc we paid for his driving test and given him a £1000 towards the insurance. His mother has lost the plot and saying she will claim CSA from years back when he was 6. Can she do that ? she did put a claim in at 6yrs then drop it and they agreed a weekly payment. Which was fine but now like I say she has lost it and we keep getting texts saying what she,s going to do. Please help we want to do the right thing by him not his mother.

Our Response:
Unless the mother agrees otherwise, child maintenance has to go to the resident parent until the child leaves full-time education. Please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 12-May-17 @ 11:23 AM
My Husdand has a wonderful son and has always paid every week for him by DD now he is 17yrs going on 18 yrscan my Husdand pay his maintenance to him as he is a car owner and driver has a part time jod and at college Classed as full time . His need is greeter then his mums he has always paid for school trips photo etc we paid for his driving test and given him a £1000 towards the insurance . His mother has lost the plot and saying she will claim CSA from years back when he was 6 . Can she do that ?she did put a claim in at 6yrs then drop it and they agreed a weekly payment . Which was fine but now like I say she has lost it and we keep getting texts saying what she,s going to do. Please help we want to do the right thing by him not his mother.
BB - 11-May-17 @ 4:04 PM
@Sando - most families in situations such as this would agree to a shared care arrangement, but some ex's want as much as they can get. I can understand if she's not working and is taking on the lion's share of looking after your child and can't work because of the logistics of being the primary carer so are financially worse off, or if they are working they are paying for nursery and that sort of stuff. But not if they're working too and in exactly the same financial position as the father :(
Rob" - 3-May-17 @ 11:59 AM
Please help explain. I will have my son 3 nights a week (and additional times) My x-partner will have him ONE more night and will receive over £200 a month from me! Why are Dads so mistrusted, stereotyped & discriminated against by Child Maintenance? I am much more likely to spend money on my two year old son than his Mum & I am now left less able to due to the funds going to his mum....over £50 a week due to staying at his mums one more night!??!
Sando - 2-May-17 @ 10:06 PM
Hi I was tricked in to getting a girl pregnant I can't believe I have been so stupid . It was a one night stand I met on a dating site and she said she was on the pill and the coil and told me not to wear a condom . I got a WhatsApp message a couple of weeks ago saying she is pregnant with a pic of a positive pregnancy test . I am a single parent to my 9 year old son who I have brought up completely on my own . I work part time and earn £130 a week and also get child and working tax credits. I have done a calculation using the child maintenance calculator and it says I will have to pay just £7 a week if she applies for maintenance when the baby is born . Is this correct ? This has affected me really badly.I can't eat or sleep . I have blocked her number on the advice of my family and I just hope to god I don't hear anything off her ever again
Joe - 30-Apr-17 @ 8:03 PM
Need advice.My daughter left school aged 16 in July 2015.She has not attended any education or had a job since.Alsonow she is living with maternal grandmother not mother.I havepaid child support from the beginning.I rang the CSA and the advice from them was even if my daughter wants to sit around until she is 20 deciding what she wants to dothen i still have to pay.Is this correct ?
Webbs - 28-Apr-17 @ 6:53 PM
Confusedone - Your Question:
So my partner slept with a woman who also had 2 other guys on the go (before he met me) and she decided she wanted to be in a relationship with him so declared he is the father to her baby. The kid looks like his mate who was sleeping with her too and he told the child maintenance service he wanted a DNA test, paid for it and they screwed up the payment! Said they put it in a holding account then would have to refund it so he could pay it again and have the test. In the meantime he has just had a chunk of wages taken directly with no warning at all! Can they seriously do this? Seems mad that a woman can just say anyone is the father of the kid and the cms will just deduct payments without waiting for the test? What sort of crazy world are we living in? Can they do this? Cheers!

Our Response:
If named as the father, your partner will be considered the father of the child and responsiblie for paying child maintenance, unless and until he can prove otherwise. Please see CAB link here, which will tell you all you need to know.
SeparatedDads - 28-Apr-17 @ 11:33 AM
Hi I am again being black mailed by my ex, she left seven years ago with my son. I paid her off to the tune of £30k, until her money ran dry everything was great with seeing my son. We agreed on a monthly maintenance payment which was paid religiously. Three years ago my job took me abroad, I continued the agreed money, I am trying to arrange to spend time with my son this summer and now been told she will not discuss any visitations until I negotiate more money for her. I have never been allowed to take him on a holiday abroad (he is the one missing out). I could understand if I was violent or an alcoholic. I am either. I have a 20 year old, 18 month old along with my step daughter (her dad pays has paid no maintenance for the past two years) so I support them all, along with my wife who doesn't work as she looks after our baby. Any advice would be gratefully appreciated. I have tried for years not to take this into a court room....I only want to see my son.
Dave - 27-Apr-17 @ 8:39 PM
So my partner slept with a woman who also had 2 other guys on the go (before he met me) and she decided she wanted to be in a relationship with him so declared he is the father to her baby. The kid looks like his mate who was sleeping with her too and he told the child maintenance service he wanted a DNA test, paid for it and they screwed up the payment! Said they put it in a holding account then would have to refund it so he could pay it again and have the test. In the meantime he has just had a chunk of wages taken directly with no warning at all! Can they seriously do this? Seems mad that a woman can just say anyone is the father of the kid and the cms will just deduct payments without waiting for the test? What sort of crazy world are we living in? Can they do this? Cheers!
Confusedone - 27-Apr-17 @ 5:41 PM
My partner doesn't work and I do I receive working and child tax. He has a daughter from a previous relationship because he is not working and iam the only 1 bringing a wage in and supporting his 6 year old son can the maintenace be deducted from myself?
Klf - 21-Apr-17 @ 5:54 PM
My son has been left college for a year and is working full time. He is 18.My maintenance payments stopped when he left college. He is now thinking of returning to college. Will I have to resume maintenance payments to his mother?
Dannyboy - 20-Apr-17 @ 2:37 PM
Mich - Your Question:
My ex is self employed builder who recently sold a property for £350,000 but has been off sick for a year now due to a drunken injury. He said as nil pay if I go through CSA route, I get nothing. He is an alcoholic and I have stopped access over night as he drinks evenings, as he doesn't like this arrangement I am now being threatened with solicitors and non payment. Will future payments be calculated on the house sale? He now got a girlfriend and booking holidays etc, I only want what's due for his daughter I have no feelings what he does and who with, please advise

Our Response:
Assets are not included in child maintenance payments, unless the paying parent is earning a living from the asset i.e renting it out. Child maintenance payments are based solely upon earnings and assessed via the amount of tax paid via HMRC.
SeparatedDads - 20-Apr-17 @ 2:05 PM
My ex is self employed builder who recently sold a property for £350,000 but has been off sick for a year now due to a drunken injury. He said as nil pay if I go through CSA route, I get nothing. He is an alcoholic and I have stopped access over night as he drinks evenings, as he doesn't like this arrangement I am now being threatened with solicitors and non payment. Will future payments be calculated on the house sale? He now got a girlfriend and booking holidays etc, I only want what's due for his daughter I have no feelings what he does and who with, please advise
Mich - 20-Apr-17 @ 7:26 AM
I pay my ex each month on the 7th for my 2 children not through csa just what we agreed between ourselves I've recently changed job and will now have to pay her on the 17th due to my payment date changing my ex is claiming I have to pay her an extra 10 days of support money next payment because I'm having to change the date by 10 days even though I won't be missing any months payment just moving the payment date I don't think I should have to pay any more than usual as I'm just changing the date but still paying the same as before just 10 days later my ex claims I should pay for 10 days extra for the first payment then go back to normal where do I stand thanks for your help Craig
Craig - 19-Apr-17 @ 5:43 PM
Anita - Your Question:
Hi,My daughter conceived whist out of the uk (in the caribbean). The child is now 5 yrs old.Can she collect child support from the child's father?She lives in the uk with my grandson. but the father lives in the Caribbean.Can she collect child support from him ?Anita

Our Response:
The Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Order (REMO) Unit helps to register and enforce child maintenance orders internationally, please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 19-Apr-17 @ 10:58 AM
Hi, My daughter conceived whist out of the uk (in the caribbean). The child is now 5 yrs old. Can she collect child support from the child's father? She lives in the uk with my grandson.. but the father lives in the Caribbean. Can she collect child support from him ? Anita
Anita - 18-Apr-17 @ 4:23 PM
totalimmortal - Your Question:
Hi. Myself and my ex wife have an arrangement regarding our son's care whereby he stays with her on a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and the rest of the week he is with me. She often doesn't have him for the full 3 nights because she's too unwell (mental health problems), leaving myself of my family to step in. He's technically with me Thursday to Sunday, although on a Friday he usually stays with his nan (her mother, who she doesn't speak to) so technically he's still under my care (if there are any problems or whatever while he's at his nan's, it's me that is called and steps in). I'm a nurse and I work shifts, so occasionally he'll stay at my mum's or she'll have him until bed time then put him to bed at my house (I also have 7 month old twin girls with my current partner, and it's a lot to ask her to have all of them and put them all to bed on her own if I'm working late). Also, after we split up, for a long time she didn't have him overnight at all, and would only take him out a couple of days a week and return him to me. I currently don't pay her any money and she pays me nothing, as I feel that he's under my care more than hers, and she doesn't work and is in receipt of benefits. She periodically threatens to open a case with child maintenance, but hasn't done so yet. Just wondering where I would stand if she were to do so? Thanks

Our Response:
You can see more via the CAB link here, which should answer your question.
SeparatedDads - 18-Apr-17 @ 11:02 AM
Hi. Myself and my ex wife have an arrangement regarding our son's care whereby he stays with her on a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and the rest of the week he is with me. She often doesn't have him for the full 3 nights because she's too unwell (mental health problems), leaving myself of my family to step in. He's technically with me Thursday to Sunday, although on a Friday he usually stays with his nan (her mother, who she doesn't speak to) so technically he's still under my care (if there are any problems or whatever while he's at his nan's, it's me that is called and steps in). I'm a nurse and I work shifts, so occasionally he'll stay at my mum's or she'll have him until bed time then put him to bed at my house (I also have 7 month old twin girls with my current partner, and it's a lot to ask her to have all of them and put them all to bed on her own if I'm working late). Also, after we split up, for a long time she didn't have him overnight at all, and would only take him out a couple of days a week and return him to me. I currently don't pay her any money and she pays me nothing, as I feel that he's under my care more than hers, and she doesn't work and is in receipt of benefits. She periodically threatens to open a case with child maintenance, but hasn't done so yet. Just wondering where I would stand if she were to do so? Thanks
totalimmortal - 17-Apr-17 @ 11:15 AM
Hi. Myself and my ex wife have an arrangement regarding our son's care whereby he stays with her on a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and the rest of the week he is with me. She often doesn't have him for the full 3 nights because she's too unwell (mental health problems), leaving myself of my family to step in. He's technically with me Thursday to Sunday, although on a Friday he usually stays with his nan (her mother, who she doesn't speak to) so technically he's still under my care (if there are any problems or whatever while he's at his nan's, it's me that is called and steps in). I'm a nurse and I work shifts, so occasionally he'll stay at my mum's or she'll have him until bed time then put him to bed at my house (I also have 7 month old twin girls with my current partner, and it's a lot to ask her to have all of them and put them all to bed on her own if I'm working late). Also, after we split up, for a long time she didn't have him overnight at all, and would only take him out a couple of days a week and return him to me. I currently don't pay her any money and she pays me nothing, as I feel that he's under my care more than hers, and she doesn't work and is in receipt of benefits. She periodically threatens to open a case with child maintenance, but hasn't done so yet. Just wondering where I would stand if she were to do so? Thanks
totalimmortal - 17-Apr-17 @ 10:22 AM
Why do child maintenance services calculate your payment using your P60 and include my company car as an income. This increases my earnings in their calculations by £8000 which takes me into the higher earnings bracket. Surely they should only use my monthly gross income. I've argued with them on the phone about this and they just laugh and say that's the way it is. It's a joke surely there is something I can do so they don't take this into account. I'm now paying£120 more a month than I was paying with the csa please help...
Burt - 15-Apr-17 @ 10:58 PM
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