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A Guide to Child Support Payments

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 19 Jan 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.

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The Separated Dads Forum is a place where you can discuss relevant issues and concerns including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or just have a general chat with other dads.

Please help us launch it and make it a great resource for dads going through difficult times. We hope to see you on the Forum soon....

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[Add a Comment]
Von - Your Question:
My son is at college but also earns a wage does my ex have to pay maintenance? , my son earns 10.000 a year

Our Response:
Please see article, At What Age Do Child Maintenance Payments Stop? here which should help to answer your question. However, if your son is working on an apprenticeship scheme both earning and studying at the same time, then your ex would not have to pay child maintenance.
SeparatedDads - 20-Jan-17 @ 12:44 PM
My son is at college but also earns a wage does my ex have to pay maintenance? , my son earns 10.000 a year
Von - 19-Jan-17 @ 6:59 PM
Hi, just after some advive, i have a case open with the CMS for 1 child and i have a futher 2 children with my partner at present. which we live together and the relationship has always been a bit strained because of my ex partner and the CSA. In 2016 we dicided to seperate but cohabit and live in seperate rooms. we share child care and other tasks around the house. we dicided to cohabit due to financual reasons and less disruption for the children so not to distress them any further as fully seperating would be damaging for them and there schooling. This is working reasonable well and we each have our own time to pursue other relationships. my wife ( soon ex wife ) has tried to claim money through the CMS to help support the children as im also away from the properaty for around 3/4 nights a week due to work and other commitments. My wife wants more money to support the children and be more financialy indipendent from me, which i fully understand. We want to draw up a child matenance agrement that would be bindining but can be changed if there a variation in curcumstances however if we do this where do i stand with the CMS and my other claim against me. can i ask for a reduction in monthly payments, as i dont think the CMS will reconise our mutal agrement as we are still in the same house hold?
dar - 19-Jan-17 @ 7:48 AM
Zippy - Your Question:
Hi my ex has stopped me seeing my kids and I normally have them stay over 2 nights per week.how can I calculate maintenance if she is denying me access?

Our Response:
Are you talking about stopping paying child maintenance or changing the amount you pay? Theoretically, if you are having your children less, you are liable to pay more child maintenance. If you are thinking of paying less because your ex is denying you access, then you will be liable for arrears if you stop. Child maintenance and child access are not dependent upon one another, meaning you are still responsible for paying child maintenance even if you are not seeing your kids. However, if you wish to confront the matter of your ex denying you access, then please see link here. Also, in the first instance you should suggest mediation in order to try to resolve your current issues out of court, if you can't resolve them between yourselves. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 17-Jan-17 @ 2:01 PM
Stevo - Your Question:
Hi, my Csa agreement has now ceased and my ex had opened a new case with Cms, I'm a single parent, my daughter of 6 lives with me and I pay for my other daughter of 14, my payments have just increased by £90, per month and my wage has gone down, I'm in full time employment and juggle work and childcare, my ex wife is re married and both are working with no mortgage, this is putting a real strain on my finances,am I being discriminated as I am a male?? Is there anyway I can reduce the payments so my other daughter has a life??

Our Response:
I am afraid regardless of whether your ex has remarried or working, if you are earning you are still legally responsible for supporting your child financially. If you think you are being treated unfairly you can complain, please see link here. You can also see whether you may be paying too much via the CMS calculator here.
SeparatedDads - 17-Jan-17 @ 12:43 PM
Shizzybee - Your Question:
Hi me and my husband have been together for 6 years. He has 2 daughters to a previous relationship. They come from a Friday to a Sunday every 2 be week but ex has never sent them clothes. We have been buying everything for them from underwear clothes and shoes. She has now remarried. My husband still pays her 60 a week should he be doing this when we have to buy all their clothes and shoes?

Our Response:
Most families have a set of clothes for their children when they stay at the respective homes. His ex is not required to supply them for their mutual children.
SeparatedDads - 17-Jan-17 @ 12:09 PM
@Katy - why not propose that she pays the 50% of term time and he lives 50% in each home during term time, and each parent covers the costs? There are no legal rights, it has to be agreed mutually unless one parent decides to take it to court to resolve the issue, then the court will cost!
Fee78 - 17-Jan-17 @ 11:57 AM
Hi my ex has stopped me seeing my kids and I normally have them stay over 2 nights per week.how can I calculate maintenance if she is denying me access?
Zippy - 16-Jan-17 @ 10:05 PM
Hi, my Csa agreement has now ceased and my ex had opened a new case with Cms, I'm a single parent, my daughter of 6 lives with me and I pay for my other daughter of 14, my payments have just increased by £90, per month and my wage has gone down, I'm in full time employment and juggle work and childcare, my ex wife is re married and both are working with no mortgage, this is putting a real strain on my finances,am I being discriminated as I am a male?? Is there anyway I can reduce the payments so my other daughter has a life??
Stevo - 16-Jan-17 @ 7:09 PM
Hi me and my husband have been together for 6 years. He has 2 daughters to a previous relationship. They come from a Friday to a Sunday every 2 be week but ex has never sent them clothes. We have been buying everything for them from underwear clothes and shoes. She has now remarried. My husband still pays her 60 a week should he be doing this when we have to buy all their clothes and shoes?
Shizzybee - 16-Jan-17 @ 3:26 PM
My husband has been paying a family based agreement to his ex-wife for their 2 sons for the past 10 years.The eldest is now 19, has left school and is in his first year of university.Together we have analysed his outgoings, including accommodation, food etc to understand the shortfall after his loan - this comes to £480 per month.We now pay 50% of this shortfall directly to his son, with an initial agreement that his ex would pay the other 50%. She has refused to make this payment is now arguing that we need to pay 100% of the shortfall as she needs to cover his costs outside of term time - he is free and happy to stay in either home.Financially she would have no difficulty making her contribution. What is our legal position?Can we insist that she pays her 50% of the costs?Does she have any right to demand that we pay more than the 50%?
Katy - 16-Jan-17 @ 2:15 PM
Separated from the ex 3 yrs ago and been having the 4 children in family home over night 5 nights one week 3 nights the other until recently and paid her 500 a month when bought home just under 2 grand a month is this amount correct as she says she wants more even tho I was having the children more than her?
martie - 13-Jan-17 @ 7:35 PM
Hi I have my boys 3nights a week and holiday works out exactly half a year. My ex has come to realise that she gets very little maintenance now if she stops me from having the boys and I've been told she can stop me and I'd have to take her to court over custody could she make me pay full maintenance despite its her stopping me from seeing the kids? Also she doesn't drive so I have to do all the traveling can I deduct fuel cost for her half of the trips as I shouldn't have to pay for it all. Before I've tried to arrange her to collect them from me but she says no if you want the kids you have to do both? Regards
Ant - 11-Jan-17 @ 10:06 PM
Can you explain why the Csa/Cms disregard a valid court order for access when the pwc breaks it and they reward her financialy by increasing her payments. Surely they are complicite in the crime she is committing if they reward her financially by disregarding the over night stay my partner should have? Also as the second family why in calculation are the nrp children worth less, why when my daughter wanted to go to college did cms payments not get recognised to help her get funding when that income doesnt come into our household, why is her right to education affected because i have a relationship with a man who pays cms??
Stickybeaks - 6-Jan-17 @ 3:21 PM
Dannyo - Your Question:
Hi. I meet my now wife 14 years ago and she had 2 year old. The man in question has not paid any child maintenance from them until now (the child is now 16). Every time they can possibly get money off him he either leaves his job or moves! So in theory this bloke owes 14 years. how is it possible to get money off a person that hasn't got any. I believe he needs to pay something! The csa a rubbish in dealing with this. Can my wife take out a personal claim to the courts. Thanks. Danny.

Our Response:
I'm afraid child maintenance is based upon earnings and if your wife's partner is not 'earning', then is is almost impossible to obtain payment. Your wife can apply to claim through the courts, but it is only worth doing so if it can be proved her ex is earning/has earned a significant wage that is registered via the HMRC.
SeparatedDads - 6-Jan-17 @ 2:36 PM
Hi.I meet my now wife 14 years ago and she had 2 year old.The man in question has not paid any child maintenance from them until now (the child is now 16). Every time they can possibly get money off him he either leaves his job or moves!So in theory this bloke owes 14 years. how is it possible to get money off a person that hasn't got any. I believe he needs to pay something!The csa a rubbish in dealing with this. Can my wife take out a personal claim to the courts. Thanks. Danny.
Dannyo - 5-Jan-17 @ 5:32 PM
I split with my childrens father 8 years ago. He didnt pay child support at first but did continue to pay the mortgage on the family home for 6 months.. he has since had a child with someone else ..so have I. My 16 year old son has started an apprenticeship and earns £150 a week.. he goes to college one day a week.We had a family based agreement to pay £34 a week per child..until our children together turned 18.My ex now says that he can't afford to do this any more. Can I claim through civil court..the back pay from before the agreement?
Bindi - 4-Jan-17 @ 11:16 PM
JohnFloyd - Your Question:
I have family based arrangements set-up for 2 children, 1 each to 2 different ex-partners.1 is 17 year old and had been attending college doing a mechanic course, of some sort. I've just found out that he has been withdrawn from the course before Christmas due to various reasons, mainly non-attendance after repeated warnings and chances. I'm disappointed, but regarding where I stand on the child support payment, I'm confused due to the amount of changes over the last few years. He is 18 in May, if that helps?Secondly, my other child is 16 and after years of engaging with her and having a relationship with her, her mother remarried and has not allowed her to visit me or communicate, and has now convinced/manipulated my daughter that much that she now herself doesn't want a relationship with me, which is heartbreaking and also frustrating knowing I pay for a child I'm wasn't allowed to see firstly by the mother, now at the request of my daughter herself. Where do I stand on this?Sorry for going on a bit.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear about the broken down relationship with your daughter. However, regardless of whether you see her or not, you are still responsible for contributing to her welfare financially through child maintenance payments. If your son has withdrawn from the course, then your child maintenance payments should stop when child benefit payments do, please see link: At What Age Do Child Maintenance Payments Stop? here. I hope this helps answer your question.
SeparatedDads - 4-Jan-17 @ 2:31 PM
I have family based arrangements set-up for 2 children, 1 each to 2 different ex-partners. 1 is 17 year old and had been attending college doing a mechanic course, of some sort. I've just found out that he has been withdrawn from the course before Christmas due to various reasons, mainly non-attendance after repeated warnings and chances. I'm disappointed, but regarding where I stand on the child support payment, I'm confused due to the amount of changes over the last few years. He is 18 in May, if that helps? Secondly, my other child is 16 and after years of engaging with her and having a relationship with her, her mother remarried and has not allowed her to visit me or communicate, and has now convinced/manipulated my daughter that much that she now herself doesn't want a relationship with me, which is heartbreaking and also frustrating knowing I pay for a child I'm wasn't allowed to see firstly by the mother, now at the request of my daughter herself. Where do I stand on this? Sorry for going on a bit.
JohnFloyd - 3-Jan-17 @ 8:24 PM
Hi I'm wondering if you could help me. I have a few questions, because this system is totally new to me. My soon husband to be pays csa for 2 children. (2different mums). The story is about the second child only. 1. The child has been taken away from the mum when their was 9weeks old and living with the granny (mum's mum), but the granny decided to apply for csa from the dad (my husband to be) only. I understand the granny is responsible for a day to day care at the moment, and gets a few benefit for the child, but how's possible only the dad has to pay for the child? Why only him? Why the mum doesn't have to pay if the child is not with her? Never!!!! She never gets the child home as she's not allowed to get contact without social workers. I absolutely agree the dad has to pay because the mum and dad not together anymore, but I don't feel it fair the mum doesn't pay anything to the granny. 2. If we get married with the children's dad, do we have to pay more csa for the children because it's more income? Thanks a lot!
sushu - 27-Dec-16 @ 2:41 PM
Hi I'm wondering if you could help me. I have a few questions, because this system is totally new to me. My soon husband to be pays csa for 2 children. (2different mums). The story is about the second child only. 1. The child has been taken away from the mum when their was 9weeks old and living with the granny (mum's mum), but the granny decided to apply for csa from the dad (my husband to be) only. I understand the granny is responsible for a day to day care at the moment, and gets a few benefit for the child, but how's possible only the dad has to pay for the child? Why only him? Why the mum doesn't have to pay if the child is not with her? Never!!!! She never gets the child home as she's not allowed to get contact without social workers. I absolutely agree the dad has to pay because the mum and dad not together anymore, but I don't feel it fair the mum doesn't pay anything to the granny. 2. If we get married with the children's dad, do we have to pay more csa for the children because it's more income? Thanks a lot!
sushu - 27-Dec-16 @ 11:23 AM
My ex tell the csa I have the children less than I actually do to get more money. Csa will only take a solicitors letter or her word. This is fraud but what can I do about it?
Nm - 16-Dec-16 @ 11:38 PM
Sam - Your Question:
If I have paid child maintenance to deal with a claim because my child's dad decided to drop my payment which intact I've found out he should be paying me more then he 1st was and he's still paying a dropped payment so he's now telling child maintenance that we have a private agreement which I didn't agree to hence the reason as to why I made the claim what can I do do get things in gear one he owed me from csa 115 I put the claim in and paid the 4th of November I had my welcome pack but I've had nothing more since from child maintenance so I rang them this morning to find out that they have spoken to him they have calculated what he should pay and he has told them we have a private agreement which I did not agree to as I have said but he's still paying this small amount and when I say small I mean 11 pound a week when he should be paying 32.50 a week what can I do to get this money back he owes from the date he got he's welcome pack and obviously the money from previously

Our Response:
I can only suggest you either complain or appeal via the gov.uk link here.
SeparatedDads - 8-Dec-16 @ 10:27 AM
If I have paid child maintenance to deal with a claim because my child's dad decided to drop my payment which intact I've found out he should be paying me more then he 1st was and he's still paying a dropped payment so he's now telling child maintenance that we have a private agreement which I didn't agree to hence the reason as to why I made the claim what can I do do get things in gear one he owed me from csa 115 I put the claim in and paid the 4th of November I had my welcome pack but I've had nothing more since from child maintenance so I rang them this morning to find out that they have spoken to him they have calculated what he should pay and he has told them we have a private agreement which I did not agree to as I have said but he's still paying this small amount and when I say small I mean 11 pound a week when he should be paying 32.50 a week what can I do to get this money back he owes from the date he got he's welcome pack and obviously the money from previously
Sam - 7-Dec-16 @ 1:51 PM
Scruffs - Your Question:
I have 3 sons to a previous relationship. Currently my son's are 20,17 and 16. None are in full time eduction. The 17yr old was on a course which he stopped doing. The 16yr old was give a 15 wk course with the potential to have an apprenticeship providing he passed the course. He never attended. Where do I stand on paying maintained agreement made with the ex partner in 2003.the fact none of my boy's are in education or working?

Our Response:
Every parent has the basic responsibility to provide for their child up until the age of 16, when they are legally allowed to leave school and get a job. After this age, it depends what your child chooses to do. If they continue in full-time non-advanced education not higher than A-level equivalent, for at least 12 hours a week, then your maintenance payments will continue until your child finishes the course, or until they turn 20. If non of your children are still in receipt of child benefit, then you can stop payments and child maintenance payments officially end when child benefit ceases.
SeparatedDads - 1-Dec-16 @ 12:46 PM
I have 3 sons to a previous relationship. Currently my son's are 20,17 and 16. None are in full time eduction. The 17yr old was on a course which he stopped doing. The 16yr old was give a 15 wk course with the potential to have an apprenticeship providing he passed the course. He never attended. Where do I stand on paying maintained agreement made with the ex partner in 2003.the fact none of my boy's are in education or working?
Scruffs - 1-Dec-16 @ 11:58 AM
Black - Your Question:
My soon to b husband pays child support and also pay's for his child to go to daycare how ever the child has been taken out of daycare since May and someone is now coming to the child's home to watch the child so my question is.is that even legal ? Should my soon to be husband be paying for what he thought was child care to some one coming to the home to watch the child?

Our Response:
It is up to the parents to decide how and whether the money should be paid and it's not illegal to have the child cared for at home by a childminder. If your partner is in agreement with the arrangement, that is all that matters. If he disagrees, then he can either sort the matter out with his ex, or suggest mediation.
SeparatedDads - 29-Nov-16 @ 2:15 PM
Mysoon to b husband pays child support and also pay's for his child to go to daycare how ever the child has been taken out of daycare since May and someone is now coming to the child's home to watch the child so my question is ...is that even legal ? Should my soon to be husband be paying for what he thought was child care to some one coming to the home to watch the child?
Black - 29-Nov-16 @ 3:50 AM
Hi 2 years ago i spit from my wife I left the marital home and took all personal debt with me and left the family in position . We splt care equaly for a year i recieved no benifits and worked harder to provide a second home for my 3 children. After 1 year my ex realised she could recive £570 pounds a month by stopping me seeing my children so thats what she did . this caused me to loose my own home and ended up on my friends sofa and i no position to have my children. It took a few months and hard work to get back on my feet but i got there and she lets me see the kids every other weekend. I have had to make an application through a C100 to get the CMS to acknowledge that i actually have my children because she dosent want to loose any money. I understand I have to pay but are there no rights for the father ?. Due to the amout ofhours I have had to work to dig myself out off this situation I have to give her even more money now .It is a nightmare how am i ever expected to see my children if I am always at work to pay to keep my new home that i need so I can have them stop over. please can you help as i seem to hit a brick wall at every corner is there anything i can do to even things up.
non - 23-Nov-16 @ 11:07 PM
Hi my ex partner has been giving me 40 quid a week chid maintenance for my two boys for 4 years through the csa . This so called father failed to let me know that he was working on the rigs (off shore) i have no correspondance with this man i pay for everything for the boys hair cuts clothes uniformsschool trips' etc i also gave up my job to be my parents carer ive ad to skrimp and scrape for years to provide a home for my boys while their si called father has 3 holidays a year... now that i have informed csa of his real job would the father owe me back payment for the years he lied.
pennyjenny - 21-Nov-16 @ 6:10 PM
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