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A Guide to Child Maintenance Payments

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 13 Aug 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Child Support Maintenance Parent Child

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

Child maintenance 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 for free advice.

What is a family-based child maintenance arrangement?

A family-based maintenance arrangement is an agreement between parties made out of court. This allows you to preserve good relations and address your wishes more specifically. It can also help reduce costs. If you and your former partner have a good working relationship, a family-based child maintenance arrangement can be an amicable way to agree matters mutually.

How is child maintenance calculated?

Gross income
Child maintenance via CMS is based upon your gross weekly income. If you are self-employed, your gross income is based upon your total taxable profits.

The 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.
  • are in prison
  • are under 16 years old
  • are a 16- to 19-year-old who has left school but is registered for certaintypes of government-approved training courses
  • are a 16- to 19-year-old who is in full-time, non-advanced education (up
  • to and including A-level or equivalent standard
  • are a 16- to 17-year-old who receives Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • are 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
  • are in 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 maintenance payments. They must stay with you a minimum average of one 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.

When do Child Maintenance 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 the age of 16, you will still have to pay to support your child. Full-time studies include A-level standard but do not include university / professional studies after this level. Child maintenance payments will end when the course finishes or 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 and a DNA test can be arranged.

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

The CSA/CMS 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

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. However, if the other parent has parental responsibility, then they can challenge any such provision in the will. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.

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 residency 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 Maintenance application or questions.

Need to write to the CSA/CMS?

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.

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]
JS14 - Your Question:
Hi, My partner is paying for his 18 old, which he has been denied access to see him for the past 10 years. He doesn't have a high paid job, and it is leaving him with under £600 a month to pay for rent/bills/and to live. His mental health has dramatically declined, as it is making him depressed about his financial troubles. I'm desperate to help him, I just don't know where to start. Can you please point me int he right direction?Thanks

Our Response:
Every non-resident parent of a child has to pay toward the child's upkeep regardless of whether they see the child or not. If your partner has been denied access, he would have had the option to apply through court for access which is considered a separate issue to child maintenance payments. If your partner is paying for one child on the basic rate, then he would pay 12% of his gross weekly income, which is considered affordable (unless he has arrears to pay - you don't say). With such blanket laws in place it is difficult to negotiate a way out/around of his financial commitments to his child. If your partner feels he is being unfairly treated he can complain, please see the link here. If he feels he is sliding into debt, please see the link here. House sharing or renting a room for a bill-inclusive price may be a way of trying to get around such issues until he can financially get back on his feet. Unfortunately, I cannot offer more help except to say that soon his child will finish full-time education (at A-Level completion or the equivalent) and as soon as his child's resident parent ceases being eligible to receive child benefit he can stop payments (as long as he is not in arrears).
SeparatedDads - 14-Aug-18 @ 11:04 AM
Ash - Your Question:
My Ex-Wife who earns around £45K a year, has now moved in with her new Boyfriend who is a very wealthy man (Earns over £150K a year, £2M House, etc.) and as such she is no longer entitled to Child Benefit for my child as their Household income is over the threshold and lose it all in the Tax Charge.Do I still have to pay Child Maintenance as she/they are not entitled to Child Benefit?

Our Response:
Regardless of what your ex earns are what her boyfriend earns, you would still have to pay child maintenance. Every non-resident parent is responsible for contributing financially to the day-to-day care of their children.
SeparatedDads - 13-Aug-18 @ 3:42 PM
My Ex-Wife who earns around £45K a year, has now moved in with her new Boyfriend who is a very wealthy man (Earns over £150K a year, £2M House, etc.) and as such she is no longer entitled to Child Benefit for my child as their Household income is over the threshold and lose it all in the Tax Charge. Do I still have to pay Child Maintenance as she/they are not entitled to Child Benefit?
Ash - 13-Aug-18 @ 2:24 PM
Hi, My partner is paying for his 18 old, which he has been denied access to see him for the past 10 years. He doesn't have a high paid job, and it is leaving him with under £600 a month to pay for rent/bills/and to live. His mental health has dramatically declined, as it is making him depressed about his financial troubles. I'm desperate to help him, I just don't know where to start. Can you please point me int he right direction? Thanks
JS14 - 13-Aug-18 @ 12:05 PM
C3 - Your Question:
Hi, my partner has 3 children from a previous marriage, 2 are now adults (in early twenties) the youngest is still school age. My partner pays maintenance above that required by the CMS for the youngest child & also pays his mobile phone contract. His ex-wife regularly requests additional payments towards school trips, sports team training, etc. The amounts for these started to seem excessively high, so he has been requesting evidence of the payment (e.g. letter from school, PayPal receipt from sports club). She's refusing to provide these. So 2 questions: 1. Is it reasonable for him to ask for evidence in relation to these additional payments he's making & if not why not? 2. Is it unreasonable for him to ask the school or club to provide this information directly? When he's tried this in relation to school reports the school informed her & she stopped them sending the info surely in relation to club subs & trip costs this data isn't a child protection issue.

Our Response:
As your partner does not have to pay anything more than what CMS requires him to pay, then he has a right to ask for justification of spending above his regular child maintenance payments, as these payments are deemed discretionary/voluntary. However, this school is not obliged to provide this to him directly, it would be up to his ex to provide receipts (which she will be provided with on payment). With regards to school reports, school and local authority staff must treat all parents equally, unless there is a court order limiting an individual's exercise of parental responsibility. Individuals who have parental responsibility for, or care of, a child have the same rights as natural parents; for example to receive information, e.g. pupil reports
SeparatedDads - 13-Aug-18 @ 11:45 AM
Midge77 - Your Question:
Hello my husband has 3 othr children with his ex wife. One if them is to turn 18 soon. Do you stop paying child maintenance and does the actual cost stay the same or lower as your paying for less

Our Response:
Your partner would only stop paying child maintenance when his 18-year-old leaves approved education or training (on completion of A-Levels or the equivalent level of training). The payments will stop at the end of February, 31 May, 31 August or 30 November (whichever comes first). If your husband is paying the basic rate of income then if he's paying for one child, he’ll pay 12% of his gross weekly income, two children 16%, or if he is paying for three or more children, he will pay 19% of his gross weekly income.
SeparatedDads - 13-Aug-18 @ 11:37 AM
Hi, my partner has 3 children from a previous marriage, 2 are now adults (in early twenties) the youngest is still school age. My partner pays maintenance above that required by the CMS for the youngest child & also pays his mobile phone contract. His ex-wife regularly requests additional payments towards school trips, sports team training, etc. The amounts for these started to seem excessively high, so he has been requesting evidence of the payment (e.g. letter from school, PayPal receipt from sports club). She's refusing to provide these. So 2 questions: 1. Is it reasonable for him to ask for evidence in relation to these additional payments he's making & if not why not? 2. Is it unreasonable for him to ask the school or club to provide this information directly? When he's tried this in relation to school reports the school informed her & she stopped them sending the info surely in relation to club subs & trip costs this data isn't a child protection issue.
C3 - 11-Aug-18 @ 2:19 PM
Hello my husband has 3 othr children with his ex wife. One if them is to turn 18 soon. Do you stop paying child maintenance and does the actual cost stay the same or lower as your paying for less
Midge77 - 11-Aug-18 @ 1:01 PM
Bahey - Your Question:
Hi my son is 18 still lives with his mother and her partner.He has just finished 6th form and has enrolled on a further education course with a view to take a degree online. He only has to attend 2 lectures a week which is less than 12 hours in class and is actively seeking employment to suit this course. My question is am I still legally bound to continue paying maintenance?

Our Response:
When your child leaves approved education or training (once A-Levels or the equivalent have been completed) then payments will stop at the end of February, 31 May, 31 August or 30 November (whichever comes first).
SeparatedDads - 10-Aug-18 @ 2:31 PM
Hi my son is 18 still lives with his mother and her partner . He has just finished 6th form and has enrolled on a further education course with a view to take a degree online . He only has to attend 2 lectures a week which is less than 12 hours in class and is actively seeking employment to suit this course . My question is am I still legally bound to continue paying maintenance?
Bahey - 10-Aug-18 @ 7:45 AM
Ella - Your Question:
Can I make my expartner pay child maintenance for my 18 year old son. He is still in full time education and I recieve child benefit for him. Theres no contact between me and the father as when we broke up he stopped seeing our son. A year ago. Thanks

Our Response:
If you are eligible still to receive child benifit you can claim child maintenance if your child's father is earning. If CMS cannot deal with it, then you would have to apply to court. You may wish to give CMS a call to establish whether you have a case to answer.
SeparatedDads - 9-Aug-18 @ 12:15 PM
Can i make my expartner pay child maintenance for my 18 year old son. He is still in full time education and i recieve child benefit for him. Theres no contact between me and the father as when we broke up he stopped seeing our son. A year ago. Thanks
Ella - 7-Aug-18 @ 6:31 PM
Netty - Your Question:
Hello I split with my husband on 22/5/18 and our daughter lives with me, he paid our rent at the beginning of June saying that was him paying maintenance for my daughter for that month. (He was going to pay nothing even though he’d lived here for 3 weeks of may). He started paying maintenance at the beginning of August so I was wondering if it is possible for me to contact CMS to find out if it’s possible to backdate as he paid nothing in July? And would I need a reference number in order to do this? Please can you tell me my rights in this matter? Thank you.

Our Response:
If you have a family-based child maintenance arrangement, CMS would not be able to help. Only if you register a claim with CMS can back-dated pay be enforced.
SeparatedDads - 7-Aug-18 @ 3:03 PM
CJ - Your Question:
My ex partner has been claiming CMS for our two children since September 2017. She stated to them that I do not see or have them what so ever. However I have my children every weekend Friday to Sunday overnight aswell as extra days and nights throughout school holidays. What proof would be acceptable for the CMS to see that she is lieing? Is it illegal for her to make such a false statement? Any advice would be great!! Thanks

Our Response:
You would have to speak to CMS directly regarding this matter to see what counts as evidence. As a general rule, CMS take the word of the resident-parent regarding how many days the other parent has their children overnight. Perhaps requesting mediation may be a way of outlining what days you have your children overnight, then this could act as a confirmation. The only other option (if your ex will not attend mediation) is to apply to court.
SeparatedDads - 7-Aug-18 @ 12:22 PM
Hello I split with my husband on 22/5/18 and our daughter lives with me, he paid our rent at the beginning of June saying that was him paying maintenance for my daughter for that month. (He was going to pay nothing even though he’d lived here for 3 weeks of may). He started paying maintenance at the beginning of August so I was wondering if it is possible for me to contact CMS to find out if it’s possible to backdate as he paid nothing in July? And would I need a reference number in order to do this? Please can you tell me my rights in this matter? Thank you.
Netty - 7-Aug-18 @ 11:06 AM
Dads - Your Question:
Hi, my partner has 2 children with he’s ex wife. he has them 3 nights a week every week, and even occasionally has them for whole weeks a couple of times a year when he has holidays. He pays for almost all their school trips, weekly activities, school uniform, provides clothes and footwear throughout the year yet she’s claiming he should be paying £150 a month to contribute to their 2 children? Surely this isn’t right? I’m a mother myself so do understand the opposite parent providing for their children’s upbringing, but he’s doing more than enough. ? any abswers to this?

Our Response:
Your partner can find out how much he should be paying via the link here .
SeparatedDads - 6-Aug-18 @ 3:26 PM
Jay - Your Question:
Hi I have a question I have a sense who is 7 his mum decided I cant see him anymore after I was asking to have him more often than 2 days every 2 weeks we agreed for me to pay £120 a month through bank transfer now shes asking for more money or go through child maintenance is this right I mean its her who doesnt allow me to see him will I need to pay more? Thanks

Our Response:
If the other parent isn't allowing you access, then you can apply to court to have access reinstated. Please see the link here. CMS does base payments on the amount of nights you have your child over, please see the link here , which will tell you all you need to know.
SeparatedDads - 6-Aug-18 @ 12:44 PM
Mjs - Your Question:
My son stay with me for all of the summer holidays and two nights per week. Do I have to pay maintenance during these periods

Our Response:
Yes, if you pay via CMS, then CMS take this into consideration when working out how much you should pay. If you have a family-based child maintenance arrangement then you decide an arrangement between yourselves. The CMS calculator can help, please see the link here .
SeparatedDads - 6-Aug-18 @ 10:12 AM
Hi, my partner has 2 children with he’s ex wife.. he has them 3 nights a week every week, and even occasionally has them for whole weeks a couple of times a year when he has holidays. He pays for almost all their school trips, weekly activities, school uniform, provides clothes and footwear throughout the year yet she’s claiming he should be paying £150 a month to contribute to their 2 children? Surely this isn’t right? I’m a mother myself so do understand the opposite parent providing for their children’s upbringing, but he’s doing more than enough. ? any abswers to this?
Dads - 5-Aug-18 @ 5:08 PM
Hi i have a question i have a sense who is 7 his mum decided i cant see him anymore after i was asking to have him more often than 2 days every 2 weeks we agreed for me to pay £120 a month through bank transfer now shes asking for more money or go through child maintenance is this right i mean its her who doesnt allow me to see him will i need to pay more?Thanks
Jay - 5-Aug-18 @ 2:17 PM
My son stay with me for all of the summer holidays andtwo nights per week. Do I have to pay maintenance during these periods
Mjs - 5-Aug-18 @ 7:46 AM
My ex partner has been claiming CMS for our two children since September 2017. She stated to them that I do not see or have them what so ever. However I have my children every weekend Friday to Sunday overnight aswell as extra days and nights throughout school holidays. What proof would be acceptable for the CMS to see that she is lieing? Is it illegal for her to make such a false statement? Any advice would be great!! Thanks
CJ - 4-Aug-18 @ 11:04 AM
@Mj - CMS prefer parents not to pay through CMS, so unless your son doesn't pay on time or delays payment then she has no grounds to apply through CMS.
CharlieG - 3-Aug-18 @ 12:58 PM
So how does it work if you have 2 children to one mother 104 nights per year and another child to a different mother who you see less say 50 nights per year and you dont live with any of your children?
Macca8030 - 2-Aug-18 @ 8:37 PM
Hi. I currently pay for my son through cms. His mother isn't happy about the amount they have told her. My wife is worried she can change the arrangement from direct pay to collect and pay with all the extra charges on. If I keep paying her. Can she change it Thank you.
Mj - 2-Aug-18 @ 7:54 PM
@Knockerefc If this is not agreed via CMS directly then yes you will for sure.
DaveC - 2-Aug-18 @ 2:18 PM
Coops87 - Your Question:
Hi, my partner pays for his 2 children who are 16 and 15. The 16 year old has just finished school and is going to residential college, meaning he’s away from home Monday-Friday. As he won’t be in either parents home for 5 days a week does the csa payment get reduced? I’m concerned she’ll receive money for a child that isn’t even in the home.

Our Response:
Much depends upon whether your partner's child's other parent will still be eligible to claim child maintenance. If they are, then your partner would have to continue to pay as child maintenance payments stop when eligibility to child benefit ceases. Please see link here to find out what the eligibility requirements are.
SeparatedDads - 2-Aug-18 @ 2:13 PM
Jussy - Your Question:
I have 3 children that I pay maintenance for. 1 is now 21 and has apprenticeship, 1 is 18 and has left school and waiting to go an internship and 2 is 17 who is planning to go to college in Sept. Do I still have to pay maintenance? As I have re married and have 2 children under the age of 3

Our Response:
You do not have to pay for your 21 year old. If your 18 year old has finished their A-Levels and has left approved education or training, then payments will stop at the end of February, 31 May, 31 August or 30 November (whichever comes first). You would have to pay for your 17 year old until he/she has finished approved education. As child maintenance stops when child benefit payments stop, then please see the link here .
SeparatedDads - 2-Aug-18 @ 12:06 PM
None - Your Question:
My daughter is 18 doing ALevels and has informed me she doesn’t want to go to Uni yet as she wants to work and travel first. Why do I have to keep paying her mum payments until she’s 20 to support her?? How is this far. I have never missed a payment throughout her life but this is too much now.

Our Response:
If your daughter has left full-time approved education or training payments up to A-Levels, then your payments should stop when child benefit stops; at the end of February, 31 May, 31 August or 30 November (whichever comes first). You only have to pay until your daughter is aged 20 if she is studying up to A-Level equivalent.
SeparatedDads - 2-Aug-18 @ 11:47 AM
My ex partner pays for 2 children my child and another child he has now got back with the mother of the other child but hasn't told child maintence, Will this effect my money?
Anon1 - 2-Aug-18 @ 11:46 AM
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