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A Guide to Child Support Payments

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 21 Feb 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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[Add a Comment]
concerned - Your Question:
My partner and his ex divorced in 2015 with child maintenance agreed through a court order rather than an agency, he has never missed a payment and paid nursery fees on top of the calculated payment for two years? however now she has asked for a copy of his p60 so it can be reviewed as she thinks he should be paying more (he pays a large amount already). Can we decrease the payments by either:- Him taking a lower earning job?- Applying for joint custody?- Going through the CMS so its a regular review so he just pays what he is told rather than more solicitors fees?Also can he ask for travel expenses to be taken into account as he drives over 1000 miles each month to pick them up and drop them back off?

Our Response:
He can certainly look at applying for travel expenses through a variation, please see link here. Your partner can see how much he would be paying through the CMS via the link here, so this can be used comparatively. It is highly unlikely he would be allowed joint custody if he applied to the courts on the basis of financial reasons and likewise, the courts will not allow joint-residency due to distance reasons. Taking a lower paid job would possibly reduce the level of his payments, but it is all relative and he is not likely to be any better off financially if he takes this route. However, he is not liable to pay nursery fees if this is not included in the current court order, except if nursery fees are needed when his kids are in his care.
SeparatedDads - 22-Feb-17 @ 11:52 AM
My partner and his ex divorced in 2015 with child maintenance agreed through a court order rather than an agency, he has never missed a payment and paid nursery fees on top of the calculated payment for two years? however now she has asked for a copy of his p60 so it can be reviewed as she thinks he should be paying more (he pays a large amount already).Can we decrease the payments by either: - Him taking a lower earning job? - Applying for joint custody? - Going through the CMS so its a regular review so he just pays what he is told rather than more solicitors fees? Also can he ask for travel expenses to be taken into account as he drives over 1000 miles each month to pick them up and drop them back off?
concerned - 21-Feb-17 @ 5:06 PM
My ex has challenged mynights over with my youngest son. Because of a bizarre calculation laid down by the tribunalthe youngest is 155.124 nights and the eldest is 201.nights The CMS has reduced the youngest to 2/7 although the tribunal for the previous year took the average of the combined. If they want to reduce the youngest to 2/7 should theynot increase the eldest to 50%
Tiredout45 - 21-Feb-17 @ 1:16 PM
Hi, I went on paternity 2 weeks ago with my new child but didn't pay my 3 children from 2 previous relationships because of this. Should I back date for the 2 weeks I was off or am I not entitled too?
Jim - 17-Feb-17 @ 10:49 PM
Hi, I am paying maintenance for 2 daughters from previous marriage. The payments have been done through CSA before. I contacted my ex to agree direct payment not to go through new agency. I never missed any payment and girls coming regularly to spend weekends and holidays with us. However my ex ignored me and contacted CMS and the result is that I have to pay about £80 more. We are strugling with money as we have 3 years old triplets in my second marriage but obviously my ex did not care. I have to pay and always had to pay for all travel costs for girls to visit me. They don't live in the same city. I don't really know how new agency calculates maintenance, why I have to pay more. When do my payments stop for my older daughter who is 19 and finishing college in June, going to UNI in September. Do I have to pay over summer. She will vbe spending a lot of time with us and not her mother. Thank you John
Johnda - 17-Feb-17 @ 4:02 PM
Kellylou - Your Question:
My sons father is due to pay me my child support tomorrow but as just text and said he cant now til end of month can he do this or does he have to give me notice

Our Response:
It depends whether you ex is paying via a family-based arrangement, or through CMS. If it is family-based, you agree between you when he pays. If he messes you about in this agreement, then you may wish to consider making the arrangement via the CMS. Then, he will fall into arrears when he doesn't pay.
SeparatedDads - 15-Feb-17 @ 12:53 PM
My sons father is due to pay me my child support tomorrow but as just text and said he cant now til end of month can he do this or does he have to give me notice
Kellylou - 14-Feb-17 @ 8:08 PM
Stuart - Your Question:
My wife wanted me to leave, so I did. I have 4 Children 10,7,3 and 2 who she has kept. I am currently unemployed as I took redundancy and have been living from that, but now looking again. I've moved away, can anyone advise me of what I need to do as its all new to me!RegardsStu

Our Response:
If you are not earning, or claiming benefits (when you would be classed at having to pay flat rate), then you will be exempt from paying child maintenance until you are in receipt of an assessible income.
SeparatedDads - 14-Feb-17 @ 2:50 PM
My wife wanted me to leave, so I did. I have 4 Children 10,7,3 and 2 who she has kept. I am currently unemployed as I took redundancy and have been living from that, but now looking again. I've moved away, can anyone advise me of what I need to do as its all new to me! Regards Stu
Stuart - 13-Feb-17 @ 8:25 PM
I live abroad with my partner. I have never paid maintenance for my daughter who is now nine, because neither my ex or I could afford the court costs at the time. My current partner insists I make a contribution now I'm in a better position, and set up an agreement. If I make one with my ex do I have to include both our gross earnings as we live in aus, back dated pay for nine years and what's a general percentage to give each month. We have an annual income of £80000 for both of us and we currently have no children. I want it too be fair, I think if I offer my ex £200 she might just go through court and remo and I want to keep us from arguing. And she's been struggling for a while.
Jim - 11-Feb-17 @ 5:23 AM
My ex girlfriend left me and moved to the u.k with our child i lived in jamaica at the time there was talks of visits and nothing happened. I moved on and when i wanted to get married she said she wasnt able to send him. She claims she as sole legal and physical custody of the child. But refuses to sign documents saying so or provide something thats says so. Is there any rule in the u.k that can show me that this is true that she does have sole legal and physical custody. if there is so ide back off if not i want to fight for my child as im now living in the u.s .
kingkeens - 8-Feb-17 @ 12:26 AM
davedee - Your Question:
When my wife & I split up we had shared care of our daughter so I didn't pay her maintenance but when I started seeing someone else she didn't want our daughter staying with me we came to an arrangement that I would give my daughter an agreed amount each month which I have been doing however she has now gone to the csa and has claimed for child maintenance for the past 12 months leaving me with a bill I can't afford to pay!Can she do this even though I've been making payments to my daughter?

Our Response:
If you had a family-based agreement between you with no agency involved, then your ex cannot make you pay arrears. Only if your agreement was organised through the CMS, can arrears be collected. If the original agreement was made through the CMS and you paid outside this agreement, then you will be liable for arrears.
SeparatedDads - 7-Feb-17 @ 12:50 PM
When my wife & I split up we had shared care of our daughter so I didn't pay her maintenance but when I started seeing someone else she didn't want our daughter staying with me we came to an arrangement that I would give my daughter an agreed amount each month which I have been doing however she has now gone to the csa and has claimed for child maintenance for the past 12 months leaving me with a bill I can't afford to pay! Can she do this even though I've been making payments to my daughter?
davedee - 7-Feb-17 @ 1:12 AM
Mac - Your Question:
Hi, my son is 17 and just dropped out of college and is looking for work. We have always privately sorted out child maintenance payments with out the CSA. I'm just wondering where I stand with payment's to my ex now? I would like to give my son the money to help him tI'll he gets a job and unsure on when I have to stop paying my ex for him?

Our Response:
As a rule, you would stop at the end of your son's school year, August 31. However, if your are paying through a family-based arrangement, you can negotiate between yourselves.
SeparatedDads - 6-Feb-17 @ 2:34 PM
Mike35 - Your Question:
Hi, my ex left me about 9 months age, she moved out of our house and is now renting, she never bothered me about child support money because I have my son over night 2 or 3 times a week, now since I got a new job with better money she has been saying she wants money of me, but she is now living with her boyfriend who is on more money then me so do I have to pay her anything.

Our Response:
Yes, every non-resident parent by law is deemed to be responsible to help support their child, regardless of what your ex's current partner is earning. He is not responsible for the financial upkeep of your child.
SeparatedDads - 6-Feb-17 @ 12:00 PM
Hi,my ex left me about 9 months age,she moved out of our house and is now renting,she never bothered me about child support money because I have my son over night 2 or 3 times a week, now since I got a new job with better money she has been saying she wants money of me, but she is now living with her boyfriend who is on more money then me so do I have to pay her anything.
Mike35 - 5-Feb-17 @ 7:48 PM
Hi, my son is 17 and just dropped out of college and is looking for work. We have always privately sorted out child maintenance payments with out the CSA. I'm just wondering where I stand with payment's to my ex now? I would like to give my son the money to help him tI'll he gets a job and unsure on when I have to stop paying my ex for him?
Mac - 4-Feb-17 @ 7:11 AM
Marts - Your Question:
My ex has moved to another country with my son and didn't tell me she was moving and now is telling me I need to pay child maintenance or I will go to jail. Can she do this? I had him for 3years and she's only had him a year.

Our Response:
You are still responsible for paying child maintenance regardless of where your ex lives. However, on another note your ex should have requested your consent to move out of the country (if you have Parental Responsibility). If you wish to follow this matter up, you should seek legal advice.
SeparatedDads - 3-Feb-17 @ 2:04 PM
Ross- Your Question:
Hi I have new arangment from child maintenence service from february and I just get letter from CSA that my arrangment with them finish on january but still need to pay more then £300 over two months. It is possible that I will pay twice for 2 months?I have direct debit before so all payments always been on time. Thx

Our Response:
You would need to ask CSA directly as we are not party to its administration procedures.
SeparatedDads - 3-Feb-17 @ 11:38 AM
My ex has moved to another country with my son and didn't tell me she was moving and now is telling me I need to pay child maintenance or I will go to jail. Can she do this? I had him for 3years and she's only had him a year.
Marts - 2-Feb-17 @ 11:44 PM
Hi I have new arangment from child maintenence service from february and I just get letter from CSA that my arrangment with them finish on january but still need to pay more then £300 over two months. It is possible that I will pay twice for 2 months?I have direct debit before so all payments always been on time. Thx
Ross - 2-Feb-17 @ 2:27 PM
My ex left after being arrested for domestic abuse when my son was born. He started lying to people and then decided to go study full time so he doesn't need to pay any child maintenance. He hides his address and cut all contact so I don't know and do not contact child maintenance with his details. As he is studying for the moment the child maintenance can't seem to find any details about him.. they asked to wait and my son is now 3 yrs old.. and he is still not paying anything and is still studying from what I last heard. So what should I do next?
Vivi - 29-Jan-17 @ 8:48 PM
Hi I have a child with my ex I get 7 pound a week from cms out off his benefits I work and bring my children up alone he's claimed he has 2 children to someone else I no he's not on birth certificate for the said children but you have belived this from his the woman that phoned he wants to get a full time job and pay me pittance off 19 pound a week says if I don't cancel with cms he will add these other children on and not get a job so I will then only get 3 pounds a week instead off 31 which it says what he should pay me towards my child is this correct
Miss daisy - 27-Jan-17 @ 1:10 AM
Hi just a quick question regarding my case. My case was closed when my daughter was 17 and no longer in education. However it was reopened when she returned to education when she was 18. I have been paying her phone bill for years and so asked my ex to take it over now that I would be paying again, she refused. My daughter needs money for college now and yet my ex once again told her she wouldn't be giving any money to my daughter from this new claim. So because my daughter is 18 nearly 19 and no longer a child I took the decision to pay my daughter the money directly, she pays my ex rent out of this money and uses the rest for college. My ex has now contacted csa and said I haven't made payments. I have evidence of all the payments I've made direct to my daughters bank account. So I guess I'm asking surely as my daughter is an adult herself and money is intended for her why shouldn't I be allowed to pay her direct without the need to even involve her mum.
Jay75 - 25-Jan-17 @ 6:54 PM
Jo - Your Question:
Hi. if a child went to his father's 3 nights a week and he paid for his child whilst at his house. his own clothes. toys etc. should he still pay maintenance to the mother as the child is there for the majority and lives there as a main address.? Bearing in mind he works full time and gets paid well. Also the 3 nights is from teatime till morning so the child only really sleeps there and has tea.

Our Response:
It depends who is considered the primary carer (i.e who collects child benefit etc) as the primary carer is the parent who will receive child maintenance. If the child is at the father's three nights per week, it is still not considered shared-care as one parent still has the child more. You can see how much child maintenance the primary carer could receive via the link here. I hope this helps answer your question.
SeparatedDads - 25-Jan-17 @ 11:05 AM
Hi.. if a child went to his father's 3 nights a week and he paid for his child whilst at his house.. his own clothes.. toys etc.... should he still pay maintenance to the mother as the child is there for the majority and lives there as a main address.? Bearing in mind he works full time and gets paid well. Also the 3 nights is from teatime till morning so the child only really sleeps there and has tea.
Jo - 24-Jan-17 @ 1:13 PM
Nic - Your Question:
My parents have been separated for many years, my dad paid CSA as I grew up when I was at school. However I have returned to education after 12 years, at the time when I left school the payments stopped. Being 28 is it still possible to claim off of my father, he had left when I was a young girl.

Our Response:
I'm afraid, in a word; no. Age 20 is the cut-off point for a resident parent to claim child maintenance in England and Wales for their child in full-time education, and 25 in Scotland (where a child can claim further education financial help directly).
SeparatedDads - 24-Jan-17 @ 12:22 PM
My parents have been separated for many years, my dad paid CSA as I grew up when I was at school. However I have returned to education after 12 years, at the time when I left school the payments stopped. Being 28 is it still possible to claim off of my father, he had left when I was a young girl.
Nic - 23-Jan-17 @ 4:04 PM
my partner has several children with different woman which causes alot of issues, the first iss we have is that one mother is stating her daughter now 16 attends fulltime college, we dont beleive this is right but on approach to the colege we were told we cannot attain a copy of attendance due to the fact she is 16 - cms stated to my partner as long as she enrold he has to pay whether she attends or not - what conditions should he have to pay the second issue is he has two children with his last partner - he has full custody after all 8 children were taken away, he receives no cms because they state they cannot find her - despite giving them her number plates to both her cars - they state she does not work or claim benefits ! - we also have her other son who is not bioligcally my partners childrens services have him with us under a private arrangment as hes already known to us and so for which we get NO MONEY to support this child what so ever - my partner gave us work to take these kids on and we get no support from the mother - what can he do - we have considred hiring a private detective - what other options do we have
hisgirl - 22-Jan-17 @ 1:19 PM
Hi, I am concerned about the lack of campaigning against women who trap men into having children (flings and one night stands), surprised at women who get angry with their partners or exes and contact CMS just for money so they can go shopping. I'm shocked CMS do n outer consider debts and unpaid leave from work when asking for fathers to pay money for a child. I don't think it's right to judge a father who is not allowed to see his children and then cuts ties to them be forced to pay for a child when the mother is earning alot of money. I am deeply concerned that the mothers wages are never considered. It is a terrible system and I think is automatically discriminatory to men. I also think they onus on the mother to notify CMS when their child begins working is not strong enough so that she continues to get paid by a father who no longer should pay. I don't think one is a terrible dad for cutting ties with a child he did not want as the same goes for adoption and foster care. I don't think people who give up children are terrible I think they are honest and mature. I think men get bad reps too often when they are not responsible for the decision of a woman to keep a baby even if they use a condom. Its grossly unfair. I'm very balanced in the way I feel about this having seen both sides of the story. Women have it far better with kids than men and that's just fact. Hope the system changes. Personally I wouldn't use CMS and I wouldn't bitterly hunt down a man who doesn't want to be involved. I think women should go to jail for using their children as a pawn to fight their exes.
Concerned woman - 21-Jan-17 @ 2:08 PM
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