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A Guide to Child Support Payments

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 5 Dec 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 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 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.

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 the age of 16, 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 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 or you will still be liable to pay child support.

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.

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/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]
Helpful - Your Question:
Im paying for daughter maintenance. Asked csa when they started this about clothes and school excursions if I have to buy. They informed that I maintenance and thats all I have to pay mother has to supply. I still buy clothes for daughter for when she is with me. Can someone shed some info on rules about responsibility after paying maintenance please

Our Response:
Most non-resident parents will supply some clothes when the child is resident with them. It is neither the responsibility of the resident parent to supply clothes and other needs when the child stays at the non-resident parent's house. The matter is usually discussed and agreed mutually.
SeparatedDads - 7-Dec-17 @ 2:48 PM
Im paying for daughter maintenance. Asked csa when they started this about clothes and school excursions if i have to buy. They informed that i maintenance and thats all i have to pay mother has to supply.I still buy clothes for daughter for when she is with me. Can someone shed some info on rules about responsibility after paying maintenance please
Helpful - 5-Dec-17 @ 10:55 PM
Bb - Your Question:
My partner pays a large sum of child maintenance for his two children to their mother whom the children do not live with. Should the mother be in receipt of this payment? Happy to pay maintenance but not to someone who doesn't have care of the children and who has stated, in a legal document, that the children will permanently be in the care of a third party. Maintainace is for day to day care, housing, food, clothes etc. If mother is not the main carer why is she able to claim this? And what is the money going on? In addition, mother stops father from seeing the children and is now desputing payments saying she wants more money because he's not seeing the children but she is the one preventing him. In court proceedings to try to sort contact. Very messy situation. Just need some clarification, any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Our Response:
Your partner would have to be able to prove his children aren't living with the mother. If the other person the children are living with is eligible to collect child benefit for the children, then this person should also be the one child maintenance is paid to. However, if the arrangement is informal then your partner may have trouble proving the children are officially living elsewhere.
SeparatedDads - 4-Dec-17 @ 10:39 AM
My partner pays a large sum of child maintenance for his two children to their mother whom the children do not live with. Should the mother be in receipt of this payment? Happy to pay maintenance but not to someone who doesn't have care of the children and who has stated, in a legal document, that the children will permanently be in the care of a third party. Maintainace is for day to day care, housing, food, clothes etc. If mother is not the main carer why is she able to claim this? And what is the money going on? In addition, mother stops father from seeing the children and is now desputing payments saying she wants more money because he's not seeing the children but she is the one preventing him. In court proceedings to try to sort contact. Very messy situation. Just need some clarification, any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Bb - 3-Dec-17 @ 11:56 AM
MrG- Your Question:
I have a question please!.I pay maintinence to my ex partner for my disabled daughter. I would like to go back to university to study for 3 years. I have recently married, will I still need to pay maintenance if I don’t have an income because I’m a student!??

Our Response:
Child maintenance payments are based only on taxable earnings. Therefore, if you have no taxable earnings you would have to pay only flat rate.
SeparatedDads - 28-Nov-17 @ 3:21 PM
Me - Your Question:
I have my children every weekend and happily pay maintenance even towards my step son. Yet I am sick of giving the ex partner money when she spends all weekend in pubs drinking. Is it possible to stop giving her the money and spend it on my children myself so I know its going towards them and not her? Thanks

Our Response:
It would not be possible to do this. The primary carer does not have to justify what she spends child maintenance on. It all goes into the family pot which can be spent on the day-to-day care of the children, utility bills etc. Every parent has the basic responsibility to provide for their child up until the age of 16+.
SeparatedDads - 28-Nov-17 @ 3:14 PM
sticks - Your Question:
I believe that the biological mother of my step-daughter plans to enrol my step-daughter onto a college course which she has no intention of attending, with a view to extending her child benefits and my partner's CMS payments. Is there anyway of appealing against making CMS payments if my step-daughter never attends?

Our Response:
Only if your step-daughter leaves the course and the resident parent stops being eligible for child benefit can child maintenance stop. You'd have to give your stepdaughter the benefit of the doubt that she will attend. If she does not attend, it is likely the college will dismiss her from the course, at which point child benefit would stop being paid. When a child leaves approved education or training payments will officially stop at the end of February, 31 May, 31 August or 30 November (whichever comes first).
SeparatedDads - 28-Nov-17 @ 12:39 PM
I believe that the biological mother of my step-daughter plans to enrol my step-daughter onto a college course which she has no intention of attending, with a view to extending her child benefits and my partner's CMS payments. Is there anyway of appealing against making CMS payments if my step-daughter never attends?
sticks - 27-Nov-17 @ 12:59 PM
I have my children every weekend and happily pay maintenance even towards my step son. Yet I am sick of giving the ex partner money when she spends all weekend in pubs drinking. Is it possible to stop giving her the money and spend it on my children myself so I know its going towards them and not her? Thanks
Me - 26-Nov-17 @ 2:12 PM
I have a question please!. I pay maintinence to my ex partner for my disabled daughter. I would like to go back to university to study for 3 years. I have recently married, will I still need to pay maintenance if I don’t have an income because I’m a student!??
MrG - 26-Nov-17 @ 8:46 AM
I have a car on hire purchase and pay child maintenanceon an agreementwith my x .we have fallen out and she says she is going to the csafor full payment. my question is can they make me give up myhire purchase car whichI need for work to pay maintenance
groovejet - 24-Nov-17 @ 7:53 PM
So my partner just got a full time job. He has his daughter once a fortnight for the full weekend. Does he have to pay child maintenance still? Or can he just continue to buy his daughter things when she needs them?
Sss - 23-Nov-17 @ 3:57 PM
Doris - Your Question:
If my step daughter is doing under 12 hrs at college and is 16, does that mean we no longer have to pay child support? Thank you

Our Response:
Education must be full-time (more than an average of 12 hours a week supervised study or course-related work experience), please see link here which tell you what the education includes. However, if your partner is paying via CMS, then he would have to check with CMS first when/if he can stop paying.
SeparatedDads - 21-Nov-17 @ 10:44 AM
If my step daughter is doing under 12 hrs at college and is 16, does that mean we no longer have to pay child support? Thank you
Doris - 20-Nov-17 @ 1:11 PM
@Grant01 - have you gone back in a time machine to the 1980s? Thatcher is dead. On the subject of your child maintenance, it doesn't matter if your ex is a millionaire, as your child's father you are still considered as being responsible for paying child maintenance to support your kid.
JudgeT - 17-Nov-17 @ 2:34 PM
Mark - Your Question:
My son is currently studying a Level 4 Advanced Associate Diploma which is considered as higher education. However his mum has told child benefit and child maintenance that he is studying a Level 3 in order to keep child maintenance payments. The fact that he does not live with her is annoying. There were taking £82 a week but they have reduced it to £51. The problem is that because she has lied to child benefit, child maintenance is still in payment. I have sent off information regarding his course but unless child benefits stop, child maintenance is still in payment what else can I do?

Our Response:
If you have sent evidence from the college to the child benefit agency and CMS and there you have been ignored, you can complain, please see linkhere .
SeparatedDads - 17-Nov-17 @ 11:05 AM
My son is currently studying a Level 4 Advanced Associate Diploma which is considered as higher education.However his mum has told child benefit and child maintenance that he is studying a Level 3 in order to keep child maintenance payments.The fact that he does not live with her is annoying.There were taking £82 a week but they have reduced it to £51.The problem is that because she has lied to child benefit, child maintenance is still in payment.I have sent off information regarding his course but unless child benefits stop, child maintenance is still in payment what else can I do?
Mark - 16-Nov-17 @ 11:07 AM
Vt - Your Question:
My husband has a 6 year old son who stays with his mam 5 nights and with us 2 nights plus most of another day. He pays over £200 a month in child maintenance and his access is Friday, Saturday and Sunday. However she will tell us that she's made plans one weekend and hasn't discussed it with us first and then won't let us have the access that weekend. What rights does my husband have to get this to stop?

Our Response:
If your husband and his ex cannot agree or stick to arrangements, the only recourse your husband has is to request his ex attends mediation in order to try to resolve the issue, please see link here. If this matter cannot be resolved through mediation, then your husband will have the option to apply to court.
SeparatedDads - 14-Nov-17 @ 2:42 PM
So I regualry have my son over night. Min of two times a week and when ever else I can work dependant. I have him more during the days due to working hours. Does Thatcher taken into consideration? Also she's currently living back with her parents who pay for everything yet wants full money off me. (She left me with the family home to pay for etc) Seems a bit unfair?
Grant01 - 14-Nov-17 @ 1:39 PM
@Skyblue - or you can see it as supporting your son to get a better education. My son is going to uni next year and I'm happy to pay towards his education. I'm sure some mums do this - but I'd rather my son had some qualifications he can fall back on rather than be an apprentice and work full time and earn £3.50 an hour. Mark.
MGN - 14-Nov-17 @ 12:07 PM
My husband has a 6 year old son who stays with his mam 5 nights and with us 2 nights plus most of another day. He pays over £200 a month in child maintenance and his access is Friday, Saturday and Sunday. However she will tell us that she's made plans one weekend and hasn't discussed it with us first and then won't let us have the access that weekend. What rights does my husband have to get this to stop?
Vt - 13-Nov-17 @ 10:10 PM
Am I the only one who sees child maintenance as a cash cow system for bitter ex’s? My son left school and I got him an apprenticeship with a customer I look after. She said no, he’s going to college! He’s not the academic type and this will not benefit him for the future in my opinion but she has forced him into it because I think she’s looking at the financial benefit to her. He’s even earning himself with a part time job and she charges him board to!
Skyblue - 13-Nov-17 @ 7:43 PM
A130atr - Your Question:
I have received a letter from csa stating I must pay for my daughter who is 18, she left school and went to art college in Sep 17. I have paid maintenance for years for her, but stopped when she turned 18, had a verbal agreement with her that if she wanted or needed anything I would get it, and I have done so.Now the csa says I must pay maintenance, they have calculated my salary at £8k than I earn and said even if it is wrong then they won’t reveiw it for 12 months. What can I do ?

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 you still feel you have been unfairly treated, you can complain. Please see link here .
SeparatedDads - 13-Nov-17 @ 3:39 PM
Kev - Your Question:
Hi. I pay child maintenance through a mutual agreement with my ex for my two daughters. I have shared care of my daughters for 3 to 4 nights a week every week. My ex's boyfriend has moved in with her and I. Wondering if this will reduce my payments as she has a second income coming into her house.Thanks

Our Response:
Child maintenance payments are based purely on the non-resident parent's earnings, not the resident parent's income and/or who the other parent chooses to live with.
SeparatedDads - 13-Nov-17 @ 3:01 PM
My ex partner has a very well paid job but does not pay tax So when the CSA review comes up it states he is earning £26 And should only pay £7. We had a agreement that he pays £100 for two children but when I found out that he booked a 10k holiday for himself and partner, brought new BMW with private plate, Rolex watch on display. Then another expensive holiday. I piped up - I said that he should be paying more for two children and he knows it. So then agreed to pay £140 this only happened for a month or so then payments completely stopped. My ex loved the control and used the maintenance as control - he wouldn’t pay for months on end and then chuck a large sum at me. He had both children for a fortnight and they came back to me in a right state not fed - was told they were skipping meals, stinking of cigarette smoke, unwashed, my daughter long hair was not brushed for at least a week and was completely matted. Since then I have told him he needs to have the children along side of his mother at her address to ensure their safety is met. He has stop all maintenance but because the man does not pay tax - CSA state he is not working when he clearly is I have texts stating that if I report him then he will simply just go on benefits. I’ve filed a court application Does anyone know where I stand Thanks
Moz - 13-Nov-17 @ 2:09 PM
Hi.I pay child maintenance through a mutual agreement with my ex for my two daughters. I have shared care of my daughters for 3 to 4 nights a week every week. My ex's boyfriend has moved in with her and I.Wondering if this will reduce my payments as she has a second income coming into her house. Thanks
Kev - 11-Nov-17 @ 9:35 AM
I have received a letter from csa stating I must pay for my daughter who is 18, she left school and went to art college in Sep 17. I have paid maintenance for years for her, but stopped when she turned 18, had a verbal agreement with her that if she wanted or needed anything I would get it, and I have done so. Now the csa says I must pay maintenance, they have calculated my salary at £8k than I earn and said even if it is wrong then they won’t reveiw it for 12 months. What can I do ?
A130atr - 11-Nov-17 @ 12:31 AM
My partner has a child from a previous relationship. He and all his family have been stopped from seeingthe child. He stopped child maintenance and then she kicked up a fuss so he started paying again but stated he would like to see his daughter!Should he be paying if his side of the family have no contact with the child what so ever?She also has a new partner who provides for the child and it seems the child maintenance she is getting gets spent on holidays and she gets her family to have her child!
Ejeidj - 10-Nov-17 @ 5:55 PM
I receive maintenance for my daughter, they also have a child from another relationship that they pay for privately. If they have told maintenance about the other child will maintenance put that into consideration before they give me an amount I should receive? Thank you.
Jojo - 10-Nov-17 @ 2:41 PM
TIM - Your Question:
My ex has sent my son to a different country so her parents look after the little one. Now she put a claim through child maintenance asking me to pay. I used to pay but she stopped said don't need my help. I only seen the kid once when he was 2 now he is 6 there is no connection neither bond.1. Do I still have to pay even child is not in the country?

Our Response:
Yes, by law you are still responsible for paying child maintenance towards the care of your child regardless of whether you see your child, or whether the child lives in the UK or not. The Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Order (REMO) Unit helps to register and enforce child maintenance orders internationally. However, likewise if your child isn't living with her, then her parents can also claim from her.
SeparatedDads - 10-Nov-17 @ 2:19 PM
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