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A Guide to Child Maintenance Payments

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 20 Oct 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]
Yeah I no the feeling about been cheated on for years and made fun off .and my dopey x thought I would go back to her .the gods honest truth is I will never go legal for my maybe daughter and in the future there will never be any contact between my maybe daughter and myself .i want to be left alone (forever family include gods truth )And not stalked bye my x or family she will say this a sob story good for her .she has done enough damage to me .now I want some respect she never gave me any years ago just want to ask her( kindly to respect my wishes) .because if she doesn’t or my family doesn’t it will 100 percent get messy gods truth .so if she ever reads this please take this very serous .
Chris laurie - 20-Oct-18 @ 1:44 AM
Looking for help and advice. I left my ex last August 2017 I paid maintenance to her at the beginning of Oct 17 she kicked my 13 year old son out to live with me I never ever asked her for money nor did I claim child benefit, as I didn't think I could get it (silly me). My ex continued to claim child benefit and tax regardless, my son went back to live with her at the beginning of June she phoned cms right away and they took it straight from my wages amount of 430. She then kicked him out begining September this year and he won't be back she never cancelled cms and when i phoned i was told they will continue to take it as she still gets child benefit phoned child benefit and because she is still claimimg it goes into a dispute and takes upto 8 weeks for desicion thats another 2 wages it's shocking we are now struggling
Ally - 18-Oct-18 @ 8:44 PM
I was married and she cheated behind my back for 2 years and never knew anything as a mug I no 7 years ago always paid a mount we agreed with then it has all gone wrong even though I’ve had the kids for the last 8 years every weekend and now I’m engaged she has hit me with the maintenance for the kids what do I do ....... Please help I’m always taken and paying for football and dancing and she has had 3 blokes since me and Ive been happy Lee Advise please
Lee - 12-Oct-18 @ 6:10 PM
@osh.i went though a praise where i wanted to get a dna test because i have serous doubts i am the father .and if i was the father i wanted to see her .but that didn't happen just got in more trouble and court .the mother never wanted child support which is great she wanted clean break so did i .i grow up and started to ask a few questions never got the answers thats ok i made peace with it now .i wish them all the best in life i will most defiantly leave them alone now after the last court and order good riddance not worth the trouble or stress past nightmare gods truth .ps her daughter does look nothing like me .oh well past is past .i must look to the future now done looking back .
chris laurie - 11-Oct-18 @ 10:49 PM
A friend who is a mother of a 6 year old wants an alleged father to submit to a paternity test for the sake of her son knowing his geneaology. This friend has been trying to engage the alleged father in discussing this for over 5 years now and she has repeatedly told him she doesn't want anything from him other than definitive proof of whether he is or isn't the father. Clearly the alleged father doesn't want to 'engage'. I've told her that the best course of action is to go through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) who will request he submit to a DNA test if he denies being the father and deduct child maintenance from him at source if he refuses to comply to a test. Can she follow through this action even though she has repeatedly told him in the past that she's not after maintenance even if he is proved to be the father? Thus, can she effectively renaige on that previous offer of not wanting maintenance.
Osh - 11-Oct-18 @ 4:20 PM
Hi i have always paid my maintenance but im now in a new relationship and my partner earns alot and my ex now wants the payments to go up alot and i dont no wat to do ??
Bottom - 11-Oct-18 @ 1:29 AM
Hi I am currently claiming CB ..for my son And my ex wife is claiming for our daughter...I have a clean break order (financial). But I have just been informed by csa that she is asking for cm ..for both of our children she has them one week and I the other ... She told me that she needs more money because she can't afford where she lives ... She has a boyfriend who lives with her ..Any advice on how to proceed ?
Daz - 10-Oct-18 @ 11:59 PM
Hi thank you for the site very informative! I have had a deduction from earnings order by originally the CSA then CM for a child I have always protested child in question was not mine. The CSA told me I had to prove I wasn’t the father but I couldn’t at the time afford a DNA test. I refused to pay for the child EVER. After a year or so of none payments to this child I had a deduction of earnings order which took large amounts of my pay to repay the debt, still I protested the child wasn’t mine. I got told it was down to me to prove the child wasn’t mine? I had no relationship with this woman or even knew her name yet this baby was mine (its maybe the second coming) so now 3 years on I have paid for the DNA and she refuses to do one... so here is my question I have never paid this women the CSA and CM have taken money out of my wages with no proof the child is mine can I claim back all my deduction of earnings?? Or is this stolen money gone?? I have had no dealings with childs mother or made payments to her as the child’s not mine yet the CM thought they were Robin Hood and stole from me to give to a liar. Any advice would be great
TopCat - 5-Oct-18 @ 9:09 AM
Hi thank you for the site very informative! I have had a deduction from earnings order by originally the CSA then CM for a child I have always protested child in question was not mine. The CSA told me I had to prove I wasn’t the father but I couldn’t at the time afford a DNA test. I refused to pay for the child EVER. After a year or so of none payments to this child I had a deduction of earnings order which took large amounts of my pay to repay the debt, still I protested the child wasn’t mine. I got told it was down to me to prove the child wasn’t mine? I had no relationship with this woman or even knew her name yet this baby was mine (its maybe the second coming) so now 3 years on I have paid for the DNA and she refuses to do one... so here is my question I have never paid this women the CSA and CM have taken money out of my wages with no proof the child is mine can I claim back all my deduction of earnings?? Or is this stolen money gone?? I have had no dealings with childs mother or made payments to her as the child’s not mine yet the CM thought they were Robin Hood and stole from me to give to a liar. Any advice would be great
TopCat - 5-Oct-18 @ 7:39 AM
Hi thank you for the site very informative! I have had a deduction from earnings order by originally the CSA then CM for a child I have always protested child in question was not mine. The CSA told me I had to prove I wasn’t the father but I couldn’t at the time afford a DNA test. I refused to pay for the child EVER. After a year or so of none payments to this child I had a deduction of earnings order which took large amounts of my pay to repay the debt, still I protested the child wasn’t mine. I got told it was down to me to prove the child wasn’t mine? I had no relationship with this woman or even knew her name yet this baby was mine (its maybe the second coming) so now 3 years on I have paid for the DNA and she refuses to do one... so here is my question I have never paid this women the CSA and CM have taken money out of my wages with no proof the child is mine can I claim back all my deduction of earnings?? Or is this stolen money gone?? I have had no dealings with childs mother or made payments to her as the child’s not mine yet the CM thought they were Robin Hood and stole from me to give to a liar. Any advice would be great
TopCat - 4-Oct-18 @ 11:33 PM
@dreamer.i don’t pay child support and the only way for me to see my daughter is though court and to go though the steps .but my daughter is 14 now so I won’t be going down that path .so yeah I don’t no what else to say .but the truth is I am done reflecting on the past and living in the (what if scenario).what is done is done some will judge me the (older ones )others won’t .if we meet in the future great to then I am just going to get on with whatever life I have left .ps sorry about the bombardment of posts in a messed up kind of way I found understanding and finally peace of my past .there is no chance I won’t ever go back to been with someone like my x she is toxic and ruthless without a conscience.yeah I can do better then that gods truth .
Realist - 2-Oct-18 @ 8:29 AM
My husband pays maintenance regularly and never missed a payment his ex now wants more money we are brits who had to leave the uk because of her actions we now live in the UAE the only income we have in the uk is a house ( on a mortgage) which is let out she is threatening court action any advice gratefully received
Dreamer - 2-Oct-18 @ 4:50 AM
Hi, My ex is being difficult with me seeing my daughter, if I go to mediation could that cost be taken off of the child maintenance as she's refusing to pay towards it. Or would I just have to pay out hundreds for that on top of the child maintenance.
Kenny - 1-Oct-18 @ 10:59 PM
@shiv.yes as Gerald pointed out you are very kind.i wish I had a ex like you to be frank I would smash the fridge and cupboards for her food and drink And sleep in her bed why she was out if she stayed in I wouldn’t the bed would turn into the Dead Sea there be no tickle time that’s sure she can feed her own cat ha ha ha .
Chester gumnutts - 29-Sep-18 @ 10:33 PM
@shiv.that is very kind of you .hey shiv I have question do you stay in the house over night sometimes when your ex stays over ?.wink wink .well I think he has got it made he gets to see your children plus feed the cat in the family home .then go live in a share house I remember my share house days lots cats coming and going happy days .i think the 10 deduction is fair every time he sees them it’s expensive in a share house.
Gerald woob - 29-Sep-18 @ 10:16 PM
Hi I have recently separated from my husband we have 3 children. He has moved into a shared house which isn't stumble for the children to stay at. So I have been kind enough to allow him to have them in the family home, when he has them over night I stay out! He insists in deducting money fro. My maintenance for this. But I can't see how this is right he doesn't provide a ting I leave fridge and cupboards stocked. Is it right for him to be deducting£10 every time he stays with them.
Shiv - 29-Sep-18 @ 5:05 PM
My son finished a college course in June, then turned 18 in July, and wasn’t sure of his next step. He has now started back at college, so should child maintenance be backdated or start from when he went back to college? Ex has never paid child maintenance for him, and only started paying for daughter mid July when we moved.
Ems - 27-Sep-18 @ 3:01 PM
Would like to know if CSA would take into account i am in a new relationship and have 2 step sons, they live up north andi rent a property down south cause i have a good job. I travel back north every weekend with my daughter to be with my new partner and boys. Although they don't currently live with me i still support my girlfriend and them. Would this be taken into account as paying my ex a fair chunk cause i have a good job and work all the hours i can so i can pay the debt she left. Just seems the harder i work the more she gets!! Any help/guidance would be greatly appreciated.
G_E - 26-Sep-18 @ 9:11 PM
My son is 20 in October n I am still paying csa for him, I thought child benefit stopped at a certain age and payments from me woukd stop, or do they stop when he reaches 20 or should it av been 19 please help
South - 25-Sep-18 @ 1:18 PM
I’m happy to pay my ex to help towards my son but he use to stay 5 nights a week and now she’s stopped that so she can legally get payments as i want to go to court she is now asking for extra money as well as child maintance which is going through the legal route can she legally demand more money from me
Dave - 24-Sep-18 @ 1:22 PM
Hi , can someone tell me of I still have to pay my ex wife child maintenance now the kidshave been taken in to care for 12 weeks ?
Rikk77 - 23-Sep-18 @ 5:12 PM
I been accused of been narcissist psychopath that I have hated for women doesn’t hurt me what they say I have rhino skin and differently have lead my pencil after thinking back with my narcissistic mind I am not paying my x she go to hell.and well the way I think now is stuff my daughter been 9 years who cares now honestly .i had feeling like they been watching me whenI see suspicious car I am going straight up it and if it is my x I will give her a mouth full for staking me .and I will go police on her for (staking me )out the front of my house sitting in a car (cricket nets )car park ?.all I have to say is get a life disgusting deadbeat .
Chris laurie - 22-Sep-18 @ 8:14 PM
im suffering from a female narcissist as part of my recent break up with 2 young girls. Ex has broke all the promises we talked regarding how we were to do joint custody with monies relating to that. im battling to keep my tues/wed nights midweek and alternate wkends sat/sun nights. Im also covering her shifts,when she demands on top, which im not complaining about. On the money side tho shes demanding 49/wk still, and the kids get sent to her mothers fridays and she spends her monies out partying with her new chap (one of my friends she promised wouldnt happen ) while i spend time with my girls. iv never asked for a penny off her and like to buy them stuff also. I have records of money spent with them and i know her mother buys most of their stuff and with our 13yrs together, know she dosnt accept being paid back. Id rather pay her mother knowing its spent on kids. The thought of a direct debit for 200/mth to ex to fund her alcohol and probable drug habit feels so wrong knowing how spoiled she is. She walked out with our kids, car she sold immediatly towards her new car (her dads car aparently???), all the good furniture i agreed while we made promises and is now gaslighting me round town leaving me reclusive so as not to fall into her trap of getting drunk and causing a scene. So with this said, do these come into consideration as iv got a diary saying she hardly has them. She trying to shorten my days now, realising her " kids come first for her "speech dosnt match her partying lifestyle . im close to reporting her to social services or whome it may concern as from my familys side its totally ridiculous how shes behaving. She txt my mam one night to say i was gona kill myself!!!! why not call the emergency services if she thought that???? Shes tried talking me into anti depressants for yrs which i think was a ploy to gain the upper hand in child custody. Her mother is totally narcissistic also.
stability??? - 22-Sep-18 @ 6:35 PM
I used to pay my ex via the CSA but then we came to our own agreement and I pay her directly, each month. The CSA case was closed and I continue to pay some arrears to them by DD. My Daughter is now 17 and at college 2 days per week, has a part time job and I would like to know whether I still need to pay the ex directly? The case relates to Scotland too, so don't know whether the rules are different.
Steve - 22-Sep-18 @ 7:29 AM
My ex and I divorced last year after separating in 2011. Since then I have paid maintenance on an informal basis. I have the kids two nights a week. She has a new partner - a retired police superintendent with pension. They have far higher joint resources than me, both working and his pension. They have not cohabited before but they are moving in together into a big new place in a few weeks. They are renting out their existing houses while they do so so will have 2 rental incomes. I have had to leave my company pension when we separated as paying maintenance and a pension was just not possible - well, it would have left me with almost nothing to live on and I felt compelled to pay my share towards my kids. I have asked for her to consider reducing the maintenance I pay in view of our respective financial positions and the fact they will be cohabiting in a new house. She has come back effectively demanding I continue paying the max amount based on me having them 2 nights a week. She is not prepared to budge one iota or negotiate any reduction. Do I have ANY real options here or am I just obligated to pay the full amount? Any advice greatly appreciated.
Steve - 21-Sep-18 @ 8:06 PM
I’m currently paying csa to my daughter who I’m told now attends further education I’m in dispute of monies paid to my ex partner who says I’m in arrears I have the monies deducted at source my latest partner has asked me to leave and wants to claim csa what can I expect to pay I’ve gone home to my parents and am struggling already to find these payments can you advise please
Pat - 21-Sep-18 @ 7:26 PM
Steve - Your Question:
HiMy daughter has turned 16 and just left school to do a hairdressing apprenticeship. She is now there full time and paid a small wage but also does some learning hours within the salon towards her NVQ hairdressing qualification. Do I need to still keep paying or am I within my rights to now stop? I have always paid an agreed amount each month direct to her mum privately with no CSA involvement and nothing written down.

Our Response:
Once child benefit stops (when your daughter begins work or paid training), then you have a right to stop child maintenance payments. Please see the link here.
SeparatedDads - 18-Sep-18 @ 2:08 PM
@Mrgunty88 - they would still go to the mother (if she is still paying towards the care of your child and receiving child benefit). Unless the mother has absolved all responsibility, in which case the grandad could claim from both you and your child's mother. Basically, the person receiving child benefit is the person who can claim child maintenance.
LauriR - 18-Sep-18 @ 12:43 PM
Hi My daughter has turned 16 and just left school to do a hairdressing apprenticeship. She is now there full time and paid a small wage but also does some learning hours within the salon towards her NVQ hairdressing qualification. Do I need to still keep paying or am I within my rights to now stop? I have always paid an agreed amount each month direct to her mum privately with no CSA involvement and nothing written down.
Steve - 17-Sep-18 @ 3:34 PM
Cars - Your Question:
Hi, my son is now 16 and in college, he is also working. Would the amount I pay in maintenance be eligible for a reduction? Thankyou

Our Response:
While the resident parent is still in receipt of child benefit, you would not be eligible for a reduction. Any earnings your son makes would be considered the equivalent of pocket money.
SeparatedDads - 17-Sep-18 @ 2:48 PM
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