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A Guide to Child Support Payments

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 18 Feb 2018 | 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]
Ad - Your Question:
Hi thereCan anyone advise me if I can obtain child maintenance support for 2 children living abroad with there mother whilst I am unemployed in Uk Thanks

Our Response:
You may have to clarify your question further, as it is a little confusing. You can only claim child maintenance from the other parent if the children are living with you.
SeparatedDads - 19-Feb-18 @ 1:58 PM
Bradley - Your Question:
Hi, I have a private agreement with my ex wife that states I pay a large amount of child maintenance. I looked at the CSA calculator and I should be paying a lot less. My ex has only given me the right to 6 hours with my daughter every Saturday as long as she isn't ill, or at a party. Back when we divorced I was working full time but I am now in full time education and only working a small amount of hours. I'm doing this for my future with my daughter to be able to support her more financially when she grows up. Is there any advice anyone can give me Thank you

Our Response:
Firstly, child maintenance and child access are two separate issues and should be considered as such. Therefore, if you think you should be paying less child maintenance as advised by CMS, then you should discuss this with your ex directly. If your ex refuses to discuss you to changing the amount you pay, then you may wish to go directly to CMS, please see link here . If you are not earning and paying taxable income because you are studying, then you may be exempt from paying child maintenance. A non-resident parent cannot prevent access to the other parent for financial reasons - this would not stand up in court. If you wish to pursue the rights to have more access to your child, then you should request that your ex attends mediation, please see link here. If your ex refuses, then you can apply to court, please see link here. As long as there is no provable/valid reason why you should not have access to your child, then a court is likely to put a court order in place giving you access, and quite possibly more access than what you are currently receiving. If you cannot afford legal representation you can self-litigate, please see link here and if you are not earning or are on a low income, you will get a reduction in court fees.
SeparatedDads - 19-Feb-18 @ 1:47 PM
Luiz - Your Question:
I have a child from a previous relationship who live with me but now wants to live with her mother, I know I need to pay for her but the amount I have to is high and I also have 2 other children who live with me and another on the way. I'm the only person in my house who earns money and if I have to pay 200 to the mother of my first I won't be able to afford to live in my house I rent with the other children and my partner. Help please

Our Response:
You can claim child maintenance from your ex, for your children living with you, if she is earning and paying tax via HMRC. If she is not, then mediation may be an option, please see link here, to discuss your arrangement. Unless your ex claims child maintenance from you, you can have a family-based arrangement which means you agree between you whether and who should pay, or not.
SeparatedDads - 19-Feb-18 @ 9:22 AM
I have a child from a previous relationship who live with me but now wants to live with her mother, I know I need to pay for her but the amount I have to is high and I also have 2 other children who live with me and another on the way. I'm the only person in my house who earns money and if I have to pay 200 to the mother of my first I won't be able to afford to live in my house I rent with the other children and my partner. Help please
Luiz - 18-Feb-18 @ 1:35 PM
Hi, I have a private agreement with my ex wife that states I pay a large amount of child maintenance. I looked at the CSA calculator and I should be paying a lot less. My ex has only given me the right to 6 hours with my daughter every Saturday as long as she isn't ill, or at a party. Back when we divorced I was working full time but I am now in full time education and only working a small amount of hours. I'm doing this for my future with my daughter to be able to support her more financially when she grows up. Is there any advice anyone can give me Thank you
Bradley - 17-Feb-18 @ 3:07 PM
Hi there Can anyone advise me if I can obtain child maintenance support for 2 children living abroad with there motherwhilst I am unemployed in Uk Thanks
Ad - 17-Feb-18 @ 2:52 PM
Keego - Your Question:
Hi am a single dad I have full custody of my 4 children 3 live with me I e never had any help with anything of my ex wife to the care for my 3 girls not a penny think it's about time someone helped me yours faithfully Mr j keegan

Our Response:
If you are the primary carer of your children, then you are entitled to claim child maintenance from the child's mother, if the mother is earning. Please see the link here.
SeparatedDads - 12-Feb-18 @ 2:24 PM
Hi am a single dad I have full custody of my 4 children 3 live with me I e never had any help with anything of my ex wife to the care for my 3 girls not a penny think it's about time someone helped me yours faithfully Mr j keegan
Keego - 12-Feb-18 @ 10:39 AM
BARI - Your Question:
CSA stop deductions from my earnings before 3 month ago and now they are saying to me that I need to pay 542 pound and then they will decide how much I will pay every week and may be I need to pay some fine.so what can I do

Our Response:
Much depends upon why deductions from earnings were stopped. If there was an investigation taking place and you were given the option to stop paying and the investigation was found not to be in your favour, then you would have to pay arrears. You would have to take this up with CSA/CMS directly, please see link here .
SeparatedDads - 9-Feb-18 @ 12:24 PM
CSA stop deductions from my earnings before 3 month ago and now they are saying to me that I need to pay 542 pound and then they will decide how much i will pay every week and may be i need to pay some fine.so what can I do
BARI - 8-Feb-18 @ 10:58 PM
ct1975 - Your Question:
My daughter is pregnant and due to give birth in April. she still lives with her Mum for part of the week 4 days and is at college doing a level 3 course, however she is not attending very often. do I still need to pay child maintenance when she has the baby?

Our Response:
If your daughter stops receiving child benefit and for instance begins receiving Universal Credit, then you would stop paying child maintenance.
SeparatedDads - 8-Feb-18 @ 2:59 PM
My daughter is pregnant and due to give birth in April. she still lives with her Mum for part of the week 4 days and is at college doing a level 3 course, however she is not attending very often. do i still need to pay child maintenance when she has the baby?
ct1975 - 7-Feb-18 @ 11:26 PM
Tarby - Your Question:
I have a 3 and half yr old daughter and have parental responsibility and she stays with me 3 nights minimum a week I split with her mother 8 mths ago and I'm on ESA benefit I spend every spare penny on heating food ect and she has every need catered for but it's a struggle the mother has all benefits for herself and children and guardianship of her nephew gets pip for herself and 1 other child in all quite a sum per week in total but I asked once for milk token off her and she denied.she says in her own words we have 50/50 on my daughter am I entitled to at least a little as she claims full amount for every thing

Our Response:
Unfortunately, only one parent can claim benefits on behalf of the child. If you have your child 50/50 shared care, your only recourse would be to apply to court and for the court to decide which parent benefits should be allocated to.
SeparatedDads - 6-Feb-18 @ 2:00 PM
I have a 3 and half yr old daughter and have parental responsibility and she stays with me 3 nights minimum a week I split with her mother 8 mths ago and I'm on ESA benefit I spend every spare penny on heating food ect and she has every need catered for but it's a struggle the mother has all benefits for herself and children and guardianship of her nephew gets pip for herself and 1 other child in all quite a sum per week in total but I asked once for milk token off her and she denied ..she says in her own words we have 50/50 on my daughter am I entitled to at least a little as she claims full amount for every thing
Tarby - 3-Feb-18 @ 9:39 PM
Hi, I have a private agreement set up with my ex-wife and the figure was agreed using the CSA calculator on the internet, I am in the Army and see my kids every weekend I have spare and when I am on leave, I have a few questions, should I still be paying her when I have the kids for an extended period such as a whole week or a month in one go without any contact from the kids mother, who is keen for me to have the kids as often as possible. And also do things like travel costs come into account as I have to pay a small fortune in travelling to see my kids, and lastly, my new partner and my mum and dad have the kids on week-nights through-out the working week while I'm working, does this affect anything because in all honesty, I can only say I manage on average 2-3 nights a week over a year but with people from my family having them it adds up to 3-4 nights a week over the year which means for half a year my ex doesn't have my kids, sorry for so many questions and any advice is greatly appreciated. Paul J
Paul_J - 30-Jan-18 @ 12:36 PM
I've been told I can pay in to a trust fund for my child instead of paying his mother any csa or child maintenance is this correct. As she wastes money and I'd rather it go directly for my child.
Jj - 29-Jan-18 @ 11:05 PM
I have been divorced from my wife now for a few months, we have 2 children and they still live at the family home, renting privately. She gets all the benefits she is entitled to, I have been paying her monthly amounts of £1000 to do the top up on the rent and to keep the kids going like clothes etc. I have moved to a new job, and paying her that amount is now 50% of my monthly wage. I now have a new partner and looking at places to live etc. I simply cant afford it anymore but do not wanna see the kids homeless or nothing. I believe also if I stop the payments she will stop me seeing the kids who I see twice a month.
Chris - 29-Jan-18 @ 4:26 PM
My partner told me he no longer wants to be with me but is refusing to move out and we both are on the mortgage. His stop his wage coming into the joint account so is no longer contributing towards his 2 kids can I make a claim for child maintenance even when he still living at the same address??
Tracey - 29-Jan-18 @ 12:53 PM
Tracy- Your Question:
I'm opening a savings account for my son. Do I still have to pay the csa?

Our Response:
Yes. A savings account and child maintenance are two separate things. Unless your ex agrees that you pay money into an account instead of directly to your ex, then you would have to continue paying child maintenance.
SeparatedDads - 26-Jan-18 @ 3:38 PM
Andy - Your Question:
Have been paying child maintenance for 7 years ex asked for an increase which I refused so you went to cm who have calculated payments on my salary from 2 years ago which I no longer earn I have sent proof of this but they won't reopen my case.Had to leave work due to stress but have worked through an agency for 6 months all wages declared to cm have not worked for 3 weeks also declared but they are still asking for 6 hundred a month in arrears.Who can help

Our Response:
Your only recourse is to complain, please see the gov.uk link here.
SeparatedDads - 26-Jan-18 @ 3:36 PM
I'm opening a savings account for my son. Do I still have to pay the csa?.
Tracy - 26-Jan-18 @ 1:16 PM
Kingy - Your Question:
HiI have been paying a fixed sum to support my child for three years. During this time my daughter has attended 6th form college. She has also been working and has been paying for some of the items that I agreed to support with my payments. In the last two of the three years I have taken her on holiday abroad. She has also spent on average 2 days per week with me.She is due to leave college this year and go to university. The payment were arranged through a consent order which states. Payments will be made until she leaves full time education or reaches the age of 19, which ever is the latter.My intention is to stop payments when she leave colleague. My ex wife is threatening to take me to court. In light of the above information would I have to pay until she is 19. Even though she is at university.

Our Response:
Child maintenance officially ceases when eligibility to claim child benefit does, please see link here . If your ex wishes to claim further child maintenance, then she would have to take you to court. The court will look at your daughter's financial needs, the parents’ ability to pay. The court can place an extension of child maintenance until your daughter leaves university (each case is treated individually). If you live in Scotland, the child can take the parent to court directly.
SeparatedDads - 26-Jan-18 @ 12:01 PM
Have been paying child maintenance for 7 years ex asked for an increase which I refused so you went to cm who have calculated payments on my salary from 2 years ago which I no longer earn I have sent proof of this but they won'treopen my case .Had to leave work due to stress but have worked through an agency for 6 months all wages declared to cm have not worked for 3 weeks also declared but they are still asking for 6 hundred a month in arrears .Who can help
Andy - 26-Jan-18 @ 8:39 AM
Hi I have been paying a fixed sum to support my child for three years. During this time my daughter has attended 6th form college. She has also been working and has been paying for some of the items that I agreed to support with my payments. In the last two of the three years I have taken her on holiday abroad. She has also spent on average 2 days per week with me. She is due to leave college this year and go to university. The payment were arranged through a consent order which states. Payments will be made until she leaves full time education or reaches the age of 19, which ever is the latter. My intention is to stop payments when she leave colleague. My ex wife is threatening to take me to court. In light of the above information would I have to pay until she is 19. Even though she is at university.
Kingy - 25-Jan-18 @ 8:35 PM
Milo - Your Question:
Can you help? I’ve been paying maintenance for my son!We don’t have contact as that broke down a long time ago due to the mother!! Too much to go in to.Basically I pay every month on time as it’s a private set up.She allows him not to go to school and obviously won’t be going to college!! Do I have the right to stop payments once he turns 16? How do I find out if she’s still claiming child benefits? I pay a high amount and she got loads more kids with another guy and claims all the benefits on offer to her. It might sound harsh but just want to get on with my life and one day he will want to see me. Thank you

Our Response:
Please see the link: At What Age Do Child Maintenance Payments Stop? here, which should help answer your question.
SeparatedDads - 23-Jan-18 @ 2:58 PM
Honey - Your Question:
My daughter is moving in with her boyfriend. I know she is working and I think she is at college but don't know what she is doing and how often she attends. Do I still need to pay csa? Thanks

Our Response:
Once child benefit stops, then so will child maintenance payments, please see link here, which will explain all you need to know. The resident parent may still be able to claim child benefit for your daughter, if she can prove your daughter is still financially dependent.
SeparatedDads - 22-Jan-18 @ 2:18 PM
My daughter is moving in with her boyfriend. I know she is working and I think she is at college but don't know what she is doing and how often she attends. Do I still need to pay csa? Thanks
Honey - 20-Jan-18 @ 4:22 PM
Can you help? I’ve been paying maintenance for my son! We don’t have contact as that broke down a long time ago due to the mother!! Too much to go in to. Basically I pay every month on time as it’s a private set up. She allows him not to go to school and obviously won’t be going to college!! Do I have the right to stop payments once he turns 16? How do I find out if she’s still claiming child benefits? I pay a high amount and she got loads more kids with another guy and claims all the benefits on offer to her. It might sound harsh but just want to get on with my life and one day he will want to see me. Thank you
Milo - 19-Jan-18 @ 11:26 PM
DadofTwo81 - Your Question:
HiI have my 2 children stay with me from Friday night until Sunday afternoon. Can their mother deny me overnight stays?If so, would this mean I would have to give her more money even though she is the one who has decided that they can't stay with me? I have all of this evidenced in the form of text messages from her if that makes a difference.

Our Response:
If you cannot agree between you and your ex, then mediation is the next step, please see link here . If your ex has denied you overnight access and you there is not a valid reason, if she will not attend mediation, you would have to apply to court. If your children do not stay with you overnight, then CMS would review child maintenance payments based upon this information regardless of who instigated it.
SeparatedDads - 19-Jan-18 @ 3:21 PM
Katos1 - Your Question:
Hi my ex has finally started to pay me maintance for about a year, she is 17, she will be 18 in may and is thinking about packing in college and has the chance to work 10 hours a week.Would this mean my money would stop from her father ThanksKath

Our Response:
Child maintenance falls in line with child benefit payments, so when child benefits ceases, so will child maintenance payments. Please see link here, which will tell you all you need to know.
SeparatedDads - 19-Jan-18 @ 10:04 AM
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