The payment of child maintenance is often a source of conflict between separating parents.
Separation itself routinely brings with it financial hardship for both adults as rather than running one home, there is often the cost of a second home for the partner that has vacated the family home.
With new found rent, utilities, council tax, insurance and food bills, that last thing on the mind of the person that has left the home is the subject of child maintenance but invariably, the subject will arise quite quickly. Often the requirement to pay child maintenance is not the problem, rather it is the amount that can cause conflict.
How best to deal with it?
It goes without saying that the situation is always best dealt with by the parents directly, that they come to a mutually agreed sum for the maintenance. If this proves a problem and an agreement cannot be reached, then the next step should be to consider family mediation where the subject can be discussed in the presence of a professional mediator and an agreement reached. It is common at this stage to sit down during the mediation and agree a full co-parenting plan where you agree where the children will live, how much contact there will be with the ‘absent’ parent and other routine matters of parenthood that have suddenly become difficult. A good mediation session can resolve all of these issues very quickly and can, if you and they wish, involve your children as well.
Going back to the subject of financial difficulties immediately following a relationship breakdown, unlike the divorce courts, family mediation still attracts legal aid assistance and if either of you qualify for legal aid then that person does not have to pay any money for the mediation process and their ex-partner will have their costs offset by legal aid.
Child Maintenance Service
If mediation is missed or does not work, then the next route to do down is to seek assistance from the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) – formally the Child Support Agency. CMS can be accessed online and a full claim can be made through them. If they award a child maintenance figure then this will be paid monthly but will also be backdated to when it should have commenced.
So how much is the current amount of child maintenance? The rules set by the CMS are laid out below. These are correct as at January 2020, although are subject to change so it is always best to seek the latest figures from their website here.
Child Maintenance calculations (January 2020)
If your former partner earns between £200 and £800 a week
They will have to pay the basic rate:
- 12 per cent of their income if they are paying for one child
- 15 per cent of their income if they are paying for two children
- 19 per cent of their income if they are paying for three or more children
For example, if you are requesting child support for two children and their other parent earns £200 a week, they will have to pay you £30 a week in child support.
Any income over £800 a week is calculated separately using the Basic Plus rate.
If they earn between £100 and £199 a week
They will pay a flat rate of £7 a week for the first £100 they earn, regardless of how many children. They will then have to pay a percentage on everything they earn over £100:
- 17 per cent of their remaining income if they are paying for one child
- 25 per cent of their remaining income if they are paying for two children
- 31 per cent of their remaining income if they are paying for three or more children
If they earn between £7 and £99 a week (or they claim income-related benefits)
They will be charged a flat rate of £7 a week. If your child’s parent is paying child support for children other than your own, then the amount they have to pay will be adjusted to reflect this.
Your child’s other parent doesn’t have to pay child support if:
- They earn less than £7 a week,
- They are under 16,
- They are aged 16 to 19 and in approved education or training,
- They are aged 16 to 17 and claiming income-related benefits,
- They are in prison,
- They are in a care home.
If both parents share childcare responsibilities
The amount the paying parent has to pay is reduced depending on the number of nights and how many children they care for:
- 14 per cent reduction per child for 52 to 103 nights a year,
- 29 per cent reduction per child for 104 to 155 nights a year,
- 43 per cent reduction per child for 156 to 174 nights a year,
- 50 per cent reduction per child plus an extra £7 a week per child for over 175 nights a year.
If both parents agree to share care but don’t have a set number of nights, then CMS will apply a 14 per cent reduction per child.
The CMS website is very good and is informative but if you find you need help you’re your claim the you can get in touch with the CMS on 0800 083 4375. The line is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 4pm on Saturday.
You will need to provide them with:
- details about the child you’re applying for and their parents
- your National Insurance number
- your bank account details
This information is then used to set up and manage child maintenance payments, and sometimes to try and find the paying parent.