We are now some time on since the reforms were introduced regarding child maintenance and so it feels like an appropriate time to reflect upon this and look at some of the questions we are asked by families on a regular basis.
What’s the formula that is used for calculating child maintenance?
The formula used by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to calculate the level of child maintenance that should be paid is based upon a percentage of the paying parent’s gross income. However, there are so many variables as to precisely how this is calculated that the reality is that it is not time efficient to perform a manual calculation. Add to this the risk of missing one of these variables when performing a manual calculation, and it is generally far safer (not to mention easier) to use an online calculator to work out the amount that is payable.
My colleague, Alan Larkin, has created an online child maintenance calculator to make the process far easier.
The benefit of using this calculator is that it demonstrates the data which has been used when performing the calculation so that this can be shared with the other parent and they can satisfy themselves that the information which has been used is accurate.
Does child maintenance increase over time?
Whether child maintenance will increase over time will depend upon the paying parent’s income and their circumstances. If their income increases, then it is likely that they will have to pay more child maintenance. Equally, if their income decreases then it is likely that they will have to pay less child maintenance.
Furthermore, if circumstances change then that may also have an impact. For example, if the child starts staying overnight with the paying parent or the number of nights which they stay with the paying parent increases then that is also likely to affect the level of child maintenance that is due.
How do benefits affect child maintenance?
If you are the parent who is receiving child maintenance, then the fact that you are receiving benefits would not normally affect the amount of child maintenance that is payable.
If you are the paying parent and you are in receipt of benefits, then this may affect the amount of child maintenance that you are required to pay. Our online calculator provides an option for you to indicate what benefits you are receiving.
The paying party lives abroad, what do I do?
Generally speaking, if the paying parent lives abroad then a claim for child maintenance would need to be brought through the court rather than through the Child Maintenance Service. However, there are exceptions to this such as if the paying parent is a civil servant, works in Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, is a member of the Armed Forces, works for a company that is based and registered in the UK or is working on secondment for a prescribed body such as a regional health authority or local authority.
What happens if the paying parent is made redundant?
If the paying parent is made redundant and they are paying child maintenance through the CMS then they should contact the CMS with evidence of their redundancy and ask to be reassessed.
When does child maintenance end?
As with almost all areas of family law, the devil is in the detail and the specific circumstances of each case can affect when child maintenance will end. It is impossible to outline all of the circumstances in this blog, however the following two situations are generally the most common:
Child maintenance payments are payable if a child:
- is under the age of 16;
- is under the age of 20 and in full time non-advanced education or approved training e.g. A-Levels but not a degree.
How are the payments made?
The preference of the CMS is for parents to agree the level of child maintenance between themselves without the formal involvement of the CMS if possible. However, there are occasions where parents are unable to agree the level of child maintenance that is applicable. In those circumstances it is possible to ask the CMS to carryout the calculation but the parents are then free, if they wish, to agree that the CMS does not need to be involved in the actual collection and payment of the child maintenance itself.
In the event that the CMS is involved in collecting and paying the child maintenance, the paying parent will pay an additional 20% collection fee on top of the calculated level of child maintenance and the receiving parent will have 4% deducted from the amount that they would otherwise have received.
For couples who are going through a divorce or dissolution and looking to resolve their financial arrangements, child maintenance is one of many aspects that need to be considered. Child maintenance can be a complex issue but there are tools to make the calculation and process easier.
You can use our online tool to help you work out the rate of child maintenance payable. If you have queries about child maintenance and any of the following apply then please contact us for assistance:
- the paying parent lives abroad and is not: a paid a civil servant, working in Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, a member of the Armed Forces, working for a company that is based and registered in the UK or working on secondment for a prescribed body such as a regional health authority or local authority.
- the paying parent’s income exceeds £156,000 gross per annum.
- you have a court order in place that is less than 12 months old governing the amount of child maintenance payable.
If none of the above applies to your situation and you have any queries about child maintenance you should in the first instance contact the Child Maintenance Service.