Child maintenance can be applied for through the Child Maintenance Service, where other options have possibly failed or are unsuitable.  However, before an application can be made, you must speak to Child Maintenance Options to discuss alternative forms of obtaining maintenance for your child.  Where this is not possible, they will issue you with a reference number in order for you to make an application to the Child Maintenance Service.

How Child Maintenance Payments work

Upon application to the CMS, a £20 fee needs to be paid dependent upon circumstances.  In cases of domestic violence, this fee is waived, and advice is issued as to how obtain child maintenance safely. Once the application has been made and the fee, where necessary, has been paid the CMS contact Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to establish the circumstances and income of the other parent.

Payments are received through either ‘direct pay’ or ‘collect and pay’.  Usually payments are received through the ‘direct pay’ system in the first instance before moving on to the ‘collect and pay’ system.

The ‘direct pay’ system means that once the CMS has made the calculation then the method of payment and when it should be paid, is agreed between the two parents.  Generally, this is done directly into a bank account on a certain day so that if the payments stop, there is a record of what has been received and when, so the CMS can then intervene on your behalf and enforce payments. The ‘collect and pay’ system means that the CMS will collect the payment form the other parent on your behalf, before paying it to you.  This service does require an additional payment of 20% on top of the child maintenance amount usually received but due to the cost you cannot request this method if the paying parent does not wish to use it except in certain circumstances.

What are the rates for Child Maintenance?

The amount received in child maintenance is calculated in accordance with what the law says a parent needs to pay (rates) and is based purely upon earnings and not savings, property or any other assets.

The different rates are as follows:

Nil Rate – Applies to anyone who doesn’t have to pay child maintenance for example those with an income of less than £7, a child in full time education, those in prison etc.

Flat rate of £7 per week – applies to parents on certain benefits and those with an income of less than £100 per week.

Reduced rate – Applies when the parent’s gross income is between £100-£200 per week.  Any income over £100 per week is taken into consideration for maintenance payments and a percentage of this income is used as payment.   The percentage paid is based upon the number of children the parent is claiming child maintenance for and the number of children that are currently living with the paying parent.  This percentage ranges from between 12.4% and 31% and is in addition to the £7 flat rate.

Basic rate – Applies to anyone with an income of over £200 per week and is calculated in two stages. In the first stage the paying parent’s income is reduced from between 11%-16% dependent upon how many children, including children from a new partner, who are living with them.  The second stage is a percentage calculated from the amount of earnings left after the stage one calculation.  The first £800 of this figure is calculated from between 12%-19% depending upon the number children that maintenance is required for, then a further amount between 9%-15% is calculated on anything over £800.

Does shared care effect Child Maintenance?

If care of the child is shared then this also affects the amount of maintenance that will be received. The CMS considers 1 night (overnight stay) or more per week as shared care.  The more nights that the child’s other parent cares for them over night, then the more the child maintenance payments will be reduced.  This ranges from between 1 and 3 sevenths of the payment plus the extra £7 per week for those where the child stays for 175 nights of the year or more.  If the child/children spend the same amount of time with both parents then neither has to pay child maintenance despite the finances of the other party.  The payment is also reduced if the parent paying the child maintenance has other children from a previous relationship who do not live with you.  In these cases, ‘apportionment’ is used whereby the amount the paying parent has to pay is split between yourself and the also other parent receiving child maintenance.

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