How much child maintenance should I pay?

If you and your ex-partner have children, you’re both expected to continue to pay towards their costs after you separate. And often that means one parent will pay the other. You can agree this between you or, if you can’t agree, ask the Child Maintenance Service to calculate the amount.

Arranging child maintenance yourselves

Use the child maintenance calculatoropens in new window on the Gov.uk website. It will estimate how much child maintenance you should pay or receive based upon their formula

If you arrange child maintenance using a family-based arrangement, you’re free to decide the amount one parent pays the other. But it is a good idea to check the amount you agree against what the Child Maintenance Service would assess the amount to be. This is because either of you would be free to go to the Child Maintenance Service and ask for a maintenance calculation.

You should think about what you’d like to include in this payment and how you’d like to pay:

  • Do you want to pay a fixed regular amount or will you vary it to help with extra expenses throughout the year?
  • Do you want to pay directly for things like school uniform, activities or holidays?
  • Do you want to pay a percentage of your earnings? If your earnings fluctuate, this may be helpful to you but it would mean the amount of child support is less predictable.

How much are you expected to pay?

If you can’t agree how much child maintenance one parent should pay the other, you can ask the Child Maintenance Service to calculate it for you. There are several factors that it will take into account:

  • the income of the paying parent
  • how many children you have
  • how much time they spend with the paying parent
  • whether the paying parent is paying child maintenance for other children

When does child maintenance stop?

You’re normally expected to pay child maintenance until your child is 16, or until they’re 20 if they’re in school or college full time doing A-levels, Highers or equivalent. Child maintenance may stop earlier – for example, if one parent dies or the child stops being eligible for child benefit.

How your income affects how much you pay

There are different rates of child maintenance according to the paying parent’s gross weekly income (which means how much you receive before things like tax and National Insurance are taken off).

  • Nil rate: the rate you pay if your gross weekly income is less than £7. It means you don’t pay any child maintenance.
  • Flat rate: if your gross weekly income is between £7 and £100 or if you’re on benefits, you pay a flat rate of £5 a week.
  • Reduced rate: if your gross weekly income is between £100.01 and £199.99, you pay the flat rate of £5 a week on the first £100, plus a percentage of your income on the rest.
  • Basic rate: if your gross weekly income is between £200 and £800, the amount you will pay will depend on a number of factors.
  • Basic plus: if your gross weekly income is between £800.01 and £3,000, you pay the basic rate on the first £800 and a lower rate on the rest of your income.

If your gross weekly income is more than £3,000, you’ll need to apply to the court for a child maintenance “top-up” order to be made. But before the court will deal with your application, they will need to see a Child Maintenance Service calculation showing that your gross weekly income has been calculated at £3,000 or more.

How the number of children affects how much you pay

If you’re paying child maintenance and you’re on the basic or basic plus rate, the amount you pay will depend on the number of children you’re being asked to pay for. The figures below assume that your children stay with the parent who receives child maintenance all the time.

On the basic rate, if you’re paying for:

  • one child, you’ll pay 12% of your gross weekly income
  • two children, you’ll pay 16% of your gross weekly income
  • three or more children, you’ll pay 19% of your gross weekly income

On the basic plus rate, if you’re paying for:

  • one child, you’ll pay 12% of your gross weekly income on the first £800 and 9% of your gross weekly income on the rest
  • two children, you’ll pay 16% of your gross weekly income on the first £800 and 12% of your gross weekly income on the rest
  • three or more children, you’ll pay 19% of your gross weekly income on the first £800 and 15% of your gross weekly income on the rest

How shared care affects child maintenance

Many parents decide to share the care of their children. If your children spend some time with the paying parent, this will reduce the amount of child maintenance he or she pays.

There are different ‘bands’ which determine how much child maintenance is reduced by. The amount of child maintenance is reduced for each child who spends time with the paying parent. If your child is with the paying parent between:

  • 52 and 103 nights: child maintenance is reduced by 1/7th for each child
  • 104 and 155 nights: child maintenance is reduced by 2/7th for each child
  • 156 and 174 nights: child maintenance is reduced by 3/7th for each child
  • 175 nights or more nights: child maintenance is reduced by 50%, plus an extra £7 a week reduction for each child

Paying for children from another relationship

If the paying parent’s gross weekly income is between £200 and £3,000 and they pay child maintenance for other children, this is taken into account when working out how much they should pay.

The Child Maintenance Service simply reduces the amount of weekly income that it takes into account. For example, if the paying parent is paying for:

  • one other child, their weekly income will be reduced by 11%
  • two other children, their weekly income will be reduced by 14%
  • three or more other children, their weekly income will be reduced by 16%

Your next step

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