Maintenance and Child Support

There is an obligation upon the non-resident parent to provide for their children which is not dependent on whether they spend time seeing the children or not, and whether or not the parents are married.

The Child Maintenance Service (“CMS”) works on a formulaic approach, taking into account factors including the number of children (including any other children the payer is responsible for maintaining), the payer’s gross income, pension contributions and the number of nights that the children spend on average with the payer.

Some people will be eligible for a nil or reduced rate (e.g. people on certain benefits or earning under £200 per week).For others, there is a basic rate for earnings between £200 and £800 gross per week before tax and national insurance (but after pension contributions). This is 12 per cent for one child, 16 per cent for two children and 19 per cent for three or more children. If you are a higher rate tax payer/earner, then an extra 9 per cent will then be applied to the amount above £800 per week if there is one child, or an extra 12 per cent for two children and an extra 15 per cent for three or more children up to a maximum of £3,000 per week (£156,000 gross per year).

There is a reduction on the amount of maintenance payable if the child (or children) spend overnights with the non-resident parent, on a sliding scale depending on the number of overnight stays. There is a reduction of 1/7th for between 52 and 103 nights per year, 2/7ths for 104 to 155 and 3/7ths for 155 to 174 nights.

There is an incentive on parents to reach an agreement as to the level of child maintenance that is payable, because if the CMS are used to collect the maintenance on an ongoing basis then both the payer and receiving parent pay for using the service. If you want the CMS to collect the maintenance on an ongoing basis, then 4 per cent will be deducted from the amount received by the parent with care, and the payer will have to pay an additional 20 per cent on top of the assessed figure. Most parents use the CMS formula as a guide for what should be payable but agree the arrangements themselves.

In cases involving earnings above £156,000 per year, the court has the power to make a “top up” order,including order for additional maintenance for the childto include expenses such as the costs of a nanny. The court rather than the CMS also has responsibility for dealing with the payment of private school fees or where a child has special needs resulting from a disability. The court rather than the CMS still retains its powers to make orders for children whose non-resident parents lives overseas, or if the children live overseas and it can also order that capital sums be paid for children, or that property must be made available for them, in certain circumstances. This is quite separate to any capital payment or maintenance that might be arranged between the couple.