Child maintenance payments are the jurisdiction of the Child Maintenance Service, not the family courts as many believe. Only in special cases, where child support is sought over and above the usual rate, would the family courts be involved. If you’re seeking child maintenance payments, here are the facts…
Typically, the Child Maintenance Service will follow six steps to calculate the amount of child maintenance you will be entitled to or you will have to pay.
The only time this does not apply is if you’re seeking child maintenance payments over and above the usual rate. This would mean your case would have to be referred to the family courts, to whom you would submit a Schedule 1 application under the Children Act 1989.
Child Maintenance Payments in Six Steps
If you’re not looking to pursue child maintenance payments through the family courts, the Child Maintenance Service will assess the following:
The Child Maintenance Service will calculate the relevant income of your former spouse/partner – the ‘paying parent’ – by using information obtained from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
If a paying parent is receiving benefits, such as tax credits, a student loan or a personal loan, these are not counted as income by the Child Maintenance Service.
The paying parent is the party that does not have day to day care of the child(ren).
The ‘receiving parent’ is the main day to day caregiver.
(2) The things that affect income
As part of the income assessment of the paying parent, the Child Maintenance Service will review items that could affect their gross payment amount.
This can include pension contribution payments or other child support payments.
The yearly gross income will then be converted into a weekly figure.
(3) Child support rates
One of five child support rates will be applied following a review of the gross weekly income of the paying parent.
If the gross weekly income amount is unknown or undisclosed, the Child Maintenance Service will apply default fees of £38 per week for 1 child, £51 for two and £61 for three or more children.
If the paying parent’s weekly income is below £7, the receiving parent will not receive child maintenance payments.
For a weekly income between £7 and £100 – or if the paying parent is in receipt of benefits – the receiving parent will be entitled to a flat rate of £7.
A gross weekly income between £100.01 and £199.99 means the paying parent will pay a reduced rate that is calculated using a formula.
An income totalling anywhere between £200 and £3,000 means the paying parent will pay a basic rate that is also calculated using a formula.
If the paying parent’s gross weekly income exceeds £3,000, the receiving parent can file a Schedule 1 application under the Children Act 1989 to the family courts, for extra child support payments.
(4) Other children
The Child Maintenance Service will take into consideration another child or children that the paying parent is supporting, which include those living with them and any other payment arrangements for a child or children not living with them.
(5) The weekly amount of child maintenance due
Based on the information gathered from steps one to four, the Child Maintenance Service will then determine the amount that the paying parent is required to pay to the receiving parent.
(6) Shared parenting
The Child Maintenance Service will take into account the number of nights a child stays overnight with the paying parent and will make a deduction to the weekly child support amount based on the average number of shared care nights that occur per week.
Child Maintenance Payments Subject To Change
Child support payments are always subject to change, which is why they are reviewed each year. Payments can change based on the paying parent’s income circumstances, for example a job loss or a job promotion.
If you’re the paying parent, it’s up to you to notify the Child Maintenance Service of any change in your circumstances that could affect child support payments. Failure to do so will have consequences.