How much should you pay towards your child’s upkeep? How do you pay this, or what if the non resident won’t pay? We’ve posted below a number of the most frequently asked questions we receive on Child Maintenance issues.
What is Child Maintenance?
Child maintenance is basically what is says on the tin. It’s a sum of money paid towards your child’s every day living costs, eg food, clothes and putting a roof over their head (with all associated costs). It’s usually paid by the non resident parent but can still apply in the case of shared care if one of the parents has a significantly higher income than the other.
What Child Maintenance isn’t
Child maintenance isn’t a bargaining tool or a way of punishing parents, it’s simply a payment towards raising your children and helping to provide for their needs. It’s recognition that we’re responsible for the upkeep of our children, whether they live with us or not.
How much Child Maintenance do I pay for my child?
The CSA in its previous guise used to recommend 10% of net income for the 1st child, 15% for two children, and 20% for three children – a reasonable starting point also for anyone making their own arrangements. The CSA have now been replaced and the calculator takes into account other children in the home as well as the amount of time the child spends with each parent. The Child Maintenance Calculator can be found here This is a useful tool, and although this includes the fees payable should you wish to pursue or pay maintenance via the Child Maintenance Service, you can simply disregard the additional costs if you come to your own arrangements.
How long will I receive Child Maintenance for my child?
Child maintenance is considered payable until the child reaches 16 or, if they continue in full time education or certain training course, until they reach 20. The guidelines are very similar to child benefit in this respect.
Is it better for me to pay my ex direct or shall we use the Child Maintenance Service?
Wherever feasible, it’s better to agree on payments yourselves and pay these direct to your ex partner. Whilst the Child Maintenance Service has good powers to administer payments, the service is costly to use for both paying and receiving parent and should be used as a last resort only.
What’s the best way to organise payment ourselves?
If you agree Child Maintenance yourselves, this is known as a ‘Family Based Arrangement’. This gives you both flexibility to structure payments around your circumstances and this can be a quicker way to sort out the issue of payments. It’s also cheaper too as you don’t have the administration fees to pay, so as long as both parents are happy with the arrangement, it’s a win win. To ensure there is no ambiguity in or misunderstandings over what has been arranged, it’s worth recording this in on a Family Based Arrangement Form
Can I decide what my ex uses the Child Maintenance for?
No. The payment is made to your partner based on your agreement or Child Maintenance calculators and this then goes into the household pot. There is no obligation to provide any information or itemised breakdown on where the money goes. This in essence isn’t necessarily a bad thing but recognises that communication between separated parents can often lead to animosity and arguments.
What if my ex partner refuses to pay?
Child maintenance is a legal responsibility and should you be unable to reach a private arrangement, or if the payments are unreliable, there is a new government service, the Child Maintenance Service, who will pursue your case and act as a middle man in collecting payments. This new service however is, unlike the CSA, not free and the following fees apply:
Application fee : £20 fee
Collection fees from non resident parent: 20% of the amount owing (eg a payment of £200 per month would cost the non resident parent £40 per month)
Collection fees for resident parent: the resident parent would be charged 5% of the amount owing, eg of a Child Maintenance payment of £200 per month, £10 would be deducted by the Child Maintenance Service.
Can I go to the CSA instead?
No, the only cases that will continue to be administered by the CSA are those that were opened before the 25th November 2013, the Child Maintenance Service will pursue any cases after this date.
What if my ex still won’t pay?
The Child Maintenance Service will impose fines if maintenance payments are missed or delayed and you can apply to have the payment deducted direct from their salary by their employer. The service can also take money direct from a bank account or, if all else fails, take the parent to court with the use of bailiffs to confiscate possessions that cover the outstanding amount.
I am receipt of Universal Credit. Will Child Maintenance affect my payment?
I have gone back to work full time – does this mean my Child Maintenance payment will reduce?
No. The payment is based on the non resident’s income and situation, and the number of children and is a recognition that we are all responsible for the upkeep of our children.
My new partner is pregnant and we’re struggling with payments.
The Child Maintenance Calculator takes into consideration your income, how many children you are paying Child Maintenance for and also other relevant factors such as children in other or new relationships. Use the Child Maintenance Calculator if there’s been a change in circumstances – whether due to new children or a change in salary (for better or worse!).
We’ve tried to cover as many of the most frequently asked questions about maintenance above without making this a huge topic, there are also a number of good online resources available. The government’s site Child Maintenance Options is a wealth of information and a very useful starting point if you’re just setting out on this road or want further advice.
Child Maintenance Service 0800 988 0988