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How is child maintenance calculated?

Mother hugging son on her lap
How is child maintenance calculated?

Child Maintenance calculation is rather complex. Assuming you fall under the 2012 new gross income statutory child maintenance scheme (through the CMS rather than earlier schemes under the CSA) the Paying/Non-Resident Parent (PP/NRP) is calculated against their gross income.

Step 1: Gross income

The CMS will find out the Paying Parent’s gross income.

Step 2: Things that affect income

The CMS should check for certain things that could change this gross income amount, such as pension payments, or other children who the paying parent supports.

The CMS also convert the yearly gross income amount to a weekly figure.

Step 3: Child Maintenance Rates

The CMS apply one of four rates, based on the amount of gross weekly income.

  • Nil Rate: Some non-resident parents do not need to pay any child support. This ‘nil rate’ applies if the non-resident parent is a child, a prisoner, is 16 or 17 years old and receiving Universal Credit (UC) (calculated on the basis that s/he has no earned income, or s/he is a member of a couple and her/his partner is receiving UC calculate on this basis), or Income Support (IS), income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) or income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) or s/he is a member of a couple and her/his partner is receiving one of these benefits for her/him, or s/he receives an allowance for work-based training, or is resident in a care home or independent hospital, or being provided with a care home service or/and independent healthcare service and receives one of the prescribed benefits for the Flat Rate (see below) or has all or part of the cost of her/his accommodation met by a local authority or has a gross income (including income from any of the prescribed benefits for the flat rate) of less than £7 a week.

  • Flat Rate: A flat rate of £7 per week applies if the NRP does not qualify for the nil rate and her/his weekly income is £100 or less, or s/he receives one of the following benefits; category A, B, C or D retirement pension, state pension, incapacity benefit, contributory ESA, carer’s allowance, maternity allowance, sever disablement allowance, industrial injuries benefit, widowed mother’s or parent’s allowance, contribution-based JSA, a training allowance (other than for work-based learning for young people), war disablement pension, war widow’s/widower’s or surviving civil partner’s pension, payments under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, a social security benefit paid by a country other than the UK, or s/he or her/his partner receives one of the following means-tested benefits; UC calculated on the basis that s/he doesn’t have any earned income, IS, income-based JSA, income-related ESA or pension credit.

    The flat rate can be halved if the non-resident parent has a partner who is also a non-resident parent with a child support calculation in force, and the non-resident parent or her/his partner receives one of the means-tested benefits above.

  • Reduced Rate: Applies if the NRP does not qualify for the nil or flat rate and her/his weekly gross income is more than £100 but less than £200. The flat rate of £7 is added to a percentage of the parent’s income between £100 and £100; i.e. if the gross income is £150, the percentage is applied to £50.

  • Basic Rate & Basic Rate Plus: The basic rate applies if none of the other rates (nil, flat or reduced) apply and the NRP has a gross weekly income of more than £200 but less than £800. If the NRP gross weekly income exceeds £800, basic rate plus applies.

The maximum amount of gross weekly income that can be used in the child support calculation is £3,000. Even if a variation for additional income is being applied, the amount of gross income taken into account cannot be more than this.

If the paying parent’s gross weekly income is more than £3,000, the receiving parent can apply to the court for extra child maintenance

It is also possible the NRP does not need to pay any child support, i.e. if they are in prison. In these cases, the nil rate applies.

Step 4: Children taken into account

The CMS take into account the number of children who the paying parent must pay child maintenance for and any family-based arrangements.

Step 5: Weekly amount of child maintenance

Using information from the first four steps, the CMS make a decision about a weekly child maintenance amount

Step 6: Shared Care

Finally, if this applies, the CMS make a deduction to this weekly amount of child maintenance depending on the average number of ‘shared care’ nights a week. ‘Shared care’ is when a child a paying parent must pay child maintenance for stays overnight with them.

Examples of Calculations

Examples of calculations can be found here.

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