The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Single Departmental Plan includes a strategic objective to continue to provide a Child Maintenance system after the closure of all ongoing Child Support Agency (CSA) cases. As part of this, separated parents are encouraged to work together to set up a mutual agreement to support children from the relationship. If this is not possible, then the system is in place to ensure access to an effective and efficient Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

The latest report covers up until the ending of the 2020 financial year. During this period the statistics estimate that there were 2.4 million separated families in Great Britain including 3.6 million children in separated families. Within this data, it was discovered that 56% of separated families had a child maintenance arrangement in place, and the total maintenance payments topped £2.3 billion.

According to the data from the DWP, in the three years ending in 2020, it was found that:

  • 89% of parents with care were female and all under the age of 50
  • 86% of non-resident parents were male and 80% were under the age of 50
  • Child maintenance payments reduced the number of children living in low-income households annually – as a result of such payments 60 thousand children were moved out of absolute low income on a Before Housing Costs (BHC) basis, and 120 thousand children on an After Housing Costs (AHC) basis
  • 3% of parents with care moved out of the lowest 20% of the income distribution due to receiving child maintenance AHC, this is 2% BHC
  • 4% of non-resident parents moved out of the highest 20% of the income distribution due to paying child maintenance AHC, this is 4% BHC

A separated family is defined as one parent with care, one non-resident parent, and any biological or adopted children they have between them. The children would either be under 16 or under 20 and in full-time education.

A parent with care has the sole or main responsibility of taking care of any children from the relationship – with the child being potentially eligible to receive child support payments. A non-resident parent is a parent who does not have sole or the main responsibility of taking care of any children from the relationship. This parent may be required to pay child maintenance.

Generally, there are two types of child maintenance arrangements, both statutory and non-statutory. It is possible that separated families may have more than one type of support arrangement. Statutory child maintenance arrangements are those that have been arranged with the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) or its predecessor, the Child Support Agency (CSA). Non-statutory arrangements include all other arrangements between two parents and may include the following:

  • Voluntary financial arrangements involve direct monetary payments between parents where the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) or Child Support Agency (CSA) have not had any involvement between the two parents.
  • Voluntary non-financial arrangements involving payments in kind.
  • Other types of arrangements including shared care arrangements, where an equal split of parenting may take place.
  • Court orders requiring parents to make financial payments where there has been no involvement of the Child Maintenance Service of Child Support Agency.

What can I do if a parent of my child refuses to contribute?

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) was brought into service in December 2012, replacing the Child Support Agency (CSA). This is to support separated parents who can’t arrange a child maintenance agreement between themselves.

Parents can contact the CMS and ask them to calculate the amount of maintenance to be paid based on several factors including:

  • How many children are involved
  • The income of the non-resident parent.
  • How much time they spend with the paying parent.
  • Whether the paying parent is paying child maintenance for children from other relationships.

If maintenance is due to be paid, they can also help in collecting payments.

What type of arrangements works well?

If you arrange child support payments using a voluntary family-based arrangement, you’re free to decide the amount one parent pays the other. To ensure that the correct amount is being paid, it is a good idea to check against what the Child Maintenance Service would assess the amount to be.

It is worth thinking about what you’d like to include in this payment and how you’d like this to work to support the family cash flow. Would you prefer a fixed monthly amount? Do you want the other parent to contribute towards school uniform, holidays, and in-school and out-of-school activities?

How is child maintenance calculated?

There are different rates of child maintenance based on the gross weekly income (before tax, pensions, and NI and student loans) of the non-resident parent. When the non-resident parents’ income is unknown the default amount is £38 for one child, £51 for two children, £61 for three or more children.

If the gross weekly income of the parent is below £7 then there is no child maintenance owed. Between £7 and £100 or if the parent is on benefits, then the flat rate of £7 a week applies. Between £100.01 and £199.99, this is the reduced rate, and between £200 and £3,000, the basic rate applies. It is advised that you contact the Child Maintenance Service to calculate the correct amount owed for these rates.

If the non-resident parents’ gross weekly income is more than £3,000, then a court order for a child maintenance “top-up” would need to be made. The court will be required to see a Child Maintenance Service calculation showing that the gross weekly income has been calculated at £3,000 or more from the non-resident parent.

How do payments vary based on the number of children?

If we consider child maintenance at the basic rate, the amount you pay will depend on the number of children you’re required to contribute towards. For example, if the child is at home most of the time, a basic rate parent would be required to pay the following:

  • One child - 12% of your gross weekly income
  • Two children - 16% of your gross weekly income
  • Three or more children - 19% of your gross weekly income

Can Holmes Family Law Help?

Absolutely! We are experts in all areas of Family Law including parental disputes, and child support and maintenance arrangements. We offer a free no-obligation consultation with our experienced and knowledgeable lawyers who will advise you on the best course of action. Our Team is available on 0191 5009337 (Whickham) or 01670 707338 (Cramlington). Alternatively, visit Get In Touch to find our range of contact options.

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