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All you need to know about Child Maintenance

View profile for Georgina Stavrou
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Child Maintenance is the financial support towards a child’s everyday living costs. It’s considered one of the most important issues for separated parents. Many changes that have come into force over recent years, the most significant being that the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) now deals with all new cases of child maintenance.

Do I have to make an application to the CMS?

It’s not necessary to make an application to the CMS asking them to calculate what maintenance an absent parent is required to pay, as this can be agreed between the parents. This is what is known as a “family-based arrangement”. This is the quickest and most amicable way to agree child maintenance.

When trying to agree child maintenance parents can seek free and impartial guidance from “Child Maintenance Options” set up by the government. In the absence of an agreement an application can be made to the CMS.

How is child maintenance calculated?

The CMS will calculate the amount the ‘paying parent’ is required to pay to the ‘receiving parent’. Attached are the current rates that will be applied on the gross weekly income of the paying parent.

Adjustments will be made where parents share the care of the children based on the number of nights the children stay with the paying parent. Attached are details of such reductions.

Do I need to pay to use the CMS?

There is now a £20 application fee payable when making the application to the CMS unless, you are a victim of domestic violence or, under 19 years of age in which case no fee is payable. If you require the CMS to manage the collection and payment then further fees will apply. If you are the paying parent you will pay a 20% fee on top of your child maintenance payment each time you make a payment. If you are the receiving parent you will have a 4% fee deducted from the child maintenance payment that you are to receive each time you receive a payment.

When will the Court get involved?

There are certain circumstances for which the CMS does not have authority to deal with, namely:

  • Where the absent parent lives overseas
  • Stepchildren
  • If the absent parent earns more than £3,000 gross per week
  • If money is required to pay University fees
  • If money is required to meet the costs of a child’s disability
  • For children who have completed secondary education.  

In such cases an application will have to be made to the Court for a determination of the level of child maintenance. Before making such application you are expected to have tried to reach an agreement directly with the other parent.