It is common for separating couples (either married or unmarried) to agree an appropriate level of child maintenance between themselves and therefore the Child Support Agency (soon to be renamed as CMEC) may never be involved.
However, even if not directly involved, the principles adopted by the CSA in calculating the appropriate level of maintenance are carefully considered when agreeing matters directly.
As a general rule, the assessment is that the non-resident parent must pay the parent with care 15% of their net income (up to a maximum net income of £104,000 per annum) if there is one child of the relationship, 20% of net income if there are two children or 25% of net income if there are three or more children. Various other factors can lead to an adjustment of these calculations if appropriate, for example if the children have overnight contact with the non-resident parent or if the non-resident parent has to support other children as well. If the net income being considered exceeds £104,000 per annum then the court can be asked to “top up” the CSA level of maintenance.
The intention is that a new set of rules governing the calculation of child maintenance will be brought in during 2012 but as yet no date has been set. The new rules will be based upon ‘gross’ rather than ‘net’ income with lower percentages applying in each case. This is intended to remove abuses of the current system by the non resident parent diverting gross income into tax structures or pensions which have the effect of reducing the resulting net income.
A claim for child maintenance is usually dealt with for married couples as part of an overall negotiated agreement about your financial claims upon divorce and for unmarried couples when considering what other financial arrangements can be made for the child or the applicant upon separation e.g when considering your potential property rights or other financial claims on behalf of a child such as capital support from the non-resident parent.