It’s common for separating couples (either married or unmarried) to agree an appropriate level of child maintenance between themselves, so the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) may never be involved.
However, even if not directly involved, the principles adopted by the CMS in calculating the appropriate level of maintenance are carefully considered when agreeing matters directly.
The CMS looks at several factors to calculate the level of child maintenance, including:
- Factors that affect income, such as pension payments or other children they support (including other children living with them)
- The gross yearly income is then converted into a weekly figure.
- The paying parent’s gross yearly income
One of five weekly rates will then be applied, based on this weekly figure. This results in a weekly amount of maintenance to be paid by the paying parent. This figure may be adjusted to allow for any nights when the child stays overnight with the paying parent, based on the average number of ‘shared care’ nights per week
From June 2014, application fees and enforcement charges were introduced by the CMS. From August 2014, fees were also introduced for the collection and paying out of child maintenance. It’s therefore more important than ever for both you and your ex-partner to try and reach an agreement.
For married couples, child maintenance is usually dealt with as part of an overall negotiated financial agreement upon divorce. For unmarried couples, it’s usually dealt with when considering what other financial arrangements can be made for the children upon separation. (For example, when considering your potential property rights or other financial claims on behalf of a child, such as capital support from the non-resident parent).
The court does, however, retain jurisdiction to make a ‘top up’ order in cases involving earnings above £156,000 gross per year. The court rather than the CMS has responsibility for sorting out private school fees or where a child has special needs resulting from a disability, again, unless you reach an agreement yourselves.
Partner & Head of Family Law
Family Law Partner