Child Support

  • We have just separated. Does the CSA have to be involved or can we sort out child maintenance ourselves?
  • We were never married – it was only a very brief relationship some years ago. He says that he does not have to pay any child maintenance. Is this correct?
  • For how long is child maintenance payable?
  • Do I have to pay for my step-children?
  • What do the terms ‘parent with care’ and ‘absent parent’ mean?

All parents (whether married, in a civil partnership, cohabitees or those who have never had a relationship save a brief one) have a legal obligation to financially support their children. Once parents separate, the parent with whom the children have their main/primary home is entitled to receive regular financial support by way of a monthly income from the other parent. Where an agreement can be reached voluntarily (and the parent with care is not in receipt of state benefits) this can be incorporated into a court order if that order is made by consent and deals with other matrimonial financial matters.

If an agreement about child support cannot be reached, a Judge cannot impose a solution and an application should be made to the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (The Commission) (formerly the Child Support Agency (CSA)). The Commission’s role is to ensure that all non-resident parents make a contribution to the financial support of their natural children. The Commission itself is due to be replaced as part of the Government’s budget reduction so that its role will ultimately be covered by the Department of Work and Pensions. Regardless of what happens the purpose of the original CSA will still be actively maintained and hopefully improved.

If child maintenance was assessed before 3 March 2003, the arrangement will be subject to different rules. At Blackdown Family Law Solicitors, we will be pleased to explain those rules but this page relates to all assessments after that date. From 3 March 2003, a new and much more straightforward formula was implemented by the CSA for the calculation of child maintenance.

The current provisions apply to a child who is either under the age of sixteen or under the age of nineteen and receiving full time, non-advanced secondary education. The child and both parents must be habitually resident in the U.K. A child must be the natural child of the parents and although the provisions apply to adopted children, they do not apply to stepchildren. The parent who cares for the child or children for the majority of the time is called the “parent with care”. The other parent is called the “absent parent”.

How to Make a Child Maintenance Assessment?

Net Income

  • What does the CSA take into account as my net income?
  • Does it include income from my armed forces pension?

The amount of child maintenance is determined by calculating the net income of the absent parent. The income of the parent with care of the child is not taken into consideration at all (which is different from the pre 3 March 2003 situation).

The term ‘net income’ is any remuneration including tax credits and pension income payments less income tax, national insurance contributions and most monthly pension contributions. The Commission is stringent over the calculation of income and will look carefully at all sources and any income that is disguised as capital. Problems understandably occur with absent parents who receive much of their income in cash payments.

The Basic Rate

  • How are the payments calculated?
  • Are my household living expenses taken into account as I do have a particularly high mortgage?

There is a ‘basic rate’ of child support maintenance that is applicable in most situations where the absent parent is working. This is a simple specified percentage of the said net income of the absent parent and varies depending on the number of qualifying children. Qualifying children are those of both parents.

  • Where there is one qualifying child to be maintained, the figure is 15% of the absent parents net income.
  • Where there are 2 qualifying children, the figure is 20% of the net income.
  • Where there are 3 or more children, the figure is 25% of the net income.

N.B. There is no increase beyond 25%

Example 1: If the absent parent earns £400 net a week he would pay £60 in child maintenance per week if he has 1 child and £80 per week if he has 2 children.

Deductions for Overnight Staying Contact

  • I have the children to stay with me alternate weekends and for at least half of their school holidays. Is there any reduction for this?

Deductions will be made if the child(ren) stay(s) overnight with the absent parent. This is because the absent parent, whilst having overnight staying contact, will incur some obvious expense. These deductions only apply when the absent parent has overnight care of the child and not for daytime contact. The following table sets out the relevant deductions.

No. of Nights of Overnight Care Per
Year by Absent Parent
Child Maintenance Reduced Each
Week by:
52 – 103 1/7
104 - 155 2/7
156 - 174 3/7
174 or more 1/2

Example 2: If the absent parent has contact on alternate weekends on Friday and Saturday evenings, that amounts to 52 nights per year. This would mean that the maintenance calculation would be reduced by 1/7 th.
Using the first example of £400 net income per week, for 1 child, the £60 per week calculation would be reduced to £51.43 per week payable.

Deductions for Relevant Children

  • My husband left us. Now he has moved in with another woman and they have a child together. He says that there is a deduction for this from his child maintenance. Is this correct?

Deductions will also be made if the absent parent has more children or stepchildren in their new household, for example from a second family i.e. not children of the relationship with the parent with care. If this is the case, an allowance is made for such “other relevant children” and a deduction is made from the income of the absent parent before the basic rate is calculated.

  • Where there is 1 relevant child of the absent parent, there is a deduction of 15%
  • Where there are 2 relevant children of the absent parent, there is a deduction of 20%
  • Where there are 3 or more relevant children of the absent parent, there is a deduction of 25%

Example 3: If the absent parent has 1 relevant child living mainly with him, 15% is deducted from his £400 income, leaving £340 available. Therefore, he now pays £51.00 for 1 qualifying child instead of £60 and £68 instead of £80 if he has 2 or more qualifying children.

Allowable Deductions

  • Is the money that I pay into my pension fund taken into account?
  • I have to travel across the country to collect my children and it costs a great deal.

Deductions are also possible if you pay into a pension or if you have particularly high expenses in travelling to see your children for contact visits. At Blackdown Family Law Solicitors, we can advise you on both these and further the deductions that are available.

Child Support Agreed Between Parents

  • We agreed child maintenance and it is in our court order. My wife cannot reopen this agreement can she by using the CSA? Surely the court order takes priority.
  • Do the CSA ever review their assessments?

You do not have to use the Commission to assess and recover child maintenance. You can agree a payment voluntarily with the other parent. Often, if a couple are divorcing, the agreed payment is recorded in a Consent Order. However, 12 months after the date of the Consent Order either parent can make an application to the Commission for a revised assessment, regardless of what has been agreed within the Consent Order. The Commission aim to review maintenance assessments every two years.

Further changes have been introduced by the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 which include the following:-

-extending the same options for arranging child maintenance to all parents by removing the requirement for those parents with day to day care claiming benefits to use the statutory scheme;
-ensuring more money is delivered to lower income families, by extending and increasing the benefit disregard;
-providing an information and support service called Child Maintenance Options, to enable parents to make an informed choice about whether private, statutory or court – based arrangements are most suited to their circumstances;
-tackling non-compliance and debt collections, through an enhanced enforcement regime and improvements in debt management and
-simplifying and streamlining assessments and improving the collection process for the statutory maintenance service.

Schedule One of the Children Act 1989 and Claims on Behalf of Children

  • We cohabited and I accept that I do not have any financial claims against him myself. However, he is wealthy and has investment properties. Do I have any claims on behalf of our children?
  • He has thrown us out. My son and I need a house desperately. Surely something can be done?

Regardless of whether the parents have been married, were in a civil partnership, were living together as cohabitees or none of these and have never been in a relationship (i.e. they have just had a one night stand) a Judge also has the power to make other orders, such as for a sum(s) of money or property to be provided. For example, the court can order one parent to provide a home for the other parent and the child, with the property reverting back the absent parent when the child reaches the age of eighteen or ceases full time tertiary education. Such claims are pursued under Schedule One of the Children Act 1989. This is generally useful where the parents are unmarried and the absent parent is wealthy.

In order to prevent the children of former cohabitees from being financially disadvantaged on their parent’s separation, claims can be brought on their behalf by the parent with whom they will continue to reside. For example, if an unmarried mother does not have sufficient money to re-house herself in either a freehold or a rented property, she may be able to apply to the other parent and if not agreed, then to the court for provision of a property or capital nature under the Children Act. The most common outcome for this type of application will be for the Judge to order that the absent parent provides or purchases a property to be held in trust for the children until a specified event occurs. This is most likely to be when the youngest child reaches the age of 18 or finishes their tertiary education at which time, the property would then be sold and the proceeds would revert to the absent parent. It and will never be the personal property of the parent with care, who has effectively a life interest in that property until such time as the particular event occurs. If that parent does not have an interest in the property by virtue of a resulting or a constructive trust, then they do not acquire personal financial rights by way of their children’s entitlement.

Applications for financial support under Schedule One of the Children Act 1989 are relatively uncommon but nevertheless can be of great value to former cohabitees who are also the parent with care of the children.

In limited circumstances, the court may also order the payment of a lump sum to meet specific capital requirements of the children, again under Schedule One of the said Act. Examples would be for capital outlay or an income stream in connection with a projected self employment project or to buy a car which is needed to provide transport to work.

At Blackdown Family Law Solicitors, we have wide experience of dealing with Schedule One applications and can advise upon your individual case circumstances.

Child Maintenance and School Fees via the Court

  • Can I use the court to assess child maintenance rather than the CSA?
  • In addition to the CSA assessment, what can I do about school fees?

Courts can only decide upon the level of support for a child if:-

  • An absent parent’s income exceeds £104,000 per annum gross. In such circumstances, it may be possible to apply to the court for additional child maintenance to top up the existing assessment; or
  • The absent parent works abroad for a company that is not registered in the U.K.; or
  • School fees are payable over and above the basic Commission’s calculation and obligation
  • A child is disabled.

Spousal Maintenance and Child Maintenance

  • I am getting child support but there is still such disparity between our incomes. Am I entitled to anything for myself as well?
  • How will solicitors and if necessary, a Judge, assess whether I am entitled to spousal maintenance?
  • I really do not want to pay spousal maintenance as well as child maintenance. Can I buy my wife’s claims off as part of our settlement?

A dependant spouse (usually the wife) may be entitled to spousal maintenance on divorce in addition to child maintenance calculated in accordance with the Commission’s formula.

A wife may be entitled to maintenance for herself during joint lives, into a remarriage, for a specified term or further order of the court. Whether or not a spousal maintenance order will be made depends upon many various circumstances including (but not limited to) the following:-

  • The ages of the husband and the wife and the length of the marriage.
  • Whether the wife is working. If she is in receipt of an income, where there is a large disparity between her income and her husband’s income and whether she has a large earning capacity.
  • Where there are young children of the family and child care issues will have an impact upon a wife’s earning capacity.
  • Where there are sufficient capital sums available, a wife’s claim for maintenance may be capitalised by way of a lump sum and therefore a clean break settlement achieved.

Please see our sections on Matrimonial Financial Settlements and Matrimonial Financial Litigation for further details.


Over the last 22 years John Turner, the Principal of Blackdown Family Law Solicitors has dealt with all aspects of child maintenance and financial support on a regular basis. He will advise you on the most effective and efficient way of proceeding, whilst taking into account all of the circumstances of your case. Through extensive and successful experience he will work with you in order to achieve the best outcome to resolve any conflict.

Areas of Family Law Work
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