How Much Child Maintenance Should You Pay?

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Calculating how much Child Maintenance you should be paying and what it covers can be confusing at times. Amara McCalla Trainee Solicitor in the Family department explains why and what it covers.

What is child maintenance?

When parents separate it is often the case that children will live with one parent and spend time with the other parent. This is the same whether the parents are married or not.

It can be a financial worry for the parent who is left primarily caring for the children going from a joint to a single income, left wondering how they will manage financially. It is commonly known by parents and accepted by the family court’s that raising and providing for children can be expensive.

There is a legal obligation on the parent who the children or child does not live with, to pay child maintenance to the parent who the children or child does.

How long do I pay child maintenance for?

Child maintenance is paid until a child (or children) turns 16 unless the child is in full-time secondary education, which is not higher than A level or the equivalent, and is under 20.

What does child maintenance cover?

Child maintenance is a contribution toward the living costs of children. Living costs are things such as food, clothing, and housing. Essentially costs for any basic needs. However, if parents share the care of their children equally, with the same number of overnight stays a year, child maintenance is not payable.

How much child maintenance should I get?

The amount of child maintenance you will get will depend on the income of the parent who is making the payments. As well as income, several other factors will also be taken into consideration, including whether the paying parent is paying maintenance for any other children and how many children you have.

Payments that the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) calculates are set at:

  • 12 percent of the payee’s gross weekly income for one child.
  • 16 percent of the payee’s weekly income for two children.
  • 19 percent of the payee’s gross weekly income for three or more children.

If possible, it is best for the parents to agree on what amount of child maintenance will be paid. This is known as a voluntary or family-based agreement. This agreement could be made through discussions themselves, through the use of a family mediator, or solicitors. The positive of family-based agreements is that they can be changed if a person’s circumstances change provided the parties are able to work together, be flexible, and reach an agreement.

The downside is that they are not legally enforceable.

How much child maintenance should I pay?

Child maintenance is payable until a child is 16 or 20 if they remain in full-time secondary education.

The CMS will find out how much the non-resident parent earns gross a year. They obtain this from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The CMS also checks if the non-resident parent is receiving any benefits.

There are things that the CMS will take into account that will reduce the gross income. For example, other dependent children that the non-resident parent supports. The yearly gross income is then converted to a weekly figure.

One of five rates are then applied:

If the gross income is not provided a default amount of £38 for 1 child, £51 for 2 children and £61 for 3 or more children is applied. This is per week.

If the income is less than £7 no payment is due

If the amount earned is between £0-£100 or the non-resident parent receives benefits the amount paid is £7 per week.

If the amount earned is between £100.01 – £199.99 a reduced rate is applied using a set formula

If the amount earned is between £200-£3000 a basic rate is applied using a set formula

If the non-resident parent’s gross weekly income is more than £3,000 the resident parent can apply to the court for extra maintenance.

You are able to use a child maintenance calculator to calculate the exact amount for your child here.


You can obtain family law advice from our expert team by contacting our local offices in Gloucester or Stroud today. If you have a question or would like to request a callback, you can also use our quick online enquiry form.


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