How much child support am I entitled to?

family law

Or, to put it from the other side: how much will I have to pay?

The first thing to say is that the parents can agree whatever child support arrangements they wish. This post is intended as a guide to how much the Child Maintenance Service would now require the non-resident parent (NRP, i.e. the parent with whom the child does not usually live) to pay, if no agreement can be reached. Note that the figures are correct as at the date of this post.

Now, it may seem a little odd that I am going to explain how child support (or child maintenance, as it is now more commonly called) is calculated, when there is an online calculator on the GOV.UK website that will give you a figure. However, the calculator doesn’t explain the detail of the calculation, and sometimes it can be useful to know how the figure given by the calculator is worked out.

The process by which child support is calculated depends upon the facts of the case. The relevant facts are: the NRP’s income, the number of children, whether the children stay overnight with the NRP and if so how often, and whether there are any other children the NRP has to pay for, for example in their new family. I’ll begin with the NRP’s income.

The NRP’s income is his or her gross weekly income, i.e. essentially their weekly income before tax and national insurance contributions, but after deduction of any pension contributions. If the gross weekly income is below £7 there will be no child support to pay. If the gross weekly income is between £7 and £100, or if the NRP is in receipt of certain benefits such as Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance then the NRP will have to pay a flat rate of £7 per week.

If the NRP’s gross weekly income is over £100, then a formula is used to calculate how much they should pay, and this is where the other facts come in. There are two formulae: one called the ‘reduced rate’ for cases where the NRP’s gross weekly income is more than £100 but less than £200, and one called the ‘basic rate’ for cases where the NRP’s gross weekly income is more than £200.

The reduced rate is £7 per week, plus a percentage of the NRP’s weekly income above £100. The percentage depends upon the number of children and the number of other children the NRP has to pay for. If there are no ‘other’ children the percentages are 17 per cent for one child, 25 per cent for two and 31 per cent for three or more. If there are ‘other’ children those percentages reduce. I won’t set out all the figures here, but for example for one child and one ’other’ child the figure goes down from 17 per cent to 14.1 per cent, and if there is one child and two ‘other’ children the figure goes down from 17 per cent to 13.2 per cent.

The formula for the basic rate works slightly differently. If there is one ‘other’ child the NRP’s gross weekly income is reduced by 11 per cent, if there are two ‘other’ children it is reduced by 14 per cent and if there are three or more ‘other’ children it is reduced by 16 per cent. The NRP will then have to pay a percentage of the figure that is left. From the first £800 of that figure they will have to pay 12 per cent for one child, 16 per cent for two and 19 per cent for three or more. From any sum over that £800 up to £3000 they will have to pay a further nine per cent for one child, 12 per cent for two and 15 per cent for three or more.

There is one other factor to be taken into account: shared care of the children, where the children stay overnight with the NRP. Here, the maintenance for each child with shared care is reduced, depending upon how many nights they spend with the NRP. Basically, this means that if they spend on average one night a week with the NRP the maintenance is reduced by one seventh, by two sevenths for two nights a week, by three sevenths for three nights a week, and by 50 per cent for more than that.

Lastly, the eagle-eyed may have noted that the £3000 limit referred to under the basic rate above appears to put a cap on the amount the NRP has to pay. However, the parent in receipt of the child support may then apply to a court for a ‘top-up’, so there is actually no limit upon what the NRP may be required to pay.

Please note that this post is only intended to be an overview of the basic points regarding child support calculation. I have simplified things slightly for the sake of clarity and there are a number of possible complications that I have not dealt with. If you require detailed advice regarding your case then you should consult an expert family lawyer.

Photo by jridgewayphotography via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

John Bolch

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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4 comments

Andy - February 3, 2017 at 7:26am

it’s all well and good the CMS telling the NRP to pay but,you try telling he incompetent idiots the when you ring up and explain the statutory answer is you have to prove it what your situation is.
In reality they are reading off a crib sheet then if a complicated question is asked they can’t answer it…

The same as little Brittain…THE COMPUTER SAYS NO.
Ther is a way of dealing with this..Pay more into a pension and this will be documented also if you can go self employed…The life style rule has been removed so that can’t be used to calculate additional contributions and the calculation is based on HMRC or PAYE contributions Gross.

The other trouble is the inflexibility..for instance if however you earnings are reduced thourout the year and your annual review is due it will be wrong and based on what you have earned but not is what now so yet again you have to prove and support pay slips to vary the amount you pay…

Yet again the CMS have bee criticised for incompetence but now are demanding large sums from the NRP to cover the loss…
One point I would like to mention..This was documented….If you split with you marital partner or co habitee you have one child…basic rate on your salary would be 9% how ever what if you found out your child was not biologically yours and this came to light after a good few years…DNA resting and court procedures for all this..and of course the refusal of any means by the PWC as she don’t want to loose her gravey train of finances.

The result of the is proven that the NRP was not the biological father…it can happen. After this was proven you would expect a challenge and action by your PWC to repay for lying and you would expect the CMS to repay the funds you have wrongfully paid…
Here was the answer. CMS are not responsible for finances only what is set on income and other factors and will not repay the money that has been supported .

Funny that as the case went on but this just shows that the CMS hide behind there own made up to suite rules and if things go wrong not our fault…but if the NRP refuses to pay you just wait and see what the CMS will do…

Yvie - February 3, 2017 at 9:49am

If the CMS give the paying parent an amount they are obliged to pay, they should put it in writing how they came to calculate that figure. My son has written twice to them to ask for a breakdown of their calculations i.e. weekly pay gross, minus pension contributions, minus overnight stays. They have still not replied with this breakdown,, but merely telephoned my son to say their calculations are correct.

Its a little bit like the advertisement on television just now, where they guess the cost of the goods when the customer reaches the till, we don’t itemise the goods, we just weigh them, and thats what you owe.

Every paying parent deserves to know exactly how CMS calculations are arrived at. Perhaps this is something Gingerbread could support on behalf of the paying parents.

JamesB - February 3, 2017 at 12:25pm

‘Gingerbread could support on behalf of the paying parents’. That is not what they do. Quite the opposite. They make a drama out of a crisis with the receiving parent the victim and the paying parent as the aggressor, when very often it is the other way around.

I think you made the comment tongue in cheek, and know this, just making the point for others. It would be nice if Gingerbread were concerned for the wellbeing of children and families and not just their version of worthy dependent single parents.

Their version is like ‘the untouchables in India’ and they need to think a bit more in the round and be more welcoming to what ‘paying parents’ or whatever they (we as I am one) are called these days. Personally I was chucked off their site on day one for expressing an opinion that was different from the politically correct (their) one (their ones don’t work very well). The opinion I made was that the paying parent or government should have a say on how the money is spent for the good of the children rather than going on the other parent lifestyle or habits, especially where the paying parent is struggling more than the other parent.

Brian - April 3, 2017 at 1:26am

Shared care costs default automatically to 1/7th if shared care is disputed. It’s the regulation. That is, unless, the resident parent with care initiates a dispute claiming no shared care, for which, instead of assuming one parent could be telling porkies and confirm with the other parent before doing anything, the CMS will go right ahead and remove all shared care considerations. I’m pretty certain information coming the other way isn’t treated so credibly so readily. The CMS will then refuse to reinstate shared care considerations and continue not to do so until receipt of a complaint supported with an already supplied proof of shared care or proof of shared care dispute. God forbid the CMS automatically accept a dispute by definition with the fact the non resident disputes the resident parent with care with the conflicting information provided by both parents on the matter to the CMS – that would defy common sense to instate the automatic “default” dispute 1/7th shared care rate. The indisputable evidence that was (already) provided in this case was a directions hearing appointment for a child arrangements order enforcement application – proof of dispute does get more clarity than that! << True story that!. I won't even go into the apathy shown by the family court with the deliberate and obvious contempt of court by flouting the child arrangements order. "Sorry" was said alot…so was "I don't understand why I am here!" too by the respondent. Biggest mystery is why someone would be sorry for something if they don't know what they are sorry for?…I'll go to my grave wondering about that one! Ignorance is not an excuse in the eyes of the law, unless that is, you are an ignorant mother in a child arrangements order CA 1989 S (11J) application! It's not as if a respondent in a CA 1989 S(11J) application has enough protection with a higher standard of proof required to make a case against them in order for any application to succeed. The only time in civil proceedings other than contempt of court where the standard of proof required is beyond reasonable doubt. Getting that far being in possession of a child arrangements order is no walk in the park either. Even then, clink isn't necessarily the outcome of an enforcement application. Life just doesn't get hard enough for a non resident parent…apparently. Has anyone figured out why suicide is the largest cause of death in men of middle age yet?…I have, but it won't rate as a matter of concern in society above breast cancer until sufficient numbers of children grow up and start asking about their dads…who vanished long ago without a trace. Forget human rights lawyers for refugees – there's an even bigger silenced vulnerable person – It's the British divorced or separated dad…but there's no land of milk and honey to be earned from them – no legal aid because most of them are the breadwinners. There's only what is left after CMS dues and rent for the bedsit, usually not a lot for most after eeking an existence with what is left from those two! I think CA 1898 S1, 2, 3 8 & 11, MCA 1973 S25 law and FPR's should be on the national curriculum for all boys in state schools…many will need it as a LiP in life!

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