Separating from your partner is difficult at the best of times, but it becomes a whole lot harder when there are kids involved. Not only do you need to decide who they will live with and how often the other parent will see them, you must also ensure that you are both paying towards their costs.
However, money – in particular – can cause a lot of issues and this situation will often require one parent to pay the other. You can agree this between yourselves or, if you can’t come to an agreement, you can ask the Child Maintenance Service to calculate the amount.
If you arrange this yourself you can decide the amount that one parent pays the other – but you may want to check this against what the Child Maintenance Service would assess the amount to be, in the interest of fairness.
There are a few questions you need to ask first:
- Do you want to pay a fixed regular amount or will you vary it to help with extra expenses throughout the year?
- Do you want to pay directly for things like school uniform, activities or holidays?
- Do you want to pay a percentage of your earnings? This could be particularly helpful if earnings fluctuate.
If the Child Maintenance Service calculates it for you they will take certain things into account, including:
- The income of the paying parent
- How many children you have
- How much time they spend with the paying parent
- Whether the paying parent is paying child maintenance for other children
It may be helpful to also take the above into account if you are working it out for yourself. You want to keep things as fair as possible, to avoid as many issues as you can.
So how does your income affect how much you pay?
- Nil Rate: You don’t pay anything if your gross weekly income is less than £7.
- Flat Rate: You pay £5 a week if your income is between £7 and £100 a week.
- Reduced Rate: You pay £5 a week on the first £100, if your income is between £100.01 and £199.99 – plus a percentage on the rest.
- Basic Rate: If your weekly pay is between £200 and £800 the amount you pay will depend on a number of things.
- Basic Plus: If your weekly earnings are between £800.01 and £3000 you pay the basic rate on the first £800 and a lower rate on the rest.
- Finally… if you are more than £3000 you will need to apply to the courts for a child maintenance “top-up” order to be made.
So, what if you have more than one child to pay for?
If you are paying the basic or basic plus rate, the amount will depend on the number of children – and whether those children are with the parent receiving child maintenance all the time or not.
- One child: 12% of weekly income
- Two children: 16% of weekly income
- Three or more children: 19% of weekly income
Basic Plus Rate
- One child: 12% of weekly income on first £800 – 9% on the rest
- Two children: 16% of weekly income on first £800 – 12% on the rest
- Three or more children: 19% of weekly income on the first £800 – 15% on the rest
However, if you decide to share the care of your children this will change the amount you paying depending on how this is split. The amount paid can also change if the paying parent is also paying for other children.
There are four ways to pay child maintenance, once you have worked out the costs, which you can find out about here.
It is so important to get this right because you will be paying it until your child is 16, or 20 if they are in school or college full time.