How the Child Maintenance Service works out child maintenance

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How child maintenance is worked out

The Child Maintenance Service usually follows 6 steps to work out the weekly amount of child maintenance.

This guide is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

The child maintenance calculator shows you what the government is likely to work out for you.

Step 1 - working out income

The Child Maintenance Service will find out the paying parent’s yearly gross income from information supplied by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

They’ll also check if the paying parent is getting benefits (tax credits, student grants and loans do not count as income).

The ‘paying parent’ does not have main day-to-day care of the child. The ‘receiving parent’ has main day-to-day care of the child.

Step 2 - looking at things that affect income

The Child Maintenance Service will check for things that could change the gross income amount (for example, pension payments or other children they support).

You can also ask for extra income, assets or expenses to be taken into account.

They’ll convert the yearly gross income into a weekly figure.

Step 3 - child maintenance rates

One of 5 rates will be applied, based on the gross weekly income of the paying parent.

Gross weekly income Rate Weekly amount
Unknown or not provided Default £38 for 1 child, £51 for 2 children, £64 for 3 or more children
Below £7 Nil £0
£7 to £100, or if the paying parent gets benefits Flat £7
£100.01 to £199.99 Reduced Calculated using a formula
£200 to £3,000 Basic Calculated using a formula

If the paying parent’s gross weekly income is more than £3,000, the receiving parent can apply to the courts for extra child maintenance.

Step 4 - other children

The Child Maintenance Service will take into account the number of children the paying parent has to pay child maintenance for. This includes any other children living with them and any arrangements that have been made directly for other children.

Step 5 - weekly amount of child maintenance

Using information from the first 4 steps, the Child Maintenance Service decides the weekly child maintenance amount.

Step 6 - shared care

Shared care is when a paying parent’s child stays overnight with them.

The number of shared care nights is based on a court order or any agreement reached between the parents.

The Child Maintenance Service could reduce the weekly amount of child maintenance if:

  • the paying parent is paying the flat, reduced or basic rate of child maintenance
  • the parents agree that the child will stay overnight for 52 nights a year or more

Shared care can also include nights spent in local authority overnight care. Read the child maintenance factsheet for more details.

For flat rates of child maintenance

If the paying parent gets benefits and it’s agreed that the child stays overnight for 52 nights or more a year, they do not pay child maintenance for:

  • the child that stays overnight
  • any other children who live in the same household as that child

If the paying parent does not get benefits, overnight stays will not affect the amount of child maintenance paid.

For reduced and basic rates of child maintenance

The number of agreed overnight stays affects how much the child maintenance payments will be reduced by.

If the parents agree to at least 52 nights a year but cannot agree on the exact number of nights above this, the Child Maintenance Service will assume that shared care is only happening for 52 nights a year.

The child maintenance payments cannot go below £7 a week.

Number of agreed overnight stays each year Reduction to child maintenance for each child
52 to 103 nights 14.29%
104 to 155 nights 28.57%
156 to 174 nights 42.86%
175 nights or more 50%, plus an extra £7 a week reduction