How child maintenance is worked out

2. How the Child Maintenance Service works out child maintenance

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

Child maintenance is then reviewed each year. Payments might be affected by changes in circumstances, for example a change in the paying parent’s income or family circumstances. You should tell the Child Maintenance Service about these changes as soon as you know about them.

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 don’t count as income).

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). Then 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, £61 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 with an ex-partner.

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

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

In these cases, the Child Maintenance Service makes a deduction to the weekly child maintenance amount based on the average number of ‘shared care’ nights a week.

The ‘paying parent’ is the parent who doesn’t have main day-to-day care of the child. The ‘receiving parent’ is the parent with main day-to-day care of the child.

Find out more in the following guides:

Fees and charges

The Child Maintenance Service charges:

If you have a Collect and Pay case (where the Child Maintenance Service collects and passes on payments) you also have to pay fees for collecting and paying out child maintenance. This affects how much parents pay and receive.

If you use Direct Pay (where you get the Child Maintenance Service to work out how much you should pay, but pay the receiving parent directly instead of through the service), there won’t be any collection fees. However, if you miss payments you may have to use Collect and Pay, and pay collection fees.