What is child maintenance and are you eligible?

by Kidd Rapinet on January 27, 2023
Children playing on the bed

What is Child Maintenance & are you eligible?

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is a UK government body which assists separated parents to assess the liability for child maintenance. This is calculated as a percentage of the non-resident parent’s annual gross income and it is paid to the primary carer of the child otherwise known as the resident parent and is paid on a monthly basis.

Although child maintenance can often be arranged privately between parents by way of mediation, solicitor negotiations and direct contact between parents – the CMS offers a firm resolution to parents who are struggling to reach an agreement, and the calculation provides a formula for calculating this and so, is most normally relied upon, for the purposes of mediation, solicitor negotiations and court proceedings.

Child maintenance from someone living abroad

The CMS exclusively offers support to parents living in England or Wales and so, if one parent lives abroad or is a high earner – the CMS does not deal with these applications. In this case, the parent who is claiming maintenance must apply to the court under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. The agreement can then be drafted in to a court order which is approved by a judge and becomes binding on the paying party.

CMS calculations – and who they apply to?

Either parent is eligible to make an application to the CMS but this usually occurs when parents are unable to reach a mutual agreement. Child maintenance is awarded by the CMS for a child/children until they reach the age of 19, or are in tertiary education. It should be noted that where the parents of the child/children are still living together, the CMS will not make a child maintenance calculation.

How to calculate Child Maintenance?

The CMS takes into consideration the following factors in relation to the non-resident part, otherwise referred to as the ‘paying party’, when deciding how to calculate the child maintenance on a case-by-case basis:

  • The paying party’s gross annual income; (less 100% pension contributions)
  • The number of children the maintenance payments will be for;
  • How often the children stay with the paying party;
  • The number of any other children that the paying party is responsible for.

Do you have to go through the CMS to receive child maintenance?

As legal professionals, our initial advice would be that, if you have the opportunity to do so, reaching a mutual agreement with your co-parent is the most cost-effective and efficient route to determining the child maintenance to be paid. The CMS deducts a fee of 20% of the maintenance payment from the paying party and a fee of 4% from the receiving party and so, the services offered by CMS are not free of charge.

If you choose to reach mutual agreement with the other parent for child maintenance, the CMS calculator (free to use) can be used as a basis to determine what payments would be made and if either of the parents fails to comply with the mutual agreement, then the other parent can make an application to the CMS in order to enforce the agreement and child maintenance payments.

Finally, in the event that you and your ex-partner have reached a maintenance agreement through your divorce settlement, either parent may apply to the Court to formalise this agreement and grant a Court order in those terms. It should be noted however that upon a Court order being granted, either party is able to apply to the CMS after the expiry of 12 months from the date of the order for an assessment from the CMS or this revokes the Court order.

When does the Court have jurisdiction instead of CMS?

The Court will retain jurisdiction to enforce/order child maintenance in the following cases:

  • One of the parents or the child/children do not live in the UK
  • The child/children are over 19 years old and in tertiary education or other circumstances are applicable (such as disability)
  • Top-up maintenance is required (i.e. where the paying party is earning over £3000 gross a week and a maximum CMS assessment is in place)
  • Orders for educational fees/expenses

Ultimately, the court has the discretion to vary order child maintenance based on the individual circumstances of each case.

This article was brought to you by Kidd Rapinet Maidenhead’s family solicitors. You can book an appointment with any of the family lawyers across our other offices in Aylesbury, Canary Wharf, Farnham, High Wycombe, Maidenhead or Slough, using the form provided.  Please use the links provided to find more information on divorce or separation, child arrangements and other areas of family law.

These materials and content have been prepared for the benefit of their viewers/readers. They are intended for marketing purposes only and are of a general nature and do not constitute legal advice applicable to any particular facts or circumstances. Kidd Rapinet LLP and/or the author(s) accept no duty of care, responsibility or liability for any loss or damage which you or any third party may suffer as a result of any reliance or use by you or them of these marketing materials and content, except to the extent it is not legally possible to exclude such liability. If you require legal advice on your own situation, please contact us so we can discuss how we may assist.

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