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How much child maintenance should I pay in the UK?

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Getting divorced or separated is never easy. There are plenty of legalities to arrange during this emotionally testing time. If you and your ex-partner have children, one of the key issues you’ll need to agree on is child maintenance, ensuring that your child is financially provided for, despite the circumstances.

Our family law solicitors have much expertise in child maintenance law. If you need support to create a child maintenance agreement or to resolve a related dispute, we can assist you.

Making arrangements for your children can be confusing. You may be feeling concerned about the impact on them and on your finances. To help you learn more about the subject, this article will assess how much child maintenance you should pay in the UK, including how child maintenance is calculated and other key insights that may help you.

If you’d like to discuss your case today, please contact one of our family solicitors at Crisp and Co.

What is child maintenance?

Child maintenance refers to a financial agreement between parents, the arrangement details how their child’s living costs will be covered when one parent no longer lives with the child. Child maintenance agreements are required when the child’s parents are separated or if the child’s parents are not in a relationship.

The associated payments are covered by whichever parent doesn’t live with the child or doesn’t live with the child for most of the week/month.

How is child maintenance agreed?

When agreeing on maintenance payments, parents have several options, including:

  • Making a direct agreement between parents, also referred to as a ‘family-based arrangement’
  • Using the Child Maintenance Service, referring to a government scheme which calculates the correct maintenance payments. (However, please note if the Child Maintenance Service is forced to take on your case, you may incur financial penalties)
  • The Court decides the amount of maintenance payments, a common occurrence if the parent responsible for paying lives overseas or has a high salary

How is child maintenance calculated?

Child maintenance in the UK is calculated based on income, the number of children and shared care. A regular payment plan is calculated according to the following rules:


The Child Maintenance Service will reference the paying parent’s income to determine how much they should be paying. They will perform checks to assess if the parent receives any benefits, including student grants or tax credits (these are not counted as income).

When assessing the amount, the CM service also refers to anything that affects income. This may include any relevant additional assets, income, or expenses.

Other children

The Child Maintenance Service will also consider how many children the parent is paying maintenance for. This could include children who live with the parent or those who do not live with them.

Shared care

If the paying parent’s child sometimes stays with them overnight, the Child Maintenance Service will make deductions based on how many ‘shared care’ nights there are each week.

How does income affect child maintenance?

Child maintenance in the UK is calculated according to how much the paying parent earns per week. The figure used is gross weekly income, which represents the figure before National Insurance, tax etc., have been deducted.

To calculate how much should be paid, the paying parent’s income is used to apply the relevant rate. Possible rates applied are as follows:

Basic Rate: This rate is applied where the paying parent’s income is between £200 and £800 per week.

Basic Plus: Applied where the income is between £800.01 and £3,000 per week.

Reduced Rate: A reduced rate of child maintenance is requested where the parent earns between £100.01 to £199.99 per week

Flat Rate: A rate for those receiving between £7 to £100 per week or those who receive benefits.

Nil: Meaning that the parent is earning less than £7 per week, and no maintenance is owed.

Each rate reflects the percentage of the parent’s weekly income that should go toward maintenance payments. It also depends on how many children they have. For example, if a basic rate is applied, the parent will pay 12% of their weekly income if they have one child and 16% if they have two children.

To get an accurate calculation of how much child maintenance you’ll need to pay, you can use the Child Maintenance Calculator on the GOV UK website.

What is a family-based child maintenance agreement?

A family-based agreement means that the family decide together how child maintenance will be paid.

A family-based agreement should cover areas including:

  • The amount of maintenance that should be paid
  • How and when the payments will be made
  • An agreed date to review the child maintenance agreement and make any changes if necessary

What is a default child maintenance decision?

A default child maintenance decision is applied where there are no existing details about how much the paying parent earns. It is applied as a fixed amount per child.

These default rates are as follows:

One child: £39 a week

Two children: £51 a week

Three children or more: £64 a week

What is the highest amount of weekly income that child maintenance can consider?

The highest amount of weekly income that child maintenance can take into account is £3,000. If the paying parent earns in excess of this amount, the parent who is receiving maintenance payments may contact the Court to request additional child maintenance.

When does child maintenance stop?

Child maintenance arrangements continue until a child is 16 years old. If the child remains in full-time education after the age of 16, the maintenance payments continue until they are twenty years old.

Can I appeal against a child maintenance decision?

Yes, if the Child Maintenance service requested a payment amount that you disagree with, you have the option to appeal. The first step is to get in touch with the CM service and request a mandatory reconsideration of your case.

If you are unsatisfied with the outcome of this process, there is the option to contact the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal. Our solicitors can offer more information on these processes should you need it.

What happens if the paying parent lives abroad?

If the paying parent lives outside of the UK, it can be more difficult to receive child maintenance payments. The Child Maintenance Service can only enforce payments when the paying parent resides in the UK or if any of the following circumstances apply:

  • The parent responsible for paying child maintenance is working abroad in the service of the Crown, for example, employed at a foreign embassy
  • The parent works for a UK based company that is based overseas
  • They work abroad on a secondment for a local council or health trust

What happens if the receiving parent lives abroad?

If the receiving parent and their child live abroad, they will need to apply for a Court order to establish their child maintenance entitlement. The Court order must be obtained from the country they are currently residing in.

How our child maintenance solicitors can help

Our expert lawyers can offer various types of support regarding child maintenance, including:

  • Support to make a family-based arrangement for child maintenance
  • Alternative dispute resolution, including mediation and collaborative law

Why work with our family lawyers?

Our family lawyers have ample experience helping families in navigating complex circumstances, including child maintenance agreements. We can help you to arrange matters as swiftly as possible, while reducing the potential for conflict.

We have many options available to support parents in reaching an agreement, including collaborative law, negotiation, and family mediation. Settling matters out of Court can be faster, less expensive, and generally less stressful for everyone involved.

Crisp and Co have achieved Law Society accreditation in Family Law Advanced, further emphasising our strong expertise in this area of the law.

Contact our child maintenance solicitors today

If you’d like support to create a child maintenance agreement, or you’d like general advice on related legal matters, get in touch with our solicitors by calling 020 8017 8962 or contacting your local Crisp & Co office.

Our expert team are on hand to answer any questions you have about child maintenance law, whilst considering the specifics of your case.