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How much Child Maintenance should I pay?

18/09/14 - 7:06 pm

If you are separated or thinking about separating from your partner and you have children together, it is a good idea to work out early on in the separation how much child maintenance the parent who does not live with the children should pay.

It is a common myth that the amount payable for child maintenance is a set fee and the same for everyone. Unfortunately it is not quite as straightforward as that and the amount of maintenance you pay is dependent on your individual circumstances.

The following is advice on reaching financial agreements over child maintenance:

• A good place to start is the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) website at www.cmoptions.org. Here you can access a free online calculator to assess how much maintenance should be paid. The assessment is largely based on the parent who doesn’t live with child’s gross income and how much time they spend with them.

• See if you can agree the level of payment with the other parent based on this calculation from the CMS. It might be a good idea to share information such as wage slips to promote an amicable agreement. If you are able to agree a figure together, this is termed a Family-Based Arrangement by the CMS. The benefit of a Family-Based Arrangement is that there are no fees to pay and you don’t need anybody else (apart from Mr Internet) to help you to arrange payments.

• If you are unable to agree the figure to pay for child maintenance through a Family-Based Arrangement, you may need to use the Statutory Child Maintenance Service. The parent making the application will pay a £20 application fee for the CMS to undertake a formal assessment of how much child maintenance should be paid. Once the CMS decide how much should be paid, you have two options as to how to arrange the payments.

a. If the figure is agreed and payment terms are agreed, you can agree to make Direct Payment where you will make arrangements together regarding the actual payment. You will not then need to use any external service and there will be no further charges.

b. If you are unable to agree the figure and also cannot agree the terms of payment, then you can opt to use the Collect and Pay service. The CMS will manage the payments by collecting the payments direct from the paying parent and then passing them on to the receiving parent.

The benefit of the Collect and Pay service is of course the clarity of assessment and actual payment. The drawback however are the charges incurred. The CMS will charge 20% on top of the paying parent’s payment figure, together with taking 4% of the receiving parent’s payment. For example, if the maintenance assessment is £400 per month, the paying parent will actually pay £480 and the receiving parent will receive £384. There is a real benefit in trying to avoid this option.

If you are going through a divorce, you can also address the issue of child maintenance through a court application.

To find out the best option for you or for any further advice relating to divorce, separation and child maintenance matters, call us today on 0113 201 4904 or get in touch via our online form.

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