How child maintenance is calculated - 2003 Scheme

To work out maintenance payments under the 2003 scheme, Child Maintenance Service (CMS) calculates the non-resident parent’s net weekly income. Depending on a parent’s circumstances, CMS applies one of four rates to the amount of maintenance. CMS can adjust the rate if the parent also pays for other children.

Non-resident parent's net weekly income

To identify what rate must be paid, CMS works out the non-resident parent’s net weekly income. This is the amount the parent has left after they pay:

  • income tax
  • National Insurance
  • pension contributions

CMS get the information from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) or from the non-resident parent’s employer. 

Adjusting the rate of child maintenance

This net weekly amount identifies the rate of child maintenance the non-resident parent must pay. But CMS can adjust the rate: 

  • because of the number of children the non-resident parent must pay child maintenance for
  • if the child or children stay with the non-resident parent at least one night per week
  • if the non-resident parent or their partner get child benefit for other children
  • the non-resident parent is paying child maintenance for any other children
  • if the non-resident parent or their partner gets certain benefits
     
  • How does Child Maintenance affect benefits?
  • How is child maintenance worked out? CSL 303(NI)

Rates used by the Child Maintenance Service

There are four rates of child maintenance CMS uses to work out the weekly amount of child maintenance the non-resident parent has to pay:

  • nil rate
  • flat rate
  • reduced rate
  • basic rate

Nil rate

The non-resident parent doesn't need to pay any child maintenance if they are:

  • a student
  • a child aged 16 or under (or 18 or under if they’re in full-time education not higher than A-level)
  • a prisoner
  • living in a care home or independent hospital and get help with the fees
  • 16 to 17 years old and they or their partner get certain benefits

Flat rate

If the non-resident parent's net weekly income is between £5 and £100 they will pay the flat rate of £5 per week no matter how many children they have.

They will also pay the £5 flat rate if they get certain benefits, including (but not limited to):

  • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • State Pension
  • Training Allowance
  • War Disablement Pension
  • Universal Credit

If the non-resident parent lives with a partner who gets any of the four benefits below, the £5 flat rate will be applied and taken directly from their:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit

Reduced rate

The non-resident parent will pay the flat rate of £5 per week plus a percentage of their net weekly income if it is more than £100 but less than £200. The percentage applied will depend on the number of children they must pay child maintenance for.

number of children needing child maintenance

standard amount

percentage of net weekly income (more than £100 but less than £200) the non-resident  parent has to pay

1

£5, plus

25 per cent
2

£5, plus

35 per cent
3 or more

£5, plus

45 per cent

The amount the non-resident parent has to pay may change if they have other children living with them and the children they pay maintenance for stay overnight with them  (shared care) for at least 52 nights per year.

Basic rate

If the non-resident parent has a net weekly income (after deductions) of £200 or more, CMS will use the basic rate to work out how much child maintenance they must pay.

The amount depends on how many children the non-resident parent has to pay child maintenance for:

  • one child, they will have to pay 15 per cent of their net weekly income
  • two children, they will have to pay 20 per cent of their net weekly income
  • three or more children, they will have to pay 25 per cent of their net weekly income​

Highest amount of income taken into account

The highest amount of net weekly income that the CMS can take into account to work out child maintenance is £2,000. If the non-resident parent’s net weekly income is more than this, the parent with care can apply to the court for extra child maintenance.

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