Shared care in child maintenance cases
If your child stays overnight with the paying parent at least one night a week, the amount of child maintenance being paid may be reduced. This is ‘shared care'. Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will ask both parents for information about their shared care of the child.
Child maintenance payments
The parent who doesn’t have the day-to-day care (the ‘paying parent’) pays child maintenance to the parent or person who does (the ‘receiving parent’).
If shared care happens for an average of one night a week or more (at least 52 nights a year), this can affect the amount of child maintenance.
The more nights that the child stays overnight with the paying parent the less child maintenance is due. It all depends on the child maintenance rate being paid and the number of shared care nights there are.
If the day-to-day care of a child is shared equally between the paying parent and the receiving parent the paying parent will not have to pay any child maintenance for that child. (Note: equal day to day care differs to equal shared care)
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will ask both parents to give formal, informal or verbal evidence of any agreement they have reached about shared care. CMS will also accept a court order setting out shared care details.
Shared care and reduced child maintenance
If a child stays overnight with the paying parent for at least 52 nights a year, child maintenance will be reduced as shown in the table.
|Number of nights of shared care each year (shared care bands)||Cut to child maintenance (for each child with shared care)|
|52 to 103 nights||1/7th|
|104 to 155 nights||2/7ths|
|156 to 174 nights||3/7ths|
|175 nights or more||
½ (50 per cent) plus an extra £7 a weekcut for each child in this band
Child maintenance being paid at the basic, basic plus or reduced rate cannot fall below £7 as a result of the adjustments for shared care.
If you are a paying parent receiving any of the following benefits, allowances or entitlements listed below, you will pay child maintenance at the flat rate:
- State pension
- Incapacity benefit
- Training allowance (other than work-based training for young people
- Armed forces compensation scheme payments
- War disablement pension
- War widows pension, war widower’s pension or surviving civil partner pension
- Bereavement allowance
- Maternity allowance
- Carer’s allowance
- Severe disablement allowance
- Industrial/injuries benefit
If you have shared care for at least 52 nights a year, you don't need to pay any child maintenance.
Changes to number of shared care nights
If there is any change in the number of nights of shared care, you only need to tell CMS if the change affects the ‘shared care band’ used to work out the cut in child maintenance in the table above.
If parents can't agree shared care
If both parents agree that care is shared, but can’t agree on how many nights, CMS may make an assumption of shared care based on the number of nights that they do agree on. This is called ‘assumed shared care’.
This decision won't change unless both parents reach an agreement on shared care or a parent gives CMS proof to show that the number of nights of shared care is different. CMS always asks for proof of shared care before making an assumed shared care decision.