Shared care in child maintenance cases

If your child stays overnight with the paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) 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

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 (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) 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 (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) and the receiving parent (parent with care, 2003 scheme)  the paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) will not have to pay any child maintenance for that child.

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will ask both parents to give formal, informal or spoken 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 week

cut for each child in this band

Child maintenance being paid at the basic, basic plus (2012 scheme only)  or reduced rate cannot fall below £5 (2003 Scheme) or £7 (2012 scheme) as a result of the adjustments for shared care.

Flat rate

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.

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