An area that we often advise separated parents on is their liability for child maintenance. For the purposes of this article, we will be dealing with child maintenance liabilities that full under the jurisdiction of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) or equivalent, which include most cases.
The vast majority of separated parents assume two things: –
- That the parent who earns more than the other will pay child maintenance. This is not correct as under complicated child maintenance law rules, if both parents equally share care of a child, any child maintenance payments can be significantly reduced.
- That neither parent will pay child maintenance to the other parent if the child/ren share their time equally between both parents. This also is not correct, and one parent may still be liable to the other.
Working out the paying parent
The CMS first need to consider which parent will be paying child maintenance and in cases where parents equally share the care of the children, they will look to see which parent is registered to receive Child Benefit. The parent not registered, would be deemed the paying parent.
Working out the weekly sum to be paid
The weekly child maintenance sum to be paid is calculated as a percentage of the paying parents’ gross weekly pay. One of five rates will apply and we suggest visiting www.gov.uk/how-child-maintenance-is-worked-out for more information.
After working out the weekly sum to be paid, a ‘shared care deduction’ will be applied, which is 50%, plus an extra £7 a week reduction for each child.
Shared care example
Alex has two children that they pay child maintenance for (David and Sarah). The CMS have worked out that Alex earns £500 gross per week and so the child maintenance calculation will be worked out on the ‘basic rate’.
For two children this is 16% of Alex’s gross weekly pay, which is a child maintenance payment of £80 per week for both children.
Alex has shared time with the children and so a 50% discount is applied bringing his payment down to £40 per week. A further £7 reduction per child is applied (£14 per week), which brings the payments down to £26 per week for both children.
The contents of this example are for illustrative purposes only, but you can see that although a shared care arrangement has reduce Alex’s child maintenance liability from £80 to £26 per week, there is still a liability to pay even though the children spend an equal amount of time with both parents.
The Child Maintenance Service have a very helpful calculator on their website https://www.gov.uk/calculate-child-maintenance.
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