Making arrangements for child maintenance
Child maintenance is the money a parent pays towards their child’s upbringing. All parents have a responsibility to support their child financially. Child maintenance usually includes payment of regular amounts of money to the parent who cares for the child most of the time. Child maintenance can also include paying bills or buying items such as clothes and toys, as long as both parents agree.
There are different ways to arrange child maintenance and it’s up to you to choose the one that best suits your circumstances. You can either decide this between yourselves, known as a family based arrangement, or through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). The amount you receive depends on how much your child’s other parent earns, how often the child stays over with them, whether they have other children, or children living with them.
Use Gingerbread’s interactive tool to find out how to arrange regular child maintenance and where to go for more help and information.
Child maintenance should be paid for the following children:
• A child under 16.
• A child under 20 in full-time non-advanced education (e.g. A-levels or equivalent).
• A child of 16 or 17 who has left full-time education but has registered for work or training with a careers service.
A parent has a duty to pay child maintenance whether or not they see their child. It is also important to remember that a court will not decide that a child cannot see a parent because they are not paying child maintenance.
How much should I get?
You can arrange for any amount of child maintenance, as long as you both agree.
Knowing how much to agree on can be difficult.
The CMS calculates child maintenance using a standard formula. Some parents use this calculation as a basis for reaching their own arrangement. You can use the Government calculator to help work out an amount for your child.
The standard formula considers the paying parent’s income and any other children that they are responsible for, including those of a new partner if they live in the same household. If the paying parent has a new partner, their income will not affect your child maintenance calculation.
If your child lives with their other parent for part of the time, this will reduce the amount of child maintenance you receive.
Help deciding which option to choose
Everyone’s circumstances are different so you will need to decide what is best for your family.
You may also find the following Gingerbread factsheets helpful when making your decision:
If you’d like to talk through your options, you can contact the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline to speak to a trained adviser, all calls are free.
For more information on child maintenance, using the CMS, challenging your calculation and enforcing payments, visit Gingerbread’s dedicated child maintenance information page.
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