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The 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme: calculating payments - shared care
Both parents are legally responsible for the financial costs of bringing up children. If you split up, you may have to pay maintenance if you don’t have day-to-day care of any children you have.
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) can arrange maintenance under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme.
This page tells you about how maintenance payments using the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme are worked out if you share the care for the children with different people.
In Northern Ireland, you can arrange maintenance through the Northern Ireland Child Maintenance Service.
If you want more information about the different ways you can arrange child maintenance, go to Child Maintenance Choices at www.nidirect.gov.uk.
Therefore, when the page refers to the Child Support Agency (CSA) or the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), in Northern Ireland this means the Northern Ireland Child Maintenance Service. When the page refers to Child Maintenance Options, in Northern Ireland this means Child Maintenance Choices.
If you share the care of the children
If day- to-day care is shared between you, you may need to work out which one of you must pay maintenance.
If you don’t share the care equally, the parent who looks after the children for the most hours will usually be considered to be the parent with day-to-day care for the children. The other parent will automatically be the one who has to pay maintenance.
If you’re paying maintenance for children and they stay overnight with you on a regular basis, this will reduce the amount of child maintenance you have to pay.
If you don’t tell the CMS about any specific shared care arrangements, they will assume that the children stay with you one night a week. This means you’ll usually pay one-seventh less maintenance unless there is:
- proof of a different agreement between you and the other parent, or
- a court order setting out a different amount of contact, or
- not enough evidence of a different arrangement.
This arrangement will stay in place until you reach an agreement about shared care. If you go to court about contact arrangements, the arrangement will stay in place until the court makes a child arrangements order (in Scotland and Northern Ireland, a contact order).
If you share the care of the children equally
If you share care equally, neither of you has to pay maintenance to each other.
If the CMS believe you share care equally, they won’t do a maintenance calculation.
Splitting maintenance between one or more people
The maintenance calculation is based on how many qualifying children you have to pay maintenance for. However, payments will be split if you have to pay maintenance to more than one parent with day-to-day care of the children.
The amount is split between the parents with day-to-day care responsibilities according to the number of children living with them.
George is the father of Janet’s children and the father of Ruth’s children but he doesn’t live with either of his ex-partners.
The CMS maintenance calculation shows that he has to pay a weekly sum of £250 in total. If Janet and Ruth both applied for maintenance to the CMS, this will be split equally between them, so they both get £125 a week.
However, if Ruth didn’t apply to the CMS for maintenance because she and George already have a family-based arrangement, George would continue paying Ruth the maintenance amount they agreed. She wouldn't get any of the maintenance calculated by the CMS.
As Janet had applied to the CMS, she would get half the maintenance payment of £250 per week that the CMS has worked out George has to pay. She would therefore get £125.
If more than one person cares for the children
Other people who are providing day-to-day care for the children may be able to ask the CMS for child maintenance. For example, if grandparents are providing day-to-day care, they could apply to get maintenance from the parents.
If more than one person makes an application for maintenance, the CMS could order that the amount of maintenance they get is in proportion to the amount of care they each provide.
When several people care for the children, the CMS will consider all the circumstances of the case, including the interests of the child.
Current partners who share care
You may have a current partner who doesn’t live with you but who shares care of the children. Maintenance will usually be paid to the person who makes the maintenance application, not the partner, even though they may share the care.
What happens if you have more than one child together and at least one child lives with each parent?
If you both have a child living with you, a maintenance calculation will be carried out for each of you separately, according to the normal rules.
If you both have to pay maintenance to each other, how the money will be paid is sorted out at the point of payment. This is known as offsetting.
John and Ruth have eight children. Each parent has the day-to-day care of four children. Both parents apply for maintenance from the other.
Under the rules of the 2012 Scheme, the CMS calculates that Ruth has to pay £100 a month to John and John has to pay £50 a month to Ruth. Payments are offset. This means John doesn’t pay anything, and Ruth pays just £50 to John.
Children in local authority care
If the care of the children is shared between the parent with day-to-day care responsibilities and a local authority, the children count as qualifying children for the purposes of the maintenance calculation.
The parent who must pay maintenance will pay less, depending on how many nights the children spend in care. If the children spend fewer than 52 nights in care each year, the calculation is not affected.
If you disagree with how the CMS has calculated maintenance
You can ask the CMS for a review if:
- you disagree with the way they have done the maintenance calculation based on the shared care arrangements, or
- they refuse to do a maintenance calculation because they say you share care equally but you don’t agree this is the case.
You’ll have to provide evidence to support your case This could include evidence from:
- the children’s school, GP or dentist
- other people who also give childcare, such as child minders, friends or family
- bank statements, receipts or contracts which show you both make major spending decisions for the children.