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The 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme: calculating maintenance

This advice applies to Wales

Both parents are legally responsible for financial costs of bringing up the children. If you split up and you don’t have day-to-day care of the children, you may have to pay child maintenance to the other parent.

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) can arrange maintenance under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme.

This page tells you how the CMS works out how much maintenance has to be paid under the 2012 Scheme.

What information is used to work out how much maintenance should be paid?

The amount of maintenance payable depends on:

  • the gross weekly income of the parent who must pay maintenance
  • the number of children looked after by the parent with day-to-day care. They are called qualifying children
  • whether the parent who pays maintenance has other children that they or their partner get Child Benefit for. They are called relevant other children
  • whether you share the care of the children
  • whether there are special circumstances that will affect the amount of maintenance to be paid.

The rates of maintenance

There are five rates of maintenance. Which rate you have to pay depends on your circumstances. These rates are called:

  • nil rate
  • flat rate
  • reduced rate
  • basic rate including 'basic rate plus'
  • default rate.

Nil rate

This means you don’t have to pay any maintenance if:

  • you’re a prisoner
  • you’re a child under 16 (but this could be under 20 if you’re in full-time non-advanced education)
  • you're a 16-to-19-year-old who has left school but is registered for certain types of government-approved training courses
  • you’re aged 16 or 17 and you or your current partner is getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), income-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), or Universal Credit (UC) which is calculated on the basis that you have no income
  • you’re living in a care home or independent hospital, or you're being provided with a care home service, and you're either getting help with the fees, or you're getting the same benefits as those people who qualify for the flat rate
  • your gross income is less than £7 a week.

If you’re the parent who should get maintenance

You can apply to the CMS for more money if you think the parent paying maintenance at the nil rate has other income of £100 or more a week. This is called applying for a variation.

Flat rate

You pay a flat rate of £7 a week if you don't qualify to pay the nil rate, and your gross weekly income is less than £100 a week.

You’ll also pay the flat rate if you or your current partner get certain benefits, including:

  • Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal credit calculated on the basis that you have no income.

You'll also pay the flat rate if you get certain other benefits or pensions, including:

  • State Retirement Pension
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

You’ll only pay £7 per week, regardless of how many children the parent with day-to-day care looks after, or how many other children you have.

If your current partner also has to pay maintenance

If you’re paying maintenance at the flat rate and your current partner also has to pay maintenance at the flat rate, you’ll both only have to pay half the rate if either of you gets any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

This means you’ll each have to pay £3.50.

If you’re the parent who should get maintenance

You can apply to the CMS for more money if you think the parent paying maintenance at the flat rate has other income of £100 or more per week. This is called applying for a variation.

Reduced rate

You’ll pay a reduced rate of maintenance if:

  • you don’t qualify to pay either the flat rate or the nil rate
  • your weekly gross income is more than £100 but less than £200.

Gross income is the amount you earn before any tax, national insurance or pension contributions are taken off.

How to work out the reduced rate: Step one

You must pay £7 for the first £100 of your weekly income.

Step two

You'll also have to pay a percentage of your remaining income.

This depends on:

  • the number of children that the parent with day-to-day care is looking after. They are called qualifying children, and
  • the number of other children you’re responsible for. They are called relevant other children.

If you share the care of the qualifying children, you may have to pay less than this.

Qualifying childrenNo relevant other children1 relevant other child2 relevant other children3 or more relevant other children
One You pay 17% of your income over £100 You pay 14.1% of your income over £100 You pay 13.2% of your income over £100 You pay 12.4% of your income over £100
Two You pay 25% of your income over £100 You pay 21.2% of your income over £100 You pay 19.9% of your income over £100 You pay 18.9% of your income over £100
Three or more You pay 31% of your income over £100 You pay 26.4% of your income over £100 You pay 24.9% of your income over £100 You pay 23.8% of your income over £100

Example

You earn £175 per week. You have four qualifying children and one relevant other child from another relationship.

You must pay £7 a week for the first £100 you earn.

As you have one relevant other child, you must pay 26.4% of the remaining £75 that you earn.

26.4% of £75 = £19.80

£19.80 + £7 = £26.80

The amount of maintenance you'll pay each week is £26.80

Basic rate

You’ll pay the basic rate of maintenance if you:

  • don’t qualify to pay the nil, flat, default or reduced rate, and
  • have a gross weekly income of more than £200.

The basic rate is worked out as a percentage of your gross weekly income. The amount you’ll pay depends on:

  • the number of qualifying children that the parent with day-to-day care looks after, and
  • other children you're responsible for. They are called relevant other children, and
  • whether your gross weekly earnings are £800 or more.

Gross income is the amount you earn before any tax or national insurance contributions are taken off.

Any contributions you make to an approved personal or occupational pension scheme are excluded when calculating your gross income.

How to work out the basic rate: Step One

If you have any relevant other children you’ll first need to reduce your gross weekly income by a certain percentage.

1 relevant other child2 relevant other children3 or more relevant other children
reduce your gross weekly income by 11% reduce your gross weekly income by 14% reduce your gross weekly income by 16%

Step Two

You will have to pay a certain percentage of the income that is left after you’ve taken into account any relevant other children. This is 12% for one qualifying child, 16% for two qualifying children and 19% for three or more qualifying children of the first £800 of your remaining income.

Step Three

If your gross weekly income is more than £800, you must pay 9% for one qualifying child, 12% for two qualifying children and 15% for three or more qualifying children of the rest of your income over £800.

If you share the care of the qualifying children, you may have to pay less than this.

Example 1

You earn £500 per week. You have four qualifying children and you have two other relevant children who you also support financially. You don’t share the care of the children.

You’ll first need to reduce your £500 income by 14 per cent.

14% of £500 = £70

£500 - £70 = £430

So £430 is the amount of income you’ll use to work out how much maintenance you’ll have to pay.

As you’re earning less than £800 per week, you’ll have to pay 19 per cent of £430.

19% of £430 = £81.70

The amount of maintenance you’ll pay each week is: £81.70

Example 2

You earn £1,000 per week. You have four qualifying children and you have three relevant other children who you also pay maintenance for. You don’t share the care of the children.

You’ll need to first reduce your £1,000 income by 16 per cent.

16% of £1,000 = £160

£1,000 - £160 = £840

So £840 is the amount of income you’ll use to work out how much maintenance you’ll pay.

You’ll then need to work out 19 per cent of the first £800 you earn.

19% of £800 = £152

You’ll also have to pay 15 per cent on any income over £800. This is £40.

15% of £40 = £6

The amount of maintenance you’ll pay each week is: £152 + £6 = £158

Default rate

If the CMS don’t have enough information to make a calculation, they can impose a default rate. The default rate is £39 per week for one child, £51 per week for two children and £64 per week for three or more children.

Online maintenance calculation tool

Child Maintenance Options has an online calculation tool that helps you to work out how much maintenance you’ll have to pay.

Next steps

Other useful information

  • More about calculations under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme: www.cmoptions.org
  • More about how the CMS works out maintenance payments: www.gov.uk
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