Or, to put it from the other side: how much will I have to pay?
The first thing to say is that the parents can agree whatever child support arrangements they wish. This post is intended as a guide to how much the Child Maintenance Service would now require the non-resident parent (NRP, i.e. the parent with whom the child does not usually live) to pay, if no agreement can be reached. Note that the figures are correct as at the date of this post.
Now, it may seem a little odd that I am going to explain how child support (or child maintenance, as it is now more commonly called) is calculated, when there is an online calculator on the GOV.UK website that will give you a figure. However, the calculator doesn’t explain the detail of the calculation, and sometimes it can be useful to know how the figure given by the calculator is worked out.
The process by which child support is calculated depends upon the facts of the case. The relevant facts are: the NRP’s income, the number of children, whether the children stay overnight with the NRP and if so how often, and whether there are any other children the NRP has to pay for, for example in their new family. I’ll begin with the NRP’s income.
The NRP’s income is his or her gross weekly income, i.e. essentially their weekly income before tax and national insurance contributions, but after deduction of any pension contributions. If the gross weekly income is below £7 there will be no child support to pay. If the gross weekly income is between £7 and £100, or if the NRP is in receipt of certain benefits such as Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance then the NRP will have to pay a flat rate of £7 per week.
If the NRP’s gross weekly income is over £100, then a formula is used to calculate how much they should pay, and this is where the other facts come in. There are two formulae: one called the ‘reduced rate’ for cases where the NRP’s gross weekly income is more than £100 but less than £200, and one called the ‘basic rate’ for cases where the NRP’s gross weekly income is more than £200.
The reduced rate is £7 per week, plus a percentage of the NRP’s weekly income above £100. The percentage depends upon the number of children and the number of other children the NRP has to pay for. If there are no ‘other’ children the percentages are 17 per cent for one child, 25 per cent for two and 31 per cent for three or more. If there are ‘other’ children those percentages reduce. I won’t set out all the figures here, but for example for one child and one ’other’ child the figure goes down from 17 per cent to 14.1 per cent, and if there is one child and two ‘other’ children the figure goes down from 17 per cent to 13.2 per cent.
The formula for the basic rate works slightly differently. If there is one ‘other’ child the NRP’s gross weekly income is reduced by 11 per cent, if there are two ‘other’ children it is reduced by 14 per cent and if there are three or more ‘other’ children it is reduced by 16 per cent. The NRP will then have to pay a percentage of the figure that is left. From the first £800 of that figure they will have to pay 12 per cent for one child, 16 per cent for two and 19 per cent for three or more. From any sum over that £800 up to £3000 they will have to pay a further nine per cent for one child, 12 per cent for two and 15 per cent for three or more.
There is one other factor to be taken into account: shared care of the children, where the children stay overnight with the NRP. Here, the maintenance for each child with shared care is reduced, depending upon how many nights they spend with the NRP. Basically, this means that if they spend on average one night a week with the NRP the maintenance is reduced by one seventh, by two sevenths for two nights a week, by three sevenths for three nights a week, and by 50 per cent for more than that.
Lastly, the eagle-eyed may have noted that the £3000 limit referred to under the basic rate above appears to put a cap on the amount the NRP has to pay. However, the parent in receipt of the child support may then apply to a court for a ‘top-up’, so there is actually no limit upon what the NRP may be required to pay.
Please note that this post is only intended to be an overview of the basic points regarding child support calculation. I have simplified things slightly for the sake of clarity and there are a number of possible complications that I have not dealt with. If you require detailed advice regarding your case then you should consult an expert family lawyer.