How to Determine Child Support Payments After Divorce in the UK

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Going through a divorce is an emotionally and legally challenging process, especially when children are involved. Ensuring their well-being through appropriate financial support becomes a primary concern.

If you and your ex-partner have children, agreeing on a fair and sufficient child maintenance arrangement is essential. It ensures that your children are financially sustained, irrespective of changes in family dynamics.

This article discusses how child support payments are determined in the UK. We’ll explore the factors that influence these payments, the role of the Child Maintenance Service, and how agreements are typically reached.

Understanding Child Support Payments

Child maintenance is the financial support paid to cover a child’s living expenses when their parents no longer live together. This could be due to separation or divorce. It is fundamentally a financial commitment the non-resident parent makes to contribute to the expenses associated with their child’s upbringing.

The primary intention of child support payments is to ensure that a child’s daily needs are met, from food and clothing to educational expenses and recreational activities. These payments are designed to maintain a stable environment for the child, mirroring as closely as possible the standard of living they would have enjoyed had their family remained intact.

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) provides a calculator to calculate the payments. The formula typically considers various factors such as income and other responsibilities of the paying parent. However, this formula aims at a fair contribution rather than an exact match to the varying costs individual families might incur. 

It’s important to note that child maintenance is separate from custodial arrangements or visitation rights; it solely addresses the financial aspect of childrearing. 

Factors Considered While Determining Child Maintenance

When calculating child maintenance in the UK, several key factors are taken into account to ensure that the financial support provided is fair and reflective of the paying parent’s ability to contribute. These include the paying parent’s income, the number of children they support, and the arrangement of shared care.

The CMS first assesses the paying parent’s gross weekly earnings. This evaluation includes wages, self-employment earnings, pensions, and other income sources. Certain benefits, such as disability benefits or unemployment allowances, are considered, while others, like student grants, are not included. 

The financial responsibilities of the paying parent towards other children are also considered. This includes children from current and previous relationships, regardless of whether they live with the paying parent. 

Check Out: Succesful Co-parenting Strategies After Divorce in the UK

The number of nights the child spends with the parent is paying for also influences the maintenance amount. The CMS deducts from the calculated maintenance for each night the child stays with the paying parent, acknowledging the costs they incur during these times. 

These factors are combined using a formula established by the CMS to calculate the child maintenance amount. This method ensures that the child receives consistent support that helps cover their basic needs and contributes to their overall well-being while also considering the financial realities of both parents.

How Child Support Payments Are Agreed

Agreeing on child support payments can be achieved through various methods, each offering different levels of formality and legal oversight. Parents are encouraged to choose the approach that best suits their individual circumstances and the interests of their children.

Related article: The Benefits of Mediation in Divorce Cases in the UK

The common method is a family-based arrangement, where parents directly agree on maintenance payments. This informal approach allows both parties to negotiate mutually acceptable terms without involving external authorities.

It offers flexibility and the opportunity for parents to work collaboratively, considering what is financially feasible and in the best interest of their child.

For those who prefer a more structured approach or cannot reach an agreement independently, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) provides a formal avenue. The CMS calculates the correct maintenance payments using a standard formula considering the paying parent’s income, the number of children, and the care sharing. 

It is important to note that involving the CMS might entail certain costs, especially if they need to enforce payment from a reluctant parent.

In some situations, particularly when one parent lives overseas or has a significantly high income, the decision might be escalated to the court. The court has the authority to determine the level of child maintenance, ensuring it is aligned with the child’s necessities and taking into account both parents’ financial capacities.

Court orders are legally binding and can provide a reliable solution in cases where other arrangements are unfeasible. For more detailed information on these matters, especially in the context of divorce, you can reach out to UK divorce lawyers

How the Child Maintenance Service Determines Child Support Payments

The UK’s Child Maintenance Service (CMS) employs a structured process to calculate child support payments accurately. Here’s an overview of how the CMS works out the weekly child maintenance amount:

Step 1: Assessing Income

Initially, the CMS determines the yearly gross income of the paying parent using data provided by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). This includes verifying if the paying parent receives any benefits, which might affect the gross income calculation. Notably, tax credits, student grants, and loans are not considered as part of the income.

Step 2: Adjustments for Income

This step involves adjusting the gross income to account for any deductions that might apply, such as pension contributions or support obligations for other children. The CMS converts the annual gross income into a weekly figure to facilitate regular maintenance calculations. Applicants can request that additional income, assets, or significant expenses be considered during this adjustment.

Step 3: Applying Child Maintenance Rates

Based on the calculated gross weekly income, one of five maintenance rates is applied:

  • Default Rate: Applied when income is not disclosed; amounts to £38 for one child, £51 for two, and £64 for three or more children.
  • Nil Rate: For incomes below £7 per week.
  • Flat Rate: A standard £7 per week for incomes between £7 and £100, or if the paying parent receives qualifying benefits.
  • Reduced Rate: Calculated using a specific formula for incomes between £100.01 and £199.99.
  • Basic Rate: For incomes between £200 and £3,000, also calculated using a formula.

For gross weekly incomes exceeding £3,000, the receiving parent may seek additional child maintenance from the courts.

Step 4: Consideration of Other Children

The CMS accounts for any other children the paying parent is financially responsible for. This includes children living with the paying parent and those covered under other maintenance arrangements.

Step 5: Calculation of Weekly Maintenance Amount

Using the information gathered from the previous steps, the CMS finalises the weekly amount of child maintenance. This calculation ensures that all factors affecting the paying parent’s financial capability are considered, providing fair maintenance support for the child.

Step 6: Adjustments for Shared Care

If the child spends significant time with the paying parent—defined as overnight stays—the CMS may adjust the maintenance amount. Reductions are considered if the paying parent meets the criteria for flat, reduced, or basic rate payments and the child stays with them for at least 52 nights per year.

This structured approach by the CMS ensures that child maintenance payment calculations are fair and reflect the financial situations of both parents, ultimately aiming to effectively meet the child’s needs.

Let Our Family Law Solicitors Help

The complexities of divorce and child maintenance can be overwhelming. At Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, we offer expert legal assistance across all aspects of family law. Our experienced solicitors specialise in divorce proceedings, financial settlements, child custody, and maintenance agreements, ensuring fair and compassionate outcomes.

Contact us for a consultation, and let us help protect your interests!


You can use the Child Maintenance Service’s online calculator to determine child support payments after divorce in the UK. This tool provides an estimate based on the paying parent’s earnings, the number of children, and the structure for shared care. It’s a helpful starting point for understanding potential payments.

Child maintenance amounts are influenced by several factors, including the paying parent’s gross income, the number of dependent children they support, any pension contributions they make, and the duration of time the child spends with them (shared care).

Yes, parents can arrange child maintenance through a family-based arrangement, where terms are mutually agreed upon without involving the court. This method allows for flexibility and can be adjusted as circumstances change.

Child maintenance payments can be stopped when the child reaches the age of 16 (or 20 if they are in approved education or training), if parental responsibility ends, or if the court or CMS reviews and terminates the child maintenance arrangement.

Parents are legally required to provide financial support for their children until they attain the age of 16 or 20 if they are engaged in full-time secondary education or vocational training.

Ask our Expert Legal Team

At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.

Call us on +44 (0) 207 269 9590 or fill out the form below. We usually reply within a few hours.

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