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How To Reduce Child Maintenance Payments In The UK

Written by, Marija Petkova

Updated July, 22, 2023

Reducing child maintenance payments can be a difficult task, but it can be done with careful planning.

Whether you are struggling to make ends meet or think that you’re paying too much, here are some useful tips on how to reduce child maintenance payments in the UK.

What is child maintenance?

Child maintenance is financial support that covers the living cost of the child when parents get divorced or separate. It is paid by the parent who doesn’t have day-to-day care or custody of the child.

You may be interested in: UK Divorce Statistics

In most cases, the responsibility of working out the amount of child maintenance usually falls on the parents, but if they can’t come to an agreement, the case is referred to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

The CMS is a government organisation that helps parents find a middle ground on child maintenance payments in the UK. If the parents still can’t agree, the CMS  will make a decision based on the parent’s income and other factors, such as whether the non-custodial parent has any other children living with them.

How is child maintenance calculated?

Child maintenance payments in the UK are calculated using a formula that takes into account the income of both parents, the number of children involved, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child. 

The formula is designed to ensure that children receive a fair financial contribution from both parents, regardless of whether they are living together or not.

When calculating children’s maintenance payments, the CMS first looks at the income of the paying parent, as well as any benefits and state pension. It will then consider whether the paying parent is supporting other children and has additional expenses, before calculating a weekly rate.

How to reduce child maintenance payments in the UK?

There are a number of external circumstances that can reduce (and sometimes, increase) the child maintenance payment. In such cases, the CMS will offer “variations.”

For non-resident parents the general factors for a variation are:

  • The non-resident parent is responsible for another child.
  • The non-resident parent’s gross income is below £7 a week.
  • The non-resident parent is still responsible for a debt that was incurred before the parents separated, and the custodial parent retains the asset or usage of it (e.g., a family automobile purchased under a hire purchase agreement). This also applies to mortgages, loans, and insurance policies.
  • The cost of maintaining contact with any kid for whom the non-resident parent is responsible for maintenance payments.
  • Boarding costs for the children.

The only exemptions from paying child support are when the parent doesn’t have an income or is in prison. 

You can also apply for variation after the child maintenance amount is worked out too.

In situations like this, it’s critical to contact the CMS and let them know that you want to change the child maintenance payments and explain the changes to child maintenance. 

Note that the CMS may fine you if you provide false or inaccurate information.

When does child maintenance stop in the UK?

Children’s maintenance payments end on the child’s 16th birthday if they decide to leave education. If the child continues to participate in approved education or training, they will be eligible to receive child maintenance payments until the age of 20. 

To qualify as “approved” the educational institution must offer full-time education for more than an average of 12 hours each week and include “supervised study or course-related work experience”, which means:

  • A-;levels or equivalent to these levels
  • Traineeships in England
  • NVQs and other vocational qualifications

Home education can be considered approved education as long as it began before the child’s 16th birthday. 

Bottom Line

Child maintenance payments are mandatory for parents that don’t live with their children, except in certain circumstances. There are a number of ways that you can reduce your child support payments, especially if you’re having trouble making ends meet. 

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

What is the average maintenance payment for a child in the UK?

If you’re paying for: one child, you’ll pay a basic rate of 12% of your gross weekly income; 16% if you have two children; and 19% if you have three or more children.

Do I have to pay child support after age 18 in the UK?

Child maintenance is usually due until your kid turns 16 years old, provided that they leave education, or until they reach the age of 20 if they go to school or college full-time and are studying for A-levels, Highers, or equivalent qualifications.

How to reduce child maintenance payments in the UK?

To reduce children’s maintenance payments, you’ll need to apply for variations with the CMS. Depending on your circumstances, the organisation can allow you to pay less, especially if you’re having financial troubles or debt.

My name is Marija, and I'm a financial writer at DontDisappointMe. Although finance might not be everyone's cup of tea, my 10+ years of working in one of the biggest banks in my country, and my interest in extensive research on everything finance/investment-related, have made me somewhat of an expert in the field (if I do say so myself). No longer having the passion to work in a corporate setting, I decided that I couldn't let all of this knowledge go to waste so I started writing. And, here I am! Today I try to share my knowledge with my audience in the hopes of making this topic as simple and interesting as possible. In my leisure time, I like spending time with my family and travelling to new locations.