The good news is it’s quite simple to work out how much child maintenance should be. There’s no difference between being employed by a company, or working out child maintenance if you are self-employed.
All you need to know is how much the paying parent earns – because the CMS always uses that parent’s gross annual income as the starting point. And, if you’re working through the CMS, you’ll also get an automatic Annual Review, which helps to make sure the payments are fair and accurate.
Also, usually, the paying parent (or their employer) should have already shared the key information with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). So if you’re working through the Child Maintenance Service, then it shouldn’t take long to find out what the payments should be.
Basic rates of child maintenance
The Child Maintenance Service (the CMS) has a child maintenance calculator that can help. It’s important to remember the calculator is an estimate. The exact amount might be different.) These are the rates used in that calculator (current as at 08/2014):
If the paying parent’s gross weekly income (that’s income before tax and NI deductions, but after pension contributions), is less than £800, then maintenance is paid at the basic rate:
- For one child 12% of the income
- For two children 16% of the income
- For three (or more) children 19% of the income
But if the paying parent’s gross weekly income is between £800 and £3,000, then the parent also has to pay ‘Basic Plus’ – that’s a percentage of any amount over £800:
- For one child 9% of the amount over £800
- For two children 12% of the amount over £800
- For three (or more) children 15% of the amount over £80
If parents can’t come to a family-based arrangement, then until the CMS can make a decision, there’s a default rate that’s based on the number of children:
- One child £39 a week
- Two children £51 a week
- Three or more children £64 a week
Rates of child maintenance for low incomes
If you’re on a low income or getting benefits, then the CMS will ask you to pay a flat rate of child maintenance. Quite simply, if you earn between £5 and £100 per week, you’ll pay £7 per week (in total). This includes you if you’re getting state benefits, Job Seeker's Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Bereavement Allowance and Income Support (the amount is usually taken off before you receive your benefit).