Divorce: maintenance for children

Article reference: UK-IA-FAM07
Last updated: May 2023 | 3 min read

In the vast majority of cases, the amount of maintenance to be paid will be determined by the Child Support Agency (CSA) or by mutual agreement and not by the court.

The parent with whom the children do not live most of the time (non-resident parent) is expected to pay a percentage of his or her income towards the upkeep of the child.

How much will be paid

Roughly, maintenance payments are calculated as follows:

  • 15% of net income for 1 child
  • 20% of net income for 2 children
  • 25% of net income for 3 or more children

Before making this calculation, the CSA will take into consideration several things, including the following:

  • time spent with non-resident parent (if more than 52 nights per year)
  • any other children the non-resident parent supports financially
  • if the non-resident parent is making other payments that benefit the child, such as school fees or mortgage repayments
  • any traveling costs the non-resident parent has to enable him/her to see the children

If the non-resident parent is on a very low income, he or she might only be asked to pay a nominal amount or even nothing. Any earnings over £2,000 per week are not used in the calculation.

How do I find out the exact amount?

As there is nothing to stop either parent from applying to the CSA at any time for an assessment, it is helpful to have a clear idea of the exact amount from the beginning.

It will help you when working out other financial matters, such as maintenance for either of you and what is to happen to the home.

The CSA website has an on-line calculator as well as more detailed information about their role and powers.

You can, of course, agree maintenance to be either higher or lower than the CSA amount but remember that an application to the CSA by either of you may well alter that amount.

If the resident parent is on state benefits, you are unlikely to agree to maintenance that is lower than the CSA assessment.

Cases where you may need a court order

In the following situations, it might be easier to get a court order:

  • where the children are living or are going to live abroad
  • for a 'top up' where the non-resident parent's income is over £2000 per week
  • for extra money to meet a child's special needs
  • for stepchildren who have been treated as 'children of the family
  • for children over 16 (but under 18) in full-time education or training
  • for school fees

Further information and relevant documents

You may also be interested to read about maintenance payments for an ex-husband or ex-wife.

You can also download a template separation agreement that can form the basis of your consent order.

You should also consider making a new will. When you marry, your old will automatically becomes void. This does not happen on divorce or separation. Additionally, if you don't have a will and you are separated but still married, then your ex still is entitled by law to your money and possessions should you die. It is important when you separate to make a new will. Net Lawman provides a number of free documents to help you do so.

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