How much child support will you have to pay? Find out with our free child support calculator.

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How much child support will you have to pay? Find out with our free child support calculator.

The purpose of child maintenance is to provide support for a child’s everyday living expenses. The non-resident parent must make payments to the resident parent, who is responsible for the child’s day-to-day care. But how much should be paid? A good starting point is to find out what the Child Maintenance Service would expect. You can download our free child support calculator here to find out.

How the CMS Calculates Child Support

The CMS follows six steps to calculate the amount of child support you will pay. The amount is reviewed every year and can change based on changes to your income or family circumstances. 

Step 1. Working out Your Annual Gross Income

The CMS calculates child support using your taxable annual gross income as a starting point. Income includes earnings from employment, self-employment (profits from a business), occupational or personal pensions, and certain benefits. Annual gross income is your yearly income before income tax and National Insurance have been deducted, but after your workplace or personal pension scheme deductions.

The figures are usually taken from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). HMRC uses the information from your last complete tax year, which runs from the 6th of April in one year to the 5th of April in the next.

It is possible that your circumstances were different in the last tax year. Perhaps, for example, you received a bonus that you do not expect to receive this year. Unfortunately, the CMS will still calculate your annual gross income based on the last tax year unless your income was 25% higher than the current year.

Step 2. Items that Reduce Your Weekly Gross Income

Your gross income can be adjusted if you either pay into a personal pension scheme or have certain expenses.

Contributions into a workplace pension scheme are accounted for in Step 1, but if you pay into a private pension, you should deduct it here in Step 2. For example, if you have a gross income of £27,000 a year and make annual private pension contributions of £1000, the amount of gross income the CMS will consider is £26,000.

Gross Income£27,000.00
Deduct
Personal Pension Payment£1,000.00
Considered Gross Income£26,000.00

You can ask the CMS to consider certain expenses which can reduce the gross income figure used to calculate child support. You can apply for a ‘special expenses variation’ for the following:

  • Travel costs to maintain regular contact with your children (if more than £10 a week)
  • Costs associated with supporting a child with a disability or long-term illness
  • Repaying debts from your former relationship, for example, a car loan for a car the receiving parent has kept
  • Boarding school fees for children who qualify for child maintenance
  • Paying the mortgage for the property where the receiving parent and children live

After taking personal pension contributions and variations into account, the CMS converts the annual gross income into a weekly gross income. This is done by dividing annual gross income by the number of days in a year (365) and multiplying that number by seven. 

Considered Gross Income£26,000.00
Divided by 365 days£71.23
Multiplied by 7£498.63

An annual gross income of £26,000 is equal to a weekly gross income of £498.63.

This weekly figure allows the CMS to make additional deductions based on any other children you support. If you have other children, for example, from another relationship, the CMS will deduct the following percentages from your weekly gross income:

  • 11% for one other child
  • 14% for two other children
  • 16% for three or more other children

For example, if you support one other child, your weekly gross income would be reduced by 11%, leaving a considered weekly income of £443.78.

Weekly Gross Income£498.63
Deduct
11% for 1 child£54.85
Considered Weekly Income£443.78

Step 3. Determining the Child Support Rates

The following child support rates are assigned based on your gross weekly income:

Maintenance RateWeekly Income Band
Basic £200.00 to £800.00
Basic Plus £800.01 to £3,000.00 (Basic rate applied to first £800)
Reduced £100.01 to £199.99
Flat £7 to £100 (Or receives benefits)
Nil Less than £7

In our example, £443.78 would fall under the Basic child maintenance rate.

Step 4. Deciding How Many Children Require Child Support

The CMS applies the number of children who have been included in the application for child support.

Step 5. Calculating the Weekly Child Support Payments

Basic Rate

The Basic rate applies if your gross weekly income after Step 2 is £200 to £800. The amount of child support you will pay each week is based on the following percentages:

  • 12% for one child
  • 16% for two children
  • 19% for three or more children

For example, if you have two children and a gross weekly income of £443.78 after Step 2, you would pay 16% of your gross weekly income, or £71 per week.

Considered Weekly Income£443.78
Basic Rate at 16% Payable for 2 Children
Child Maintenance Due per Week£71.00

Basic Plus Rate

If your gross weekly income after Step 2 is more than £800 up to a limit of £3,000, the Basic Plus rate is applied. The Basic rate is applied to £800 of your gross weekly income and then the following percentages are applied to any balance over £800:

  • 9% for one child
  • 12% for two children
  • 15% for three or more children

For example, if you have two children and a gross weekly income of £1000, you would pay £152.00 per week.

Considered Weekly Income£1,000.00
Basic Rate up to £800
16% of £800 for 2 Children£128.00
Basic Plus Rate £800.01–£1000
12% of £199.99 for 2 Children£24.00
Child Maintenance Due per Week£152.00

Reduced Rate

If your gross weekly income after Step 2 is more than £100 but less than £200, you would pay a fixed rate of £7 per week for the first £100 and the following percentage would be applied to the remaining balance:

  • 17% for one child
  • 25% for two children
  • 31% for three or more children

For example, if you have two children and a gross weekly income of £150 after Step 2, you would pay £19.50.

Considered Weekly Income£150.00
Flat Rate up to £100 at £7£7.00
Reduced Rate £100.01–£150
25% of £49.99 for 2 Children£12.50
Child Maintenance Due per Week£19.50

Flat Rate and Nil Rate

If your weekly gross income is less than £100, or you or your partner receive certain benefits, you would pay a flat rate of £7 per week in child support.

If you are under sixteen, a student aged nineteen or under, or in prison or a care home, you would not have to pay any child support.

Step 6. Shared Care

If your child stays overnight with you at least one night a week on average, the amount of child support you pay will be reduced. The more nights that your children stay overnight with you, the more the CMS will reduce your weekly amount of child support:

Number of NightsReduction
52 to 1031/7
104 to 1552/7
156 to 1743/7
More than 1751/2 plus an extra £7 a week for each child

For example, if your children stay with you on Friday and Saturday night every fortnight, this would add up to 52 nights a year. The amount of weekly child support due would be reduced by one seventh.  

Child Maintenance Due per Week£152.00
Deduct
1/7 for 52 Nights of Care£21.71
Child Maintenance due per week£130.28

Payment of Child Support

Once your child support payment has been calculated, you will receive a letter giving you a breakdown of the information used to reach the total amount. You can choose to use the ‘Direct Pay’ method to deposit the correct amount into your ex-partner’s account each month.

The alternative is the ‘Collect and Pay’ service, which you should avoid at all costs. With this, the CMS collects the amount from your bank account or directly from your employer. Not only is this potentially embarrassing, but the fees are also punitive.

The paying parent is charged a 20% fee on top of the child support payment, and the receiving parent has 4% subtracted from the payment.

You will pay child support until your child is at least sixteen years old, unless they decide to continue with full-time education. This includes A Levels, but does not include university or professional studies. The payments will end when the course finishes or when the child turns twenty—whichever is sooner.

Parentage

The CMS assumes you are the parent if:

  • You were married to the child’s mother at any time between the conception and birth of the child (unless the child was adopted)
  • You are named on the child’s birth certificate (unless the child was adopted)
  • You have taken a DNA test that shows you are the father
  • You have legally adopted the child
  • You were named in a court order as the parent when the child was born to a surrogate mother

If parentage is assumed, the CMS will work out the amount of child support to be paid. You will have to pay this amount unless you can prove that you are not the parent.

If you deny that you are the parent of a child, the CMS will ask for evidence, and they may ask you to take a DNA test. You will have to continue paying the child support until you can prove that you are not the father. The CMS may refund any payments made after the date you first denied being the parent if they confirm your claim.

If the child support amount is yet to be calculated, then you will not have to make any payments until the disagreement has been resolved. However, if you are found to be the parent, the amount of child support you must pay will be backdated.

Penalties for Non-Payment of Child Support

Penalties for not paying child support are severe. The CMS can take the one-off or regular payments directly from your salary, bank, or building society without your permission. The CMS can also take court action, which can result in bailiffs being instructed to remove and sell your belongings. You can be put in prison for up to six weeks and forced to sell your house to pay for the child support owed.

The Purpose of Child Support

When you make child support payments, you are ensuring that your child’s standard of living is maintained. This means that their health, education, and general wellbeing are also sustained.

Along with limited access to children, support payments create the most frustration among non-resident parents (the parent who does not have his or her child living with them). Some argue that they are happy to pay, but they want all of the money spent directly on their children. If you’re a parent in these circumstances, it is helpful to remember that your separation should not result in suffering for your children and their other parent. When you were all together, you enjoyed a certain kind of lifestyle, which should continue where possible.

If you still earn the same amount of money as you did when your family was together, the CMS will calculate an amount that maintains the lifestyle enjoyed by your children. This includes the type of home your children live in and the activities they enjoy.

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