Single parent FAQs: Child maintenance
Our advice and information team, who work on our Lone Parent Helpline, webchat and Ask a Question feature, receive questions from single parents around Scotland every day. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a significant rise in requests for advice.
So, we’ve decided to launch a new feature through our newsletter and blog which spotlights Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on a different topic each month.
This month, we’re looking at child maintenance, which many single parents have asked us about recently.
Child maintenance FAQs
Q. How can I arrange child maintenance?
A. You have three different options to choose from when it comes to arranging child maintenance:
- a private arrangement
- using a solicitor
- using the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).
A private arrangement between the two parents has the benefit of being free and flexible, but there may be reasons why this is not possible.
Find out more about your options here.
Q. How does the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) calculate child maintenance?
A. After you apply, the CMS should contact HM Revenue and Customs to find out the other parent’s income. They will also ask the other parent for details about their circumstances. This includes information on payments into pension schemes, certain costs or expenses the paying parent pays, and the number of other children the paying parent supports.
Child maintenance is reviewed each year.
Child maintenance rates are applied to gross weekly income. The rates differ depending on the gross weekly income amount. Find out more here.
Remember you can submit your own question via the Ask A Question feature on our website any time and our expert advisers will respond.
This is open to single parents, their families, or anyone working to support single parent families – keep your questions coming!
Q. I have an agreement with my ex about child maintenance payments. I think his salary now will be much more than it was then. Can we change the agreement?
A. If it has been a while since your child maintenance arrangement was made and circumstances have changed you can consider a new agreement. Usually the best way to do this is directly and informally with your ex.
If you don’t think this will work because you do not want to talk to each other, there has been abuse or you think your ex may not be giving you all the details you need about his income, you can consider using the Child Maintenance Service. There is a £20 charge for getting a calculation and additional charges to both parents for using the Child Maintenance Service for collecting maintenance.
more detail see our information or visit the Child Maintenance Service.
Q. My child’s Dad has been erratic over the last year in paying child maintenance but now, because of the coronavirus, has stopped altogether. What can I do?
A. Although we are all in the middle of the coronavirus situation, Dad is legally responsible to make child maintenance payment for his child. Many parents at the moment have financial concerns over their employment or are not working but being paid 80% of their salary, but that is not a reason to stop payments altogether.
Ordinarily if someone has a drop in their income whether they have a family based arrangement like yourselves or are going through the CMS, their child maintenance payments can be altered to reflect that and then readjusted if/when circumstances change. You could speak to your child’s Dad to discuss the situation but if you have no luck there you could contact the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to get the ball rolling.
Q. I pay child maintenance to my ex for our 2 children. If the children stay overnight with me should the amount of child maintenance I pay be less?
A. If the child maintenance you pay is based on the children staying with their other parent it can be reduced if the children start to stay overnight with you. For example; Jay has a son and pays child maintenance of £70 per week. Jay’s son starts staying with him one night a week so the child maintenance can be reduced by 1/7th. Jay will then pay £60 per week. If his son stays for 2 nights Jay will pay £50 per week in child maintenance.
This would be what happens if child maintenance was arranged using the Child Maintenance Service. If the parents had agreed an amount between themselves they could decide on child maintenance of any amount that suited them. For more information see Child Maintenance Arrangements.
Q. We share care of our child 50/50 and therefore don’t pay each other maintenance. During the coronavirus our child is with me all the time. What happens with child maintenance in this situation?
A. If you have a family based arrangement – between yourselves – then it would be appropriate for the parent who is looking after the child 100% of the time to receive maintenance from the other parent until the situation changes. Ordinarily, the amount of maintenance to be paid would be based on 12% of the other parent’s gross weekly income, with some possible variations. This is what the Child Maintenance Service would work on.
With many people’s working and financial circumstances considerably different at this time, it might be that this amount would be reduced. See our information on child maintenance and the UK Government’s information.
Q. My ex is not declaring his full income to Child Maintenance Service. Is there anything I can do?
A. I am assuming, given you are asking about this, that you aren’t able to talk to him about your concerns. If not, unfortunately there is very little you can do about this unless you can prove that your ex is not declaring his accurate earnings to HMRC. That isn’t an easy thing to do and you would need to have evidence to present to either the CSA or the Child Maintenance Service for them to take your query any further with HMRC. If he is not declaring his accurate income to HMRC then this is tax evasion and there are penalties for this.
Here is some information on tax evasion and how to report it. However, think really carefully about taking this course of action as it might make your situation worse and could cause conflict between you and your ex and maybe even affect contact he has with your children.
Q. My child is at college and will soon be 18. When do I stop paying child maintenance?
A. Normally child maintenance is paid for children up to age 16 but can be up to age 19 if the child is in full-time non-advanced education. Check what level of education your child is studying and whether Child Benefit is being received for them. Here is the gov.uk website and our information on child maintenance.
A child’s parent can continue to pay maintenance voluntarily, or by a court agreement, after child benefit has stopped but it cannot be arranged through the Child Maintenance Service.
Q. How do I arrange child maintenance payments when my child’s other parent does not live in the UK?
A. If your child’s other parent lives abroad, you can’t use the Child Maintenance Service to arrange child maintenance unless your child’s other parent is:
- The best way to arrange child maintenance payments is for both parents to agree on an amount.
- This informal agreement is not legally binding so it is flexible and can change when circumstances do.
If parents are not able to come to an informal agreement, legal advice from a solicitor may be needed. A family law solicitor can be found using the tool on the Scottish Legal Aid Board’s website.
Q. I disagree with my child maintenance decision, what can I do?
A. If you are unhappy with a child maintenance decision you can complain or appeal here.
You can write to your MP if you feel your case isn’t being handled properly.