Child Maintenance – CSA Payments
Maintenance for children
Parents who are separated each have a legal duty to maintain their child,
which means that a child remains the financial responsibility of both parents
until he or she reaches the age of 16 or, if he or she remains in full-time
secondary education, the age of 19. Beyond this, parents may be required,
at the discretion of the court, to continue to maintain older children, if they
remain in formal education or are receiving vocational training, or in some
other special circumstances.
The financial responsibility of parents for their children exists whether the
parents are married or unmarried, and whether the child was planned or
not. It is not possible for one parent to make a one-off payment to end any
future responsibility for their child.Whatever a parent has paid in the past,
and no matter what has been agreed between the parents, a parent may
always be called upon to support their child.
The Child Support Agency has now taken over almost all responsibility for
The child support scheme applies only if all those concerned, the child,
the resident parent and the non-resident parent, are habitually resident
in the UK (or, in the case of a non-resident parent, living abroad as a
member of the armed forces, on government services, or employed by
a UK registered company). A child is the natural child of a parent (step-
children are not included) under the age of 16, or under the age of 19 in
certain circumstances, including continuing in full-time, but not advanced,
The basic formula
Under the new scheme, for one child the non-resident parent will usually
pay 15% of his or her income, net of income tax, national insurance
and pension contributions, for two children, 20%, and for three or more
children, 25%. There is a limit on the total amount payable, because the
percentage formula is capped at £2,000 per week.
This standard formula amount may be reduced in certain circumstances.
If the non-resident parent has a second family, the children of that
family, including step-children, will be taken into account, and he or
she will pay less. People with incomes of less than £200 per week will
also pay less. In those cases where parents share the care of the child,
and the child stays with the non-resident parent for 52 nights a year or
more, again, the amount will be reduced accordingly.
Court orders and Child Support Agency Assessments
Parents who are getting divorced can either agree a figure for each
child and have that figure included in a court order or apply for an
assessment to the Child Support Agency. Any Court order made after
3 March 2003 is only binding on the parents for one year after which
time eitherparent can make an application to the CSA. The Order
remains binding until a CSA assessment has been completed.
Court orders – child maintenance
Only in a limited range of cases does the court retain any jurisdiction
to order a parent to provide a child with maintenance. In such cases,
the court is to exercise its discretion as to an appropriate sum, looking
at all the circumstances of the case, and paying particular attention
to the financial needs of the child, any financial resources available to
the child, any disability of the child, the past education of the child,
the financial resources and needs of the parents, the family’s standard
of living, and any parental disabilities.
The courts may make maintenance or other orders for a step-child
who is a ‘child of the family’, that is a child whom the step-parent has
treated as their own child.
Habitual residence overseas
The courts may make maintenance or other orders if one of the parents,
or the child, is habitually resident overseas.
The courts have retained the power to order a parent to make or to
vary payments to meet the expenses of education or training; crucially
this means that the court can order a parent to pay private school
Over age children
The courts may order a parent to make payments for children who are
over the relevant child support ages. This provision most commonly
applies to children over the age of 18 who have moved on to ‘advanced
education’, but covers any child who is not eligible for child support
because of their age but who is continuing with formal education or
training. The court may also order payments to over age children if
there are ‘special circumstances’, for example if the child has special
needs of some kind, including disability or illness. The court will not,
however, require a parent to continue to make payments to an adult
child without special needs, whose education is complete, no matter
how wealthy the parent might be.
Non-resident parent earning more than the maximum
The courts may make a ‘top up’ order, requiring a parent to make
additional maintenance payments for the child’s benefit, if the non-
resident parent is earning more than the Child Support Agency’s
maximum, currently £104,000 per year, and the court considers that
the parent with care reasonably needs more money in order to maintain
the lifestyle which the child has been enjoying.
The courts have retained the power to make a maintenance order to
cover the expenses attributable to a child’s disability, and take a broad
view when doing so, including costs associated with a larger house,
additional help, respite care etc.