Enter email to subscribe to Free Divorce Mini-Course
Divorce & Family Law Help
How Is Child Maintenance Determined?
The court takes several different factors into account when deciding how much money each parent should contribute to the welfare and well-being of their children. Assuming both parents are legally responsible for their children and parentage is not in dispute, calculating child maintenance is relatively straight-forward; based upon your assets, how much money you make, and even what you need to live on.
The expenses of the non-custodial parent are taken into consideration when the court is deciding upon child maintenance. They consider essential living expenses for the non-custodial parent, like food and gas bills. This calculation takes into account any dependent children that may be living with the non-custodial parent. For example, if the non-custodial parent has his or her own children from another relationship living with him or her, then the essential needs of these children are also taken into account. The mortgage or rent is also considered an essential expense as long as the non-custodial parent and/or his or her new partner are the homeowner. In some cases, the board also makes allowances for travel to and from work or school as long as the distance is more than 150 miles per week. If it is less than that, the non-custodial parent is expected to absorb that cost.
Once the Child Support Agency has determined the amount of money that you absolutely need to survive, it deducts that money from the amount of money you make. Also deducted is the money you pay in taxes, national insurance, and up to half of your pension contribution. After all of these things are deducted, what is left is what the Child Support Agency calls your “accessible income”. For example, lets say you make £200 per week. The agency determines that you need £100 for essential expenses, taxes, etc. That means that your accessible income is £100.
Although there are exceptions, such as if you are chronically ill or if you are very wealthy or very poor, the Child Support Agency considers half of this money to be available for child maintenance. So in this case, your child maintenance payment would be £50 per week. There are minimums in place however, and there is assistance if you cannot legitimately meet the minimum standards. According to the Child Support Agency, the average weekly child maintenance is about £40. The whole process is relatively straightforward.
There are a couple of notable exceptions to the calculations. One of those items is debt. The Child Support Agency does not take into account any other debts, like credit cards, you may have when they are calculating accessible income and child maintenance payments. The only debt that is taken into account is a mortgage payment. If you have a lot of debt, that is not a good reason to get the child maintenance reduced and the Child Support Agency will not reduce your child maintenance obligation even for a short time so that you can pay down some of your bills. However, if there are dramatic changes in your personal life, you can petition to have your maintenance reassessed. For example, if the non-custodial parent remarries or if the parent and his or her new partner have a new baby, these are legitimate reasons to petition to have your child maintenance fee readjusted. Also, moving from one home to another may cause a change in both the non-custodial parent’s accessible income and child maintenance fee. Losing a job, becoming self-employed or going off or on any sort of public assistance will also effect your assessable income and your child maintenance fee so it is important to be aware of the effects on both you and your children when you are planning any major life change.