Archive Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Public services all in one place

Main menu

Wednesday, 3 October 2023

How much child maintenance should be paid?

How much child maintenance should be paid will depend on your personal circumstances and on the type of child maintenance arrangement you decide to make. Find out how much child maintenance should be paid when you and the other parent agree to a family-based arrangement.

What counts as child maintenance in a family-based arrangement

If you and the other parent agree, you can sort out child maintenance between yourselves. This is called a family-based arrangement.

A family-based arrangement is often the quickest and easiest way of arranging child maintenance because there’s little paperwork to do.

A family-based arrangement means you can:

  • agree between yourselves how much child maintenance payments should be, and when they should be made
  • pay for or receive things like clothing for your child instead of money, if you both agree to it

For example, you could both agree that the non-resident parent pays:

  • a lump sum at different points in your child's life
  • a proportion of their income
  • for things like school clothes instead of giving money
  • a regular set amount directly to the parent with care

You could decide to do one of the above, or do a mix of two or more of them.

The important thing is that:

  • you both agree to the arrangement
  • the arrangement provides reliable financial support which helps towards your child’s everyday living costs

The parent with care is the parent or carer who the child normally lives with. The non-resident parent is the parent who the child does not normally live with.

If you’re ready to make a family-based arrangement, you should make a record of it using a family-based arrangement form. You can download a family-based arrangement form using the following link.

You can find more information about family-based arrangements on the Child Maintenance Options website.

Working out a child maintenance amount in a family-based arrangement

You may decide that regular payment of a set amount is the best option. If so, you can get an idea of how much that amount should be, using the Child Maintenance Options online child maintenance calculator.

The calculator uses the same formula to work out child maintenance amounts as the Child Support Agency (CSA). It takes into account things like:

  • the non-resident parent’s income
  • the number of children they need to pay child maintenance for
  • how often the child or children stays overnight with them
  • the number of other children the non-resident parent (or their partner) gets child benefit for

For more information about how the CSA works out child maintenance, use the following link.

The cost of raising your children

When you’re thinking about how much child maintenance should be paid, you may also want to look at what your child regularly needs money for. For example all children need food and clothes. Babies also need things like nappies, while older children might need school equipment.

You might also need to think about the cost of:

  • childcare
  • activities like swimming lessons or days out

If you make a family-based arrangement, you and the other parent can agree between you how to share these costs. You could decide:

  • to split the costs equally
  • to split the costs according to the amount of money you each earn
  • one of you pays for some things and the other parent pay for others

For help working out the costs of raising your children, download the form 'how much maintenance will your child need' using the following link.

If you're worried about money

As a separated parent, your financial situation will probably have changed.

You may be worried about things like:

  • the cost of setting up a new home
  • living on a smaller budget

But, it's important to make sure that you and the other parent still contribute financially to your child or children's living costs.

For more help managing your money use the following link.

You can also find tools to help you deal with your finances after a separation on the Child Maintenance Options website.

If you can't agree on child maintenance

It’s not always possible for parents to sort out child maintenance on their own.

In such cases, you can

  • ask a relative or friend to speak to the other parent for you
  • use a mediation service to help you reach agreement
  • ask the CSA to arrange child maintenance for you

You can also ask the CSA to get involved if your family-based arrangement breaks down at any point.

For more information about mediation use the following link.

For more information about arranging child maintenance through the CSA, use the following link.

Additional links

Family-based arrangements

For help making a family-based arrangement, contact the confidential and impartial Child Maintenance Options service

Access keys

If you would like to take part in our website visitor survey, please visit the site and then come back and select this link to take part in the survey.