How much child maintenance should be paid?

How much child maintenance should be paid is a common question. The answer will depend on the individual circumstances of you and your separated family, and the type of child maintenance arrangement you decide to make.

With a family-based arrangement, parents can agree between themselves how much child maintenance is paid, and what counts as child maintenance.

If you and the other parent are ready to make a family-based arrangement now, you can use a Family-based arrangement form(573KB) PDF to make a record of what you agree.

Agreeing a child maintenance amount

Most separated parents find that the best way to agree on a child maintenance amount is to do the following:

Step 1: Look at how much money both parents have got coming in and going out.
Step 2: Work out what the child needs and what they cost.
Step 3: Agree on who pays for what.

Step 1: Look at how much money both parents have got coming in and going out.

One of the best ways to get an accurate picture of finances is for both parents to make a budget. This will show how much money is coming in, what’s going out in both households and what is left over.

The Money Advice Service has a free budget planner (external website) that can help both parents with this step.

Writing things down might help you to clearly see how much you each have to live on. Remember though, this works both ways.

Step 2: Work out what the child needs and what they cost.

All children need food and clothes. Babies will also need things like nappies, while older children might need equipment for school.

You might also need to think about the cost of:

  • childcare
  • activities like swimming lessons or days out

Our costs calculation form aims to help parents work out what the child’s needs are.

Again, when things are written down in black and white, it can help show the other parent how the costs of raising children really do add up.

Step 3: Both parents agree who pays for what.

The final step is to agree how to share the cost of raising your child or children.

How you and the other parent decide to do this is up to both of you to agree on. This is essentially what making a family-based arrangement is all about.

Get help talking about child maintenance with your child’s other parent. There is also further guidance in our Talking about money guide (1.74MB) PDF.

It’s a good idea to keep a record of what you agree, in case there are any problems in the future. You can use a Family-based arrangement form(573KB) PDF to do this.

How much payments would be in a statutory arrangement

You and the other parent may decide that a regular payment of a set amount of money is the best option for you.

If so, you may want to find out what your payments would be if you had a statutory arrangement. You could then use this amount as a starting point for your family-based arrangement.

Both the statutory child maintenance service use a standard rate (which depends on the paying parent’s income) and some other factors to work out a weekly amount of child maintenance. The principle is the same when the parent is self-employed, although they then have to provide evidence of their income themselves.

You can get an idea of what your payments would be in a statutory child maintenance arrangement using our child maintenance calculator.