Child maintenance is a complicated area when you look into the detail, and is certainly too complicated for this post to be comprehensive so please don’t act assuming it is.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, the starting point for any discussion on Child Maintenance is to go to the Child Maintenance Options website (cmoptions.gov.uk) where you will find lots of advice on how to come up with an agreement that suits you both and is based on your children’s actual needs.
Agreeing something that you as parents can both sign up to and which can properly take into account the myriad costs of bringing up the wee ones is a much better solution than any arbitrary figure being imposed upon you externally. However, my experience shows that it is not always that easy for separating couples to set aside their recent difficulties and get an agreement, and having a solicitor to filter out those perfectly understandable emotions can often be beneficial. If you can sit down together then perhaps Mediation is the appropriate route.
If communication directly is not possible then there is a calculator on the cmoptions website I mentioned above into which you can put the non-resident party’s weekly gross income numbers and, having answered some further questions, it will spit out a weekly figure based on a percentage or that income. Now this is a very blunt instrument and whilst it will give the statutory minimum required, it won’t take account of things like school fees or other larger commitments.
But this isn’t the complete answer as some other financial contributions other than payments to your former partner can be taken into account. For example, payments for loans taken out before you separated where the benefit was for you both jointly can be deducted, unless you retained the benefit of the debt of course. It would be wrong to allow a car loan to be deducted from the sum you have to pay when you have kept the car it bought.
If you are making payments to the mortgage, or home improvement loans, or insurance payments and even endowment payments which are directly linked to the home where your children continue to reside, these too can be taken into account when calculating the child maintenance payable.
Now I have made lots of assumptions here: for example the current statutory scheme only works for income up to £156,000 gross per annum and over this requires an application to the Courts which is another discussion completely. And when defining what that gross income is, you are able to first deduct the sum you are paying in pension contributions. There is a catch though: if the pension payments are too great a proportion of the total gross income the powers that be may conclude you are deliberately reducing the available income and ignore them when doing the calculation. Most evidence points to them accepting up to 20% or so or your gross income being paid as pension contributions, although there is no actual rule so don’t quote me!
As I said above this is by no means a comprehensive look at child maintenance. In most cases it would be wise to consult a specialist family law solicitor, but I hope this helps with some of the questions that you may want to ask them when you do.