This is a common question we are asked when some financial provision is already being made by the non-resident parent (i.e. the ‘paying parent’ in the context of child maintenance), by them covering certain costs such as mortgage payments.
If the ex-spouse (or soon to be ex-spouse) is taking responsibility for certain types of expenses (such as mortgage payments) then this might be factored into the maintenance calculation (provided all the necessary conditions are met) as the additional contribution will help to provide a secure home for the children.
When solicitors deal with child maintenance negotiations between spouses (including sorting out their interim financial arrangements whilst divorce proceedings are ongoing) we look at Child Maintenance Service (CMS) rules and guidance notes. The CMS would calculate child maintenance factoring in several types of expenses that are covered by the paying parent. These expenses include the following:
- Costs of maintaining regular contact with the child (for example, travel costs), provided there is an established set pattern of contact or a set pattern is intended.
- Costs of supporting a child with a disability or long-term illness that lives with the paying parent.
- Repayment of joint debts or debts incurred for the benefit of the child, incurred during the relationship (some debts are excluded, such as credit card debts and gambling debts).
- Boarding school fees (but only the boarding element of those fees, not the cost of the private education itself, which is not factored into child maintenance and Mortage arrangements, so is entirely separate).
- Mortgage, insurance or loan payments for the home that the parties used to share together, provided that:
a) the parent receiving the maintenance payments still lives there with the child,
b) the borrowing was taken out by someone other than the paying parent, and
c) the paying parent has no legal or equitable interest in the property and no charge or right to have a charge over the property.
Mortgage payments are therefore only one category of expense that may be taken into account but the same principle will apply to all such expenses listed above.
If the maintenance is formally assessed by the CMS, the paying parent can ask the CMS to take these expenses into account by applying for a variation in the child maintenance that is due (based on their gross income). The CMS will then make an assessment and decide whether the variation should be made, for example, it will ensure that the expenses are not unreasonably high and consider whether it is just and equitable for a variation to be made.
If the CMS agree that a variation should be made, the paying parent’s gross income for child maintenance calculation purposes is reduced pound for pound by the amount they spend on any of the above expenses (along with deducting their pension contributions). That reduced level of income is then put through the calculator factoring in the number of nights the children are in the paying parent’s care and the number of other children that are living with the paying parent (if relevant).
Child Maintenance and Special Expenses| Summary
To put it simply, if the paying parent is contributing to any of the expenses listed above then that will have the effect of reducing their income for the purposes of assessing the amount of child maintenance they have to pay. This should certainly be borne in mind by both paying and receiving parents when trying to agree suitable provision without involving the CMS so that other payments made (listed above) are deducted from the paying parent’s gross income before using the online formula to calculate the appropriate child maintenance.