The straightforward answer is the parent who does not live with the child or children pays but what if you share care and spend an equal amount of time with your children?
The Child Maintenance Service deals with all applications for child maintenance which cannot be worked out between the parents by agreement. There are now fees in place for using the Child Maintenance Service. Currently, those fees are £20 for the parent with care of the child or children who wishes to apply for child maintenance and once that child maintenance has been assessed against the paying parent he or she will be charged 20% in addition to the child maintenance and the parent with care will have the child maintenance reduced by 4%.
The Child Maintenance Service, therefore, encourages parents to reach a family-based arrangement before making an application. This can be an informal agreement between the parents where a voluntary amount of child maintenance is decided upon between them and the paying parent pays this sum direct to the parent with care or perhaps, less often, a Court order for maintenance where a circumstance applies that means the Child Maintenance Service is unable to undertake an assessment.
In most cases, such as when both parents and the child or children live in this country the Child Maintenance Service will be the first point of contact before the Courts, or any other organisation, when parents are unable to reach a voluntary family-based arrangement.
As well as assessing the amount of child maintenance to be paid by the paying parent the Child Maintenance Service will, also, take into account shared care of a child or children by their parents. This means that although one parent may not live with the child or children, that parent has the child or children to stay overnight at least once a week. Depending on how often there are overnight stays, reductions apply. Please note, as well, that if there are e.g. 2 children and one child lives with the mother and one child with the father, strictly, there is no child maintenance liability through the Child Maintenance Service even if one parent has significantly more income than the other parent and so this may be where an application to Court by the poorer parent would need to be considered although it is not clear whether the Court would be prepared to act. For more information about child maintenance connect to the Child Maintenance Service website.