You are here:

House of Commons Library

Child maintenance: variations, including "unearned income" rules (UK excluding NI)

Published Monday, March 19, 2018

This House of Commons Library briefing note sets out the rules on variations, including the grounds for a variation under the “2012 scheme” administered by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), how to request a variation, and sources of further information. From a policy standpoint, it compares the current variations rules to those for the legacy “2003 scheme”, and notes criticism of the changes and parliamentary debate of them.

Jump to full report >>

This House of Commons Library briefing note sets out the rules on variations, including the grounds for a variation under the “2012 scheme” administered by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), how to request a variation, and sources of further information. From a policy standpoint, it compares the current variation rules to those for the legacy “2003 scheme”, and notes criticism of the changes and parliamentary debate concerning the changes.

Variations allow for the inclusion of factors otherwise not included in the standard method of calculating child maintenance.

Either the non-resident parent (known as the paying parent) or the parent with care (known as the receiving parent) can apply for a “variation”.

A non-resident parent can apply for a variation in respect of special expenses, contact costs, and mortgage and debt costs, among others.

Under the current 2012 scheme, a parent with care can seek a variation if they believe the non-resident parent has additional income, including “unearned income” of £2,500 a year or more. In contrast, under the 2003 scheme, if a non-resident parent had either a “lifestyle inconsistent with their income” or assets in excess of £65,000, these were grounds for a variation.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee, among others, called in May 2017 for the reinstatement of “provisions for parents to challenge child maintenance awards on the grounds of assets and lifestyle inconsistent with income”, and there have been two Private Members’ Bills tabled since April 2017 that have, to date, unsuccessfully sought to implement this change. The Government’s position is that it has “no plans to reintroduce this provision”, although it did say that it would “consider how we can strengthen our ability [to] ensure all sources of income are included in the calculation” of child maintenance.

This note applies to Great Britain only (i.e. United Kingdom excluding Northern Ireland).

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7773

Author: Tim Jarrett

Topics: Child support, Children and families, Divorce

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.