When does child maintenance end? When do maintenance payments and child benefit benefits stop? Do students still receive maintenance?
You’d think these would be simple questions. But there isn’t a simple answer on the UK government website or the CMS website and I’ve spent months trying to find information that’s reliable and clear.
Well, friends, I’ve spent an hour on hold waiting to speak to the Child Maintenance Service this morning. Finally, I have a definitive answer about when child maintenance ends and when/how payments stop. Hopefully this will you save that time! And maybe make your co-parenting just a bit less tense!
When does child maintenance end?
If you are receiving child maintenance payments or making them, then the rule of thumb is that benefit payments finish when a child finishes full-time education, providing their education is no higher than A-Levels or their equivalent.
In most cases, that means maintenance payments stop at 16 or 18. But some young people resit exams, so the law allows for maintenance to be paid up to a young person’s 20th birthday providing they are still in that level of full-time education.
Child benefit payments will stop at the same time as maintenance.
Do you get maintenance if a child leaves school?
If your child is turning 16 and you’re wondering if maintenance payments stop when they are 16th… well, maybe.
If a child leaves school at 16 and goes into employment or an apprenticeship that includes LESS than 12 hours a week of supervised training/education (on average) then maintenance payments will stop the month that they start this training or employment, OR on their 16th birthday (whichever is later).
This means a young person starting an apprenticeship with one day at college is not entitled to child maintenance. A child starting a full-time job at 16 is not entitled to maintenance. Providing your child is still doing 12 hours of more of supervised study or course work each week then they are still entitled to maintenance.
Do you get maintenance if children are at college?
Most young people don’t leave school at 16, and will continue with some form of non-advanced education such as A-Levels, T-Levels, BTECs or apprenticeships where young people attend college for several days each week.
In this case, the child is entitled to maintenance throughout their course. This applies to what the government calls ‘non-advanced’ courses, which includes anything up to and including A-Levels.
There are three possible points where maintenance paid to students comes to an end:
- The child finishes their non-advanced course and moves on to an advanced course like a degree at university or higher education. Maintenance payments stop the month that your child finishes their non-advanced course or leaves school.
- The child finishes their course and moves into employment. Again, maintenance payments will end the month that the child finishes their course.
Remember, if your young person needs to resit some of their exams after turning 16, maintenance is due during these ‘extra’ years, until they have completed their course OR until their 20th birthday (whichever comes first).
How does maintenance stop?
The question of how maintenance is stopped depends on whether you pay or receive maintenance through the CMS, or whether it’s paid directly from one parent to the other.
Payments via CMS
If your child maintenance is paid through the CMS, then you don’t need to do anything for child maintenance to end. As children turn 16, the Child Benefit agency will contact you to confirm that your child is remaining in non-advanced education. The same thing happens at 18.
The Child Benefit agency tells the CMS the results of this question, and the CMS will cancel the case for that child, when it determines no further payments are due.
You don’t need to call CMS or do anything yourself. If you would like to then you can log onto CMS and inform them of a child leaving education at another point in time. But in the vast majority of cases, this isn’t needed.
Should Parents Pay Maintenance Past 18?
Morally? Of course they should. Legally, you need to pay child maintenance to young people aged over 18 if they are still in full-time non-advanced education.
Honestly, I think there’s something horrible about (usually) men counting down the days until they are “free” of the burden of maintenance. There are online forums full of men arguing that they don’t need to be paying maintenance because their ex moved in with someone else, or their child has a weekend job, or some other “reason”.
I’ll just say this: raising children doesn’t magically cost zero because they’re 16 or 18 and if you’re any sort of a human and a father then you will continue your child for as long as they need that support. And if they’re living with your ex, then it makes sense to direct that support to their parent.
Personally, I think for lots of men, maintenance becomes tied up with resentment of an ex. There’s a temptation to think your ex is somehow “fleecing” you of money, that they don’t spend on the child. I remember once, in the early days, my daughter’s Dad querying that I used the maintenance to pay bills, rather than buying things for his daughter.
I’ll say it again for those who are new to this idea. Maintenance is there to support your child’s whole life. Yes they need clothes and toys. But they also need a place to live, and lights that work, and hot water and food and a car that runs.
If your ex uses maintenance to get her nails done that’s because she’s already used her money to pay for the things your child needs. If you are contributing to the household and your child has all the things they need to be safe and warm and healthy, then you have no cause for complaint, in my book.
Agreeing Maintenance Post-18
When your child goes off to uni, there isn’t a strict legal obligation to continue to pay child maintenance because this is not non-advanced education. Therefore, any agreement made through CMS to pay maintenance will come to an end.
A parent might still be legally required to pay maintenance or child support ONLY if there is a pre-existing legal agreement to provide such support throughout a child’s full-time education. This is sometimes done at the time of divorce as part of the settlement. But maintenance is only a requirement is this sort of agreement has been made.
I would still argue that morally, both parents should continue to support their child, if they are able
The maximum student loan for living costs is around £9,000 a year outside London. That’s just about enough to cover student accommodation for a year at some universities. Your child will still need to pay for books and food and bus passes and potentially bills such as TV license and utilities.
In our family we have agreed that Flea’s Dad will continue to pay maintenance for as long as she is at university. During term-time, maintenance will be paid to Flea. Most of the maintenance goes into a separate account to cover her accommodation costs, while a small amount is paid directly to Flea to cover accommodation costs. During the holiday months, maintenance will be paid to me. This will go towards expenses of her being at home, of course. But also it will help pay for kit she might need for university, like new bedding or clothes, textbooks etc.
I hope this quick guide to when and how child maintenance ends is helpful if you have a teenager who is approaching an age of leaving school. It can be a worry if you aren’t sure when maintenance payments stop. The good news is there’s very little for you to do, and the process should just work itself out. But if not, then you do know when maintenance payments should stop, and you can make arrangements yourself if needed.