When does child benefit end? When do maintenance payments stop? Do students still receive maintenance?
You’d think this would be a simple question. 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!
Do you get maintenance if a child leaves school?
So 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)
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 a couple of days each week. In this case, the child is entitled to maintenance throughout their course.
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 university or higher education. Maintenance payments stop the month that your child finishes their 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.
- The child might retake exams or sit additional non-advanced exams or switch courses. In this case, maintenance ends only when the child leaves non-advanced education OR on their 20th birthday (whichever is sooner).
How does maintenance stop?
Do you receive maintenance through the CMS, or does your co-parent pay you directly using CMS calculations?
If so then you don’t need to do anything about telling the CMS about your child’s circumstances. As children turn 18, the Child Benefit agency will contact you to confirm if your child is leaving non-advanced education. If they are, then the Child Benefit agency tells the CMS and the CMS will cancel the case for that child, and any future payments.
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. In the vast majority of cases, this isn’t needed.
Should Parents Pay Maintenance Past 18?
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’d just say this: raising children doesn’t magically cost zero because they’re 16 or 18 and if you’re any sort of a man 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. Every time they need to go to a school play or a sports club, they are being driven there, or taking the bus with your ex.
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, my view is that both parents should continue to support that child. A 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 the term-time, maintenance will be paid to Flea. Not directly, we aren’t idiots. But maintenance will be paid towards accommodation. 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 maintenance is helpful if you have a teenager who is approaching an age of leaving school. 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.