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Accessing Child Maintenance

An organisation called the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has replaced the old Child Support Agency (CSA) it can sometimes help you get what you are entitled to for your child’s keep. The CMS generally steps in at the request of the mother when fathers refuse to pay or complain about making child maintenance payments.
Click on this link to the CMS to find out more.

Frequently, rather than going down to the CMS the non-resident parent will pay out so they don’t have to get involved with dealings with the maintenance service. However, there are cases where the non-resident parents are self-employed and try to avoid paying anything. The CMS will only forward money owed to you if the other parent is prepared to pay or if he/she works for a known employer and they can recover it directly from there.

Many ex partners will flee from their responsibility by various different methods. Some common ones are listed below:

• Declaring themselves bankrupt
• Suddenly losing long-standing employment
• Fraudulently fiddling their invoices
• Beginning to sign on.

Arranging child maintenance with your ex-partner:




Child maintenance is regular financial support towards the cost of raising your child. It’s paid by your child’s other parent if you’re no longer together and either your child doesn’t live with them or spends more time living with you.


What is child maintenance and why is it important?

Did you know?

Child maintenance payments will not affect your tax credits or any claim you make for benefits.

Child maintenance is about more than just money. While there’s no doubt it can make a real difference when it comes to paying for clothing, food and other essentials, it also helps keep both parents involved in their children’s lives.

You can arrange child maintenance between yourselves or, if you can’t agree, you can try mediation or ask the Child Maintenance Service (formerly the Child Support Agency or CSA), or the courts to get involved.


Family-based arrangements

Did you know?

More than half a million children in the UK benefit from maintenance arrangements agreed between both parents, without using the Child Maintenance Service or the courts.

Source: Child Maintenance Options

With a family-based arrangement for child maintenance, you simply arrange things between yourselves.


  • It’s private.
  • It’s the quickest and easiest way to arrange child maintenance.
  • You can agree on different types of support, such as providing school uniform.
  • It’s flexible – you can agree to change the arrangements if circumstances change.
  • It maintains lines of communication between you and your ex.
  • They are completely free to set up. (From 2014 onwards the government is proposing to introduce fees and charges for using the Child Maintenance Service, so if you make a family-based arrangement, you won’t be affected by this.)


  • It’s not legally binding – there’s no one to collect missed payments or enforce broken agreements.

There’s a slightly different system in Scotland and a family-based arrangement can be turned into a legal contract called a ‘Minute of Agreement’ and registered. In that case, a sheriff officer (bailiff) could enforce payment.

Go to the Child maintenance calculator on the CM Options website to see how much you could expect to pay or receive

Get more information on family-based arrangements and download a form to record what you’ve agreed on the CM Options website


Statutory arrangements

A family-based arrangement isn’t for everyone. If there’s a breakdown in communications with your partner – or worse – the Child Maintenance Service will work out the child maintenance amount and, if necessary, collect it and pass it on.


  • The Child Maintenance Service will calculate the child maintenance and then either you arrange payment with the other parent directly (known as Direct Pay) or you can ask them to collect it for you and pass it on (known as Collect and Pay).
  • The Child Maintenance Service can even track down your ex if you no longer know where they live.
  • The Child Maintenance Service can enforce the payments through Collect and Pay if your ex won’t pay. You won’t have to contact your ex to chase up missing payments.


  • Once you make things legal, it can be more stressful for everyone – even the mention of the Child Maintenance Service to some people could end hopes of an amicable arrangement.
  • From 2014 onwards the government is proposing to charge a fee for all new applications to the Child Maintenance Service. The Child Maintenance Service are proposing to charge both parents a fee to use Collect and Pay and the paying parent will have an extra charge to pay if enforcement action is taken. (There are no collection fees if you use Direct Pay.)
  • Contact Child Maintenance Options for more information and to apply to the Child Maintenance Service. Call Child Maintenance Options on 0800 988 0988.

In Northern Ireland the agency to contact is the Child Maintenance Service


Using a court order

You can use the courts to enforce child maintenance arrangements but it usually only happens if you’re going to court for another reason, often at the time of a divorce.


  • It gives the arrangement a legal footing – if payments stop, you can ask the court to enforce the order.


  • It can be expensive – you won’t get legal aid if you’re only going to court for child maintenance.
  • You need to agree on the arrangements and the amounts before you both get to court.

Go to the CM Options website for information about using the courts to arrange child maintenance


Need help deciding what to do and when?

It’s not easy knowing what to do and what should take priority when you’re splitting up, especially if you have children.

The Sorting out separation website helps you to work out what’s best for you and your children and allows you to create your own action plan.

Go to the Sorting out separation website


Already got an existing statutory child maintenance arrangement?

If your arrangement is with the Child Maintenance Service

From 2014, the Child Maintenance Service is proposing to charge both parents for the Collect and Pay service. If you’re affected you will get a letter explaining what will happen.

To avoid the fees you’ll be able to either:

  • make your own family-based arrangement – see above for more details, or
  • arrange payment of child maintenance between yourselves – Direct Pay – rather than asking the Child Maintenance Service to collect it for you
  • Find out more about the changes on the Child Maintenance Options website

If your arrangement is with the Child Support Agency (CSA)

From 2014, the Child Support Agency will begin to end its existing child maintenance agreements.
If you’re affected you will get a letter up to six months beforehand explaining what your options are.

You can either:

  • make your own family-based arrangement – see above for more details, or
  • apply to the Child Maintenance Service to work out your child maintenance and, if necessary, collect it and pass it on – the government is proposing to introduce fees for this

You’ll be offered help and support with this change to help you make the child maintenance arrangement that’s right for you. It’s expected to take about three years to contact every parent and end all CSA arrangements.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

Insuring child maintenance after divorce or separation:





To make sure that your children would be financially secure if you or the other parent were to die, think about taking out life insurance.


How much insurance do you need?

Either the parent paying the maintenance or the parent who receives it can take out life insurance or critical illness cover. You would insure the parent responsible for paying the maintenance, and the amount of insurance would be sufficient to cover the payments that would be lost.


Who else should consider life insurance?

Anyone in receipt of spousal maintenance should also consider insuring the life of the person paying for it, to ensure they are provided for in the event of that person’s death or critical illness. This is because spousal maintenance can be more important as it can last a lot longer than child maintenance.

To consider your options, check our guides:

Do you need life insurance?

Life insurance – choosing the right policy and cover

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.