Frequently Asked Questions about Child Maintenance

In most cases, the parent who does not have main day-to-day care of the child (the paying parent) pays child maintenance to the parent who does have main day-to-day care (the receiving parent). In some cases, the person with main day-to-day care can be a grandparent or guardian.

A. Yes. All parents are free to sort out child maintenance between themselves. This is often called a family-based arrangement. Many parents find this is the easiest and quickest way to arrange child maintenance because no-one else has to get involved. If you need some help making a family-based arrangement, feel free to contact your nearest NFM Mediation Service provider or call us on 0300 4000 636,  alternatively contact the Child Maintenance Options on free phone 0800 988 0988.

A.Yes, if you have a family-based arrangement, you can change your arrangement whenever you need to, as long as both parents agree. It’s important to be flexible and communicate with your child’s other parent, so that you can adapt your arrangement to suit your children and you throughout your lives.

If the parents use the Child Maintenance Service to arrange child maintenance they will need to contact the service and agree their change of circumstance will lead to a recalculation of the amount of child maintenance owed.

A. If parents have a family-based arrangement, they decide between themselves what should be included and what counts as child maintenance. If they use the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service (the Government’s child maintenance services), child maintenance amounts are worked out using a set formula. This formula looks at:

  • the gross income of the paying parent

  • the number of overnights stays the children spend with them

  • the number of other children the paying parent (or their partner) has to support      

To get an idea of what your payments would be through a Government child maintenance service, you can use the maintenance calculator on Child Maintenance Options. You could use this amount as a starting point for your family-based arrangement.

A. If both parents have a family-based arrangement, they agree between themselves how child maintenance is paid. This doesn’t have to be just about exchanging money – for example, the paying parent could agree to provide school uniforms, pay for day trips or contribute towards the household bills of the receiving parent.

If parents choose to use a statutory Child Maintenance Service, there are two ways that maintenance can be arranged. Direct Pay (Child Maintenance Service} or Maintenance Direct (Child Support Agency) is a payment option which allows parents to keep control of making and receiving payments. The service managing the case works out the payment amounts but won’t involve themselves in other areas, like collecting the payments and enforcement, unless a parent asks them to. Both parents agree between themselves how and when the paying parent will pay the receiving parent direct.

If the paying parent doesn’t pay in full and on time the Child Maintenance Service can move the case to Collect & Pay and take immediate enforcement action.

Collect & Pay is a full calculation, collection, payment and enforcement service. The Child Maintenance Service will collect the payment straight from the paying parent and pass this to the receiving parent. If payments aren’t made on time, a range of enforcement actions can be taken to collect them.

In 2014, the government introduced fees for:

  • new applications to the Child Maintenance Service
  • using the Collect & Pay service, and
  • enforcement action it takes against the minority of paying parents who don’t voluntarily pay in full and on time.

The government has introduced the fees and charges because it wants to encourage more parents to think about working together to arrange child maintenance instead of using the Child Maintenance Service or the courts

From 25 November 2013 the Child Support Agency no longer accepted new applications and from 2014 began to end child maintenance arrangements on its 1993 and 2003 schemes. If you are affected, you will get a letter up to six months beforehand, giving you a chance to put a new arrangement in place. Parents will be encouraged to think about making their own family-based arrangement, while those who can’t will be able to apply to the Child Maintenance Service.

Parents will be offered help and support through this change to help them make the child maintenance arrangement that’s right for them. The government expects it to take about three years to contact every parent and end all CSA arrangements.

Help will be available from Child Maintenance Options free on 0800 988 0988*

A. If you have a statutory child maintenance arrangement and the paying parent knows they’re going to be late making a payment or miss a payment, it’s important they tell the service managing their case straight away so that the situation can be discussed. If they have a family-based arrangement, they should have an open and honest conversation with the receiving parent.

A. If you have a family-based arrangement, you can choose to pay for specific things for your child (for example new clothes) instead of handing over cash – as long as the other parent agrees to it. You could also help with the costs of running your children’s home, by contributing towards the household bills.

If you have a statutory child maintenance arrangement, the parent with the day-to-day care of the child is responsible for deciding how to spend the money they receive. So if you’re worried about this, try your best to sort out maintenance between yourselves and set up a family-based arrangement.

A. If you have a family-based arrangement, you should speak to your child’s other parent. If you have a statutory child maintenance arrangement, you should contact the service managing your case immediately. The contact details you need will be on any letter they have sent you.

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