About child maintenance

  • How can child maintenance be arranged?

    Many parents choose to make a family-based arrangment, which is where they agree with the other parent about the amount and type of child maintenance that one will pay to the other.

    If you can’t agree, or if an arrangement between parents isn’t working, there are other ways to arrange child maintenance.

    You could apply to a statutory child maintenance service, which can set up an arrangement for you. Or, in some cases you can also use the courts.

    If you’re not sure what type of arrangement is best for you, see comparing your options. You can also call us for a confidential chat on 0800 988 0988.

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  • When should child maintenance start being paid?

    You should do everything you can to make a child maintenance arrangement as soon as possible, so that your child doesn’t miss out on the things they need.

    The quickest and easiest way to arrange child maintenance is a family-based arrangement. With a family-based arrangement, child maintenance can start being paid as soon as parents reach agreement.

    Most statutory arrangements will be in place within about a month of the application being made. However, Child Support law states that the paying parent's responsibility to pay through a statutory arrangement begins on the date that the statutory child maintenance service notifies them (verbally or in writing) of the application.

    This means that receiving parents cannot ask the statutory services to collect child maintenance from before this date.

    It typically takes between 1-3 months to put a court order for child maintenance in place, depending on your circumstances.

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  • When does child maintenance stop being paid?

    With a family-based arrangement, there are no set rules around when payments stop - it's between you and the other parent to agree.

    If you have a statutory child maintenance arrangement, regular child maintenance payments must be made if a child is:

    • is under the age of 16;
    • is under the age of 20 and in full time non-advanced education or approved training, or:
    • is under the age of 20 and child benefit is being paid for them, and
    • is under the age of 20 and has never been married or been in a civil partnership

    However, if child maintenance arrears have built up on a case, those arrears must still be paid, even if regular child maintenance payments have stopped.

    If you have a court order for child maintenance, you must stick to the agreement set out in the court order.

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  • How can I work out how much child maintenance to pay or receive?

    Our child maintenance calculator can give you an indication of the amount of child maintenance you might pay or receive if you had a statutory child maintenance arrangement (an arrangement made through the government’s child maintenance service).

    You can use this as a starting point for your discussion about how to arrange child maintenance and include this figure in a family-based arrangement.

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  • Once we've got a child maintenance arrangement in place, can we change it?

    Yes. If you have a family-based arrangement, you can always alter it if circumstances change for either you or the other parent. And if you decide a family-based arrangement isn't the right option for you, you can always ask a statutory child maintenance service to arrange child maintenance on your behalf.

    If you open a case with the statutory child maintenance service, you can close it at any time if you want to make a family-based arrangement with the other parent.

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  • If I am separating, when should I start arranging child maintenance?

    You should do everything you can to make sure your child is covered by an effective child maintenance arrangement - as soon as you can. It is important for the wellbeing of your child that a child maintenance arrangement is in place.

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  • Will I have to share personal information when arranging child maintenance?

    If you and the other parent decide to make a family-based arrangement about child maintenance, no-one else gets involved, so you can keep things private between the two of you.

    Family-based arrangements work best if you're open and honest with the other parent. For example, if you're able to discuss your finances you can agree how to share the costs of raising your children. And, if you're happy to give the other parent your bank account details, regular payments by standing order is a reliable and easy way to manage your payments.

    If you're worried about sharing financial information with the other parent, you may still be able to make a family-based arrangement work.

    For example, if you don't want to tell them your bank details, you can arrange child maintenance using a money transfer service. Or you can agree to "payments in kind" – where the paying parent pays for things (for example, school shoes) instead of paying money into a bank account.

    If you choose to arrange child maintenance using the statutory child maintenance service, they will need to know things like your name and address. If you're the paying parent, they will also need details of your income. If you're the receiving parent, it will need your bank details.

    The statutory child maintenance service takes great care to protect your personal information. They follow the rules of the Data Protection Act to ensure that your personal information is protected.

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  • While arranging child maintenance, will I have to deal with lots of paperwork?

    Not necessarily. If you choose to make a family-based arrangement about child maintenance, there are certain things you may want to have ready for your discussion with the other parent (see how to make a family-based arrangement). Once you've agreed how to provide child maintenance, it's a good idea to write down the details of your agreement. You can use our family-based arrangement form to help you do this.

    If you decide to ask a statutory child maintenance service to arrange child maintenance on your behalf, you can apply over the phone.

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  • If the paying parent is on benefits, does child maintenance still have to be paid?

    Yes. All parents have financial responsibility for their children, and this doesn’t stop if they are receiving state benefits.

    Our child maintenance calculator can give you an indication of the amount of child maintenance you might pay or receive if you had a statutory child maintenance arrangement when the parent expected to pay is on benefits.

    You could use this amount as a starting point for a family-based arrangement. But, a family-based arrangement doesn’t have to be just about money. Find out about what to include in a family-based arrangement.

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  • If the receiving parent is on benefits, can they still ask for child maintenance to be paid?

    Yes. Child maintenance amounts are usually based on the paying parent’s income.

    Also, the receiving parent’s benefits are not affected by any child maintenance payments they receive. But, parents are required by law to tell Jobcentre Plus about any child maintenance they receive.

    For more information, see Child maintenance and benefits.

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  • What happens if the parent expected to pay refuses to pay child maintenance?

    You can ask the statutory child maintenance services to arrange child maintenance on your behalf. The service can contact the parent expected to pay and set up an arrangement to collect child maintenance. It can then enforce payments if that parent refuses to pay child maintenance or stops paying.

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  • Can I arrange child maintenance without having contact with the other parent?

    Yes. You can ask the statutory child maintenance services to put a child maintenance arrangement in place, without you having to contact the other parent. The service can arrange everything with you and the other parent separately.

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  • How can I arrange child maintenance if I don't know where the other parent lives?

    The statutory child maintenance service can try to trace where the other parent lives and can arrange child maintenance on your behalf.

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  • What happens if the parent expected to pay child maintenance lives abroad?

    You can make a family-based arrangement with a parent living abroad, as long as you can both agree how it will work. If you don't feel you could do this, the statutory child maintenance service may be able to arrange child maintenance for you. If not, you may be able to arrange child maintenance through the UK courts. A UK court order can be enforced in many countries abroad. Read more about child maintenance if a parent lives abroad.

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  • If I pay child maintenance, will this guarantee me access to my child?

    No. Contact arrangements with a child is a separate issue from child maintenance. It is widely recognised that when both parents take an active role in the child's life (as long as it is safe to do so) it can have a positive impact on the wellbeing of the child. But it is important not to use access to the child as a bargaining tool for negotiating child maintenance.

    If you're the parent who is expected to pay child maintenance and you can't see your child, you can still contribute to their upbringing by paying child maintenance.

    For more information, see child maintenance and contact arrangements.

    If you'd like help with arranging access, you could speak to NACCC, Cafcass, Resolution, National Family Mediation or Relate. Centre for Separated Families also offers information about access.

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  • Our children spend time living with each of us. What does this mean for child maintenance?

    This means you're both contributing to the child's living costs and your child maintenance arrangement can reflect this. With our child maintenance calculator you can put in how many nights per week your child stays with the each parent. This can change the figure the calculator produces.

    Remember that the figure our calculator produces is only an indication of the amount of child maintenance you might pay or receive if you had a statutory child maintenance arrangement.

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  • Does child maintenance simply mean money that goes to the receiving parent?

    It is not necessarily just that. If you make a family-based arrangement, you can decide that the paying parent pays for specific things for the child (for example new clothes or a school trip) – as long as both parents agree to it.

    You could even agree that the paying parent pays towards household bills instead of handing over cash. Or, you could agree to share the care of your child and count this as the paying paren’ts contribution towards their upkeep. With a family-based arrangement, it’s completely up to you.

    With a statutory child maintenance arrangement the paying parent must pay the amounts calculated by the statutory child maintenance service.

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  • Do I have to report child maintenance as taxable income?

    If you're thinking about Income Tax or your Annual Return, you should check with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

    If you're wondering about tax credits, child maintenance payments will not affect your tax credit award.

    If you're thinking about Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance, bear in mind that the law requires you to tell Jobcentre Plus about any child maintenance you receive. Read more about how child maintenance affects benefits.

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  • If I pay for specific things, does this count as child maintenance?

    If you make your own family-based arrangement with the other parent, you can choose to pay for specific things for your child (for example new clothes or a school trip) instead of handing over cash – as long as the other parent agrees to it.

    With a statutory child maintenance arrangement, you have to pay the amounts calculated by the statutory child maintenance service. You can of course buy specific things for your child, but they will need to be in addition to your regular payments – they won’t count towards your statutory child maintenance payments.

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  • How can I know what's happening to the child maintenance money I pay?

    With a family-based arrangement, you could agree to buy specific things for your child, like school uniforms and other clothes – that way, you know exactly where your money is going.

    With a statutory child maintenance arrangement, the receiving parent is responsible for deciding how to spend the child maintenance you pay. So if you’re worried about this, try your best to sort out child maintenance between yourselves.

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