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Using the Child Maintenance Service

Information in this section is for parents who live apart and are unable to agree on child support payments. Find out how to use the Child Maintenance Service or the Child Support Agency.

Key topics include the contact details for helplines and for making complaints. Check the correct legal processes to follow if you need to collect unpaid child support.

Child maintenance is a financial support paid by one parent to the other. It applies to parents who have become divorced or separated.

As a rule, the payment frequency would coincide with the paying parent’s salary or benefits. The money helps to cover the everyday living costs of raising children.

There is a process for arranging child maintenance yourself. It does not need to involve anyone else.

But, the private ‘family-based arrangement’ only works if both parents are in total agreement.

In this case, there would be no need for you and your ex-partner to use the Child Maintenance Service or Child Support Agency (CSA).

What If Parents Cannot Agree?

Getting an agreement to a family-based arrangement is not always easy or possible. So, the ideal time for using the Child Maintenance Service is when you and the other parent do not concur.

Child Maintenance Options provide free impartial information and support. They can help parents make informed choices about their child maintenance arrangements.

In most cases, when you use the Child Maintenance Service their trained staff will be able to:

  • Track down the other parent if you are unsure where they are living. Finding both parents is the first part of sorting out child maintenance.
  • Solve any disputes relating to disagreements about parentage (see below).
  • Understand and manage how child maintenance is worked out and how much should be paid.
  • Set up arrangements for the ‘paying’ parent (the one without main day-to-day care of the child) to pay their child maintenance payments.
  • Pass on the payments to the ‘receiving’ parent (the one with main day-to-day care of the child).
  • Review the payment amount each year and whenever a parent reports a change in circumstances.
  • Start non-payment legal action proceedings if the payments do not get paid (see below).

Note: must discuss your case with Child Maintenance Options before you can apply to the CMS service.

Managing Child Maintenance Service Online

The new Child Maintenance Service website is for clients and employers. You can set up a self-service account to manage your case online or log in to an existing account. You can also get someone else to manage your Child Maintenance Service case on your behalf.


Child Maintenance Service Eligibility

There is a set of rules to follow for meeting the Child Maintenance Service eligibility criteria. Check who can and cannot use their services and when child maintenance payments stop.

Apply to the Child Maintenance Service

You must apply to the Child Maintenance Service to make a new arrangement. Check what information they need about you and your family, the fees, and how long the process takes.

How to Pay Child Maintenance

There are several ways to pay child support payments. You can also get the Child Maintenance Service to manage your payments using the Collect and Pay system.

Non-payment of Child Support

Child Maintenance Service and the CSA have different ways of collecting unpaid child support. Thus, non-payment can result in court action or money being taken from earnings, benefits, or a pension.

Disputes Over Parentage

Child Maintenance Services have set procedures to deal with disagreements over parentage. Check how assumed parentage works and the process for paying child maintenance during a dispute.

Reporting Changes

Some of the changes you need to report are for either parent (paying and receiving). Find out when to report a change and how reporting changes can affect your payments.

Complaints and appeals

You must follow the set process when making complaints and appeals about the service. Find out how to appeal a child maintenance decision about payment amounts.

Contact Information

The page lists the contact details for Child Maintenance Service and Child Maintenance Options. There is further information for contacting the employer helplines and the CSA.

How to Use the Child Maintenance Service in United Kingdom