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A Guide to Child Maintenance Payments

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 19 Nov 2020 | comments*Discuss
Child Support Maintenance Parent Child

The second in our series of separated dads guides relates to child maintenance and the issues surrounding it.

Child maintenance is designed to make parents responsible for maintaining their children. This means that non-resident parents (who do not live with the child) make periodical payments to resident parents (who do live with the child and are responsible for the child's day-to-day care).

Parents may agree these payments via a maintenance agreement. The Child Support Agency manages the child maintenance schemes that were introduced in 1993 and 2003, but only deals with existing applications. You can contact the National Helpline for advice on 08457 133 133.

The Child Maintenance Service manages the 2012 onwards child maintenance scheme. There is a £20 fee for applying to the Child Maintenance Service. In the first instance, you can call Child Maintenance Options on 0800 988 0988 for free advice.

What is a family-based child maintenance arrangement?

A family-based maintenance arrangement is an agreement between parties made out of court. This allows you to preserve good relations and address your wishes more specifically. It can also help reduce costs. If you and your former partner have a good working relationship, a family-based child maintenance arrangement can be an amicable way to agree matters mutually.

How is child maintenance calculated?

Gross income
Child maintenance via CMS is based upon your gross weekly income. If you are self-employed, your gross income is based upon your total taxable profits.

The CMS will calculate a suitable child support amount upon application by either the resident or non-resident parent. However parents may agree a different amount.

Much like when you pay council tax, certain categories of people pay a reduced rate or are exempt from paying child support altogether.

Exemptions and deductions
You may be exempt or qualify for a reduced rate if you:

  • have a gross weekly income of less than £7.
  • are in prison
  • are under 16 years old
  • are a 16- to 19-year-old who has left school but is registered for certaintypes of government-approved training courses
  • are a 16- to 19-year-old who is in full-time, non-advanced education (up
  • to and including A-level or equivalent standard
  • are a 16- to 17-year-old who receives Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • are a 16- to 17-year-old who is included in their partner’s claim for Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income related Employment and Support Allowance
  • are in a care home or independent hospital, for which you are receiving help with fees.

Shared care
If your children stay with you overnight, you may be entitled to a reduction of your child maintenance payments. They must stay with you a minimum average of one night per week.

If you share care equally, neither of you has to pay maintenance to each other.

If you don’t tell the CSA/CMS about your shared care arrangements, they will estimate that the children stay with you one night a week. This means you’ll usually pay one-seventh less maintenance.

What happens if I have children from a new relationship?

If you have other children this could affect the amount of child support you will pay. Other children relevant to the equation are those for whom you (as the non-resident parent) or your partner receive child benefit for.

Other relevant children are taken into account before the calculation is completed.

When do Child Maintenance payments stop?

Child Support is paid until the relevant child is at least 16 years old.

If the child continues to study full-time (at least 12 hours per week) after the age of 16, you will still have to pay to support your child. Full-time studies include A-level standard but do not include university / professional studies after this level. Child maintenance payments will end when the course finishes or when the child turns 20 years old, even if they are still in full-time studies.

What happens if I dispute that I am the parent of a child?

When parentage is in dispute, a maintenance calculation should not be done by the CSA/CMS until the matter is resolved. There are some exceptions when parentage will be assumed however:

  • If you were married to the mother at any point between conception and birth of the child
  • You are registered as the father on the birth certificate
  • You refuse to take a DNA test or a DNA test shows you are the father
  • There has been a previous declaration of parentage
  • Court proceedings have decided you are the father

If you deny parentage, you must communicate this to the CMS/CSA and a DNA test can be arranged.

What could happen if I don't pay my child support payments?

The CSA/CMS has various enforcement methods available to ensure child support is paid. These include:
  • Deduction from earnings
  • Committal to prison for up to six weeks
  • Disqualification from driving

If one of you dies, what will happen to the children?

Whilst we never want to think about death, it is an important and responsible thing to consider when you have children. You need to know that they will be looked after should anything happen to you.


In your will, you have the opportunity to name a guardian (or guardians) to look after your children if you are no longer here to do so. A trusted family friend is a popular option. Guardians are not paid to look after your children, but will usually get money from your estate to help with the additional costs of caring for children. It is usually better to name just one guardian, as problems can be caused if co-guardians separate in the future. However, if the other parent has parental responsibility, then they can challenge any such provision in the will. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.

Other parent

If the resident parent were to die, the non-resident parent has rights to the children as a parent. This does not mean that you will automatically get residency of a child you have not previously lived with. However the court will look to see if you are a suitable parent to have full custody. If you are suitable, you will get custody over any named guardian in your partner's will. If you are not suitable, custody is likely to go to the named guardian, which is why it is important to name someone in your will who you trust.

We know that some of the dads on here don't have much free money. So we are offering the guides for free.

To help us develop more guides and other products to help separated dads we would really appreciate a small PayPal donation. Our content is written by a qualified barrister. It would really help us and we would appreciate it.

We hope that we can help you in some small way with your Child Maintenance application or questions.

Need to write to the CSA/CMS?

We have produced a series of letter templates to accompany the guides relating to maintenance and support. Why not take a look at these easy to use templates.

Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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[Add a Comment]
Sam stop posting I don't want any contaçt with your( daughter).( And differently don't want anything to do with you) .(i know who your talking to ).i will make things easier I will be deleting fb .(i want nothing to do with any off my famìly except my mother and her partner ).the rest in all honesty I would not piss on and that goes for yourself and your daughter i hope I made myself clear .
Christopher - 19-Nov-20 @ 11:28 PM
Hi , i have one daughter i pay 200pm to her mum . I have her on my weekends , which are Thursday/Friday.My shift pattern at work is now changing and she is telling me i have to pay for the Thursday/Friday child care .So we can both work full time .This will be over £300pm plus the £200.. is this fair ?? Many thanks
Jamie - 19-Nov-20 @ 9:54 PM
Hello can someone help or advise on here. I have battling the CMS for 3 years over wrong assessment of child support. I divorced and sadly went bankrupt same year I moved from paye and earning around 150k to the following year ( when CMS) started earning around 26k. For nearly 2 years the gave me wrong advice on proving my earnings and even last year told me my tax return in hard copy was fine only for me to then find out it was rejected and they then again used my old paye income from 2016! Thankfully I am now paying the right amount each month bu now have a £41,000 debt to CMS because of these miscalculation!! Throughout these 3 years i have stayed in constant touch with them and complained on several occasions always stating they have got everything wrong they simply ignore everything and it's now making me ill and depressed.
Richard - 16-Nov-20 @ 11:00 AM
Hi I'm a women and I think other women are damn right evil and malicious. If the guy didn't want the baby and the guy doesn't get to see the baby when she did have it because she refuses to let him, it is sickening that the guy now has to pay money to the mother. It is damn right outrageous. Men have the worst rights when it comes to children and all this feminine BS about equality. Feminism is about having more power over men. Not equality. Men need fairer rights when it comes to children and decisions. Women and their false allegations costing men jobs and money to defend themselves in court. I am just appauled by the world we live in. The unfairness and injustice to good people. The justice system is also a shambles.
Lauren - 13-Nov-20 @ 4:22 PM
My ex has lied by saying my eldest son who is 19 is in further education, I know he’s never been back to school since he left 3 years ago, but when I asked cms too check for me, all they did was to see if she’s still receiving child benefits, which I know that she lied about that too. How can I stop paying for my eldest child.
Tony - 9-Nov-20 @ 10:43 AM
My son turns 16 on Monday and he’s CMS has been stopped by his father. My son doesn’t finish school till the summer and then all children have to be in education until they are 18 ! How do I go about continuing to get the CMS ? (We are estranged) Thanks
Star - 6-Nov-20 @ 12:04 PM
I have a residence order in place for six years and have not received any maintenance. My daughteris 16 and now looking to live with her mum! Will I have to pay maintenance?
Ant - 30-Oct-20 @ 10:51 PM
Anyone been robbed by the CSA/CMS? I've had problems with them for the last 20 years, resulting in the following, one court case against the CSA which i won and now for the last 6 years and still on going with my clueless and useless pals at the CMS i am fighting an LSDO(£4000 with fees). With the help of ICE(they have been 1st class) they have admitted maladministration offered me £150 compensation and are now looking at 5 years of payments. will not budge on the LSDO but have discovered i have overpaid by £1250(pending closure/takes 53 weeks/JOKE). now in the process of taking them to court again. All the above stems from me not missing a single payment but going from PAYE to self employed and that confused the hell out of their petty little civil servant brains. DEBBIE SMITH take a bow.
CMS are a JOKE - 28-Oct-20 @ 4:11 PM
Sorry, obviously that should read : “can’t afford” rather than can
Krypton - 27-Oct-20 @ 12:59 PM
My son has been divorced for 4 years.He has 2 young children.In February 2020, his ex wife made a series of malicious allegations and involved Social Services, Chams, and the Police.He immediately started family court proceedings to regain access.The police dismissed her first allegations.She went back to them with even worse allegations which again have been dismissed by the police.Family court is ongoing however she has now been onto Child Maintenance, and they have doubled his payments to £800.00 even though it is she who is stopping him access to the kids.Is there any appeal process whilst the Family Court proceedings are ongoing.As a family, we can it afford the court fees and the increased Child Support.Any help very much appreciated
Krypton - 27-Oct-20 @ 12:57 PM
Hi, I’ve got 2 boys aged 10&12.... I really need to know what can and can’t the mother of my kids claim if I have them 2 nights 3 days every weekend... for example if I give her 220 pm can she still claim child,housing and working taxes ect. Thanks in advance
Dc - 23-Oct-20 @ 9:27 PM
My ex has been on the fiddle my son finished school In 2019 July I was still paying for him hes 19 now , I stopped all payments this March due to Covid but now found out he never went back to school yet the cow still had payments how do I get these payments back ? 8 months over payment
Mark - 19-Oct-20 @ 9:48 PM
My eldest daughter turns 18 soon and for the past year she has been living with her boyfriend and has a part time job with the promise of full time one soon, she was in education and apprenticeship but not now from what I've been informed of,do I need too continue paying ? And if she has been living away from her mum for this year with her boyfriend while working a part time job am I owed anything back.
Stig - 16-Oct-20 @ 5:54 PM
If my exwife gets married again do I still have to pay child maintenance?
Garygal - 9-Oct-20 @ 9:58 AM
I have got two girls with one father and one son with other father . Son father pay child maintenance through the proper channel , girls father just pay directlywithout any problems. My questionis sons father claiming that its not right girls father should pay same way . But I got no problemwith girls father we have understanding . I dont want to do that to him girls father never caused problems
Pinks - 8-Oct-20 @ 12:43 PM
Can anyone help please? I am paying CMS payments for the last few years but now have some savings from sale of family home. I am looking to buy a house too as soon as possible (currently in rented) but haven’t found the right place yet. Do I have to declare interest on these savings to the CMS? Thanks!
Markie - 6-Oct-20 @ 9:24 PM
My18 has started and apprenticeship degree. Do I still keep payments up or do they stop now . Which means I can give any monies direct to my 18 yr old not there mother.
Dev - 5-Oct-20 @ 12:25 PM
My son as just turned 18, he hasn't returned to college for his second year but hasn't got a job or an apprenticeship. Do I still have to pay child maintenance for him?
John - 4-Oct-20 @ 10:36 AM
My wife of 15 years left me for the 4th time (2nd) for someone else we have 2 children. She is claiming universal credits, child benefit, £50 maintenance (not alot I admit) but I am living on pot noodles. I have given her everything supported her threw IVA's. She still comes back for more and more. She lives with parents and claims housing universal credits. She got the new partners income. Why is the law against me, she's committed adultery, something needs to change.
Angry Man - 3-Oct-20 @ 12:16 PM
If my son spends his time equally between his mother and myself,should I be paying maintenance? He has mentioned a number of times about living with me. At the moment his mothers niece (25 years old) is living with his mother. I have never missed a payment.
Paddy - 30-Sep-20 @ 8:52 PM
Hi, I haven’t seen my son for over 6 years :(. I have always paid maintenance. He is now over 18 and finished 6th form. I believe he is doing an apprenticeship. Do I need to carry on paying maintenance?
Beas - 30-Sep-20 @ 2:24 PM
Thanks for the laugh Christopher. I needed that and I wish I'd made the same deal with my drunk of an ex. I now work myself into an early grave so she can get wasted on CMS payments. Child is with me of course
Angry Ball - 25-Sep-20 @ 4:49 AM
Hi, bit of knowledge needed please. My ex has broken our informal agreement and now the cms are involved and it is criminal what they are going to take from me. My question is my child is at college but does less than 12 hours per week study, I believe this falls below the full time education criteria! Should this be taken into account and which way should it go, pay more or less? Before I start poking the bear I thought I'd be sure first. Cheers
sterlo - 22-Sep-20 @ 10:49 AM
My ex wife has turned my kids against me and after a year of going to court and costing me thousands she has not stuck to any court order and I can’t afford to take her back to court! And to top it off she is letting them use her surname! What can I do? I’m so stressed
GeraintO - 21-Sep-20 @ 8:13 PM
Can I stop paying as soon as my daughter is 20 even though she will continue in college?
Dave - 20-Sep-20 @ 8:36 AM
Do I still need to pay child maintenance for my child who is over 18 and will have an apprenticeship butstill going to college 1 day a week? As I've read that I have to pay until child maintenance until my child is 20?
gav-o - 19-Sep-20 @ 3:57 PM
My boyfriend and I both have kids and are a blended family. The amount of child support that is taken from him each week leaves him far less to even support himself. I on the other hand do not collect child support. In the even that we do get married and he adopts my kids, would we be able to request to lower his payments? Are we able to request that now? He is a great father who would love to have them full time and its frustrating to see all his hard working money go so fast.
Bri - 15-Sep-20 @ 2:30 AM
All I want now is my surname removed legally from her daughter .i just don't no how to get that done .she will be left nothing when I do die .(and i made it crystal clear they are not welcome at my funeral).(her mother better well explain that to her).she has her mother and her relativesthat's her family .she is not wanted bye myself or any of my famìly that's the gods truth .
Christopher - 11-Sep-20 @ 12:55 AM
I am fully( self aware) that I am not cut out for been a father .and now I am older and realise it was( wrong of me to have a child in the first place) .but in my defense I was only 22 at the time back then I couldn't even make my bed let alone been a father .thats why I was willing to sign parental rights over to her boyfriend he must have wanted a women with children and to take on a father role .i don't think it would have bothered the child at all she would have been happy about the idea .because I never spent any time with the child and now she has a father that spends time her she would happy.( I think I did the right thing for everybody ).
Christopher - 10-Sep-20 @ 11:49 PM
@valpster. I feel for you brother paying support would do my head in .but lucky for me I had a (old school deal with the child's mother) no support for no contact I was even willing to sign my parental rights over to her boyfriend. (Because I new deep inside of me I wasn't cut out for been a father ).i never really wanted children .but if they are married now and living the family life good for them .if they are in a abusive family I don't care its none of my business. Because I was 100 percent committed to the deal I had with child's mother .and one thing I will say about the mother even though I hate her .she keep her end of the deal up so I respect her for that .
Christopher - 10-Sep-20 @ 11:12 PM
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