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A Guide to Child Maintenance Payments

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 25 Jan 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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Hi i wonder if someone could advice me on whether my partner should be paying child maintenance still. His daughter is 18 in college. Due to start university in September she also works herself. He is so soft and helps where he can but leaves us flat broke. He pays her car finance,child maintenance,her phone bill and other things. Should he still be paying support even when shes working herself?
Bottom of the chain - 25-Jan-20 @ 12:32 PM
My husbands had recently got a new job, his wage has increased there for the payments to his ex has increased for their now 8 year old son. (Through CSA) My husband is now travelling to work, paying for parking etc. We have a loan we are paying off and other substantial outgoings. We have paid to go to court twice (as his mother refused to go to mediation) to ensure we have my step son regularly which is fantastic as the bond between my husbands and his son is unbreakable, we legally have him two nights less a month (School term time and joint custody in the holidays) than his mother and them two nights he doesn’t actually spend at his mothers house he’s at his grandads, the reason for this is that she works in the evenings, the reason for her not allowing us to have him 50/50 custody is that my husband works on a Saturday My husband has to pay over £130 a month for him. We pay for his clothes/ bed/ toys everything. We are literally living month to month to get by. Why do we pay so much in CSA if any when she is reviewing his child allowance too? It says paying a for child maintenance is for housing/ clothes/ food etc But we receive no help with this??
SO - 22-Jan-20 @ 11:03 AM
I share custody with my ex wife and have my kids minimum 3 nights a week and 50% of the school holidays. The courts also issued me a joint residence order. What do I need to pay her each month. She has a great job and the payments I’m making to Her are crippling me. Makes me so sad when she keeps taking them out no expenses spared and I’m left skint unable to do nice things. I also pay for all the clubs and child care and dinners etc etc on my days and uniforms clothes etc Is this really correct ??
Charley - 19-Jan-20 @ 11:30 PM
My son is 18 andworks part time taking home about 600 pcm. He is just finishing the a levels and goes on to college in Sept to do a higher education course. Do I still have to pay and if not when do I stop?
Broke dad - 19-Jan-20 @ 7:07 PM
My Son is 16 in March 2020 and will leave school in July 2020. He will be at college 1 day a week and an apprenticeship the remaining 4 days. I see him every weekend and pay maintenance to his mum monthly. At what age will my maintenance payments stop?
Bob - 16-Jan-20 @ 9:31 AM
My husband no longer has shared care of his children with his ex ( not his choice), his son no longer wanted to make the long journey's so their mother agreed to not send them over again ( we live 50 miles away), we have 2 children of our own now & no longer wanted to live where we used to live, so we moved. CSA have got in touch with their mom & said my husband owes £48 a week due to no longer having shared care, is this correct? I have done a calculation on Gov.uk & it says he should only be paying £36 a week (without shared care). I'm currently out of work, so he is the the sole income earner & he is on a low income. Thanks
F_D - 14-Jan-20 @ 9:23 PM
Hi. I have a 6-year-old son from Oxford. His mother, who I was never with got pregnant whilst we were in Australia and I'm Irish. I live in Liverpool now as I had to make a compromise as I don't even want to live in England at all but I want to see my son regularly. I pay a lot of money to see my son every month. Probably more than his mother spends on him. I try to take him home to Ireland as much as possible as this is home for me. I have very little going for me in England. The problem I have is that paying maintenance (£200) a month is really affecting me financially. As I already pay on average £400-500 per month all in to see my son. This includes flights, trains food and clothing etc when i have him. I have 2 jobs just to get by. I live in a shared house which is not ideal when i bring him to Liverpool. Is there any help i can get? Is there a point where if you can't afford it, you don't pay. I feel like i shouldnt be paying maitenance because i know i already pay lots more than her just to see my son, and i can't go on like this for another 10 years. I'm 31 and i'm really struggling. I don't have time or money for relationships or friends. If i were to go back to Ireland i'd be paying even more on flights to bring him back and fourth. I'm not suicidal by any means but i can see why young men would take their own lives regularly. It feels like we have to suck it up and get on with it no matter the situation we are in. Please somebody recommend something that doesnt involve me moving outside of Liverpool. I think i'll have to move home soon and take the hit of seeing my son less just give him and myself a better chance at succeeding in life.
naloac - 14-Jan-20 @ 3:01 PM
My son will be turning 18 soon he is doing an apprenticeship I am single I have a daughter who is 14 will my maintenance stop for my 18 year old ?
Was - 12-Jan-20 @ 6:54 PM
Hi my child will be turning 18 in may he is doing an apprenticeship . I am single and have another daughter at 14 . Will the maintenance stop fully for my 18 year old .
Moo - 12-Jan-20 @ 6:49 PM
Good morning, I have a letter from the child maintenance service stating that they will be writing off my arrears permanently. Am i still liable to pay child support meaning will a new case be opened
Peter piper - 12-Jan-20 @ 8:21 AM
My son is nearly 3 and I have been trying to get a family agreement with my ex partner but she has repeatedly refused that offer and said if she wanted money from me, she would go through CSA. The reason I want to go down this route was due to me paying a loan back which I took out and transferred the funds it to her account due to moving house. Ever since that happened, I felt like she has been forcing me out of her life which didn't end well and since we split up, she has done nothing but argue with me and making my life worse than when we was together. Since we split she's lied about cheating on me, constantly having a go and eventually I moved back to where we moved from yet still she is threatening to go through csa and not accepting my offer to pay her small amounts to help her. Can she do this and if so, what would the csa say if I told them that I repeatedly offered to pay her straight from my bank account yet she refused and went through csa anyway? I just feel like she'll go through csa no matter what happens just so she can get the revenge she's always wanted. Also, would the amount I have to pay back be affected with the fact that I'm paying the loan back?
Gavin - 2-Jan-20 @ 11:47 PM
Hi. I have two sons (twins) who have just turned 17 at Christmas. I have been paying maintenance since my ex-wife and I separated 10 years ago, by mutual agreement, not through CSA. One son is attending a years college course in life skills 4 days a week, and the other son now has an apprenticeship, attending collage one day a week, working four days full time. I do not necessarily want to stop paying for them but would like to know where I stand legally as far as my payments for each individual child is concerned. Am I still required to pay for both or just the son in 'full time' education? Thanks
CH - 30-Dec-19 @ 11:10 PM
Hi my daughter is 18 she is in apprenticeship but not full time. She also lives with here boyfriend which is not living with me or her father do we still have to pay csa
Suz - 28-Dec-19 @ 6:42 PM
Hi, I have had custody of my daughter for 4 years, I always paid maintenance before this, every month, at times it went through the CSA, then we came to an agreement that I paid in cash, yes this was naïve on my part. Now, I have never asked my childs mother for a penny, just to help her through college with bus fares etc, but now she is being really awkward and I have told her I will be applying for CM. Since her case has been closed for 4 years can she turn the tables and say I didn't pay even though I did in cash as explained?
Shuma2610 - 27-Dec-19 @ 5:09 PM
My son has Asperger's syndrome he not in education or work how long do I legally have to pay CSA hes18 also is he entitled to some benefit as his mum won't say if she loses out can he get JSA or anything for his disability plz
Paul Atkinson - 21-Dec-19 @ 11:09 PM
I've received a message from the day to day parent saying that my maintenance is better going on my children who live me and doesn't want to it. Does this she has surrendered her maintenance?
DWhiteman89 - 21-Dec-19 @ 5:13 PM
My eldest daughter lives with me permanently but the other 2 with my ex, I have my children every weekend, how should we work out a fair amount and what about times I'm not working?
Daz - 29-Nov-19 @ 11:34 AM
My children were put in my care Aug 2016, I received my first payment in Feb 2018 after making my £20 payment in Sep 2016. The mother then cancelled payments for July and Aug it then went to deduction from earnings which started in Sep 2018, she has been paying through deductions of earning up until Aug 2019 when the CMS changed payments to direct debit and as soon as this was done she cancelled payments. I have been told so many lies and different stories. Now i receive nothing and waiting a call back even though i call weekly! I am owed £4590. I requested a copy of all my com's between myself and the CMS because i was getting sick to death of their bull so i could write to my MP and what do i hear on the CD's they sent me, 2 employee's of the CMS taking the mick out of me and laugh at my expenses! absolute joke, the employees are dishonest and disrespectful. All i got was a closed cased.... Explain that!!
CSJP - 29-Nov-19 @ 11:15 AM
I’ve got a personal agreement with my child’s mother regarding monthly maintenance payments, No CSA involved. However she’s recently become awkward with my access Can I stop giving her money every month and put it to one side until I get access again or would this go against me further down the line if I had to go through courts?
KP - 28-Nov-19 @ 9:37 PM
@steph.i haven’t seen my daughter sence she was 5 she is 16 now .i have never paid child support and I wouldn’t no if she is doing a apprenticeship or in school .(i hope she is in school or doing a apprenticeship )from the research I have done I am legally required to pay child support but that was up to her mother .i personally think she never went to child support was because she was with my uncle and a roofer the whole entire time she lived in (my house ).i don’t know about everyone else but that’s not how (relationships work) I am so glad I don’t (deal) with this women anymore (gods truth ).and the reason I walked away .
Chris - 20-Nov-19 @ 7:10 PM
@life.i can relate to your story except the (suicide and child support part).i understand the frustration when you want to meet your (own child) but have orders on you And I know first hand how difficult it is to see your child then .i understand for me I had to walk away for my own sanity .because the mother off my child is older and so is the guy is was sleeping with my (own uncle and other family members)he would off been in her ear ha ha .they deserve each other gods truth .for me I will see my daughter again shewill realise for herself what her mother is like and understand my decision to walk away .
Chris - 20-Nov-19 @ 6:37 PM
My son is now 16, he is doing an apprenticeship, also retaking English at the college. Should his father still pay maintenance for him? Thanks
Steph - 20-Nov-19 @ 6:30 PM
My husband has been paying for his sons child maintenance since he was 2 years old and that was the last time he has seen him. He’s now 5 years old. My husband was never married to his sons mother but they had broken up but got back together when the child's mother said she’s pregnant with his baby. They both never got on and made my husbands life so bad that he attempted suicide but survived it. He soon moved out and got his own place and was able to see his son but then his ex stopped it all and my husband went through court which went on for years. The ex made up so many accusations about my husband to Court which were all lies but unfortunately my husband did not do the same because he was afraid they both could lose the child and the child could end up in care. All this made my husband so unhappy and he started to suffer from high blood pressure. His ex is older than my husband and has been married before with an older son who also has never seen his father and she claims benefits pretends her son is crazy and has never sent him to school. My husband decided to stop it all and now has not seen his son for 3 years and not allowed to even write or send gifts but by law needs to pay child maintenance for over £400 a month. How is this fair? The justice system in the uk sucks!!
Life - 20-Nov-19 @ 12:34 PM
@wazza.even though the mother off my child and myself don't see eye to eye with a lot off things and it was a[ messy break up to say the lest ].she has never hit for child support and she has single handed raised my daughter without any help from me .i will see my daughter again one day .i am letting her mother and partner raise there children in peace i gave them in enough trouble .
greg - 6-Nov-19 @ 10:14 PM
@wozza.that sounds like nightmare (16 000 pounds taking out your account)ex wife got your (house) and kids are in there 20 s.(did he get to see the kids after the divorce?).my daughter is 15 i haven’t payed child support that does( scare me how they can take money out your account like that) .but on brighter note for me I don’t have 16 000 in the bank all they get off me 16 dollars ?? and the mother off my child never took my house (I didn’t have one take and still don’t) .i hope she doesn’t want my 16 dollars and my room in my share house that’s just (evil) and on top off that I have been (allowed )to see the child .at least she won’t cripple my business I have cash business (recycling )
Greg - 6-Nov-19 @ 5:21 PM
I am writing this for my friend who cannot see very well at the moment as he is waiting for a cataracts operation. I hope I have all his details correct. 'I have just had £16,000 taken out of my bank account for my two children who are both over 20 years old. The kids have lived with their mother and grand mother ever since we split up and divorced. My wife gained the family home, that was our agreement. This will cripple my business and may well make me bankrupt. My ex wife and I had an agreement when we separated. Please can somebody tell me if there is a cut off point for claiming maintenance payments? This payment has come completely out of the blue and my children are over 20 years old, the youngest being 22). Thank you in advance for any help and/or advice you are able to give. W Timmins'
Wozza - 6-Nov-19 @ 1:54 PM
Hi my ex whom I have three children with has come to heads with his employers and he will be leaving the business I believe there will be a settlement figure given to him. He has now said he will no longer be paying maintenance as he is classified as unemployed even though he will be receiving a large payoff. I would also of thought he would be paid his three months notice period and holidays due etc.. Are my children therefore not going to be entitled to maintenance from his payments? Thank you in advance
Ginger - 5-Nov-19 @ 3:07 PM
My son turns 18 in February, but has finished college as he was struggling as is now looking for work. Will I still have to pay maintenance to his mother until he is 20 whether he finds work or not?
Matt - 5-Nov-19 @ 10:54 AM
@aqua.i have never had a court order to see the child and never will .and if her mother thinks I would go back to her she must have (mental issues) .and if I don’t see my maybe daughter again (oh well) it is want it is .so we have come full circle and everyone has a (sound understanding off the situation).and everyone has found peace and have there own lives to live .no need to bring up the past I am (done) with the past .
C.laurie - 23-Oct-19 @ 12:20 AM
If my ex ignores court order and refuse contact do I still have to pay child maintenance?
Aqua - 22-Oct-19 @ 8:53 PM
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