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A Guide to Child Maintenance Payments

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 19 Jan 2021 | 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]
I am pay a volontary child maintenance But now my ex wants more money even if I got the children for 2/3 nights a week A) do l have to include the holiday days when I do the calculation B) if l use the CSA or CMSdo the charge extra? Thank you
Alfy - 19-Jan-21 @ 10:59 AM
Sam if going to hit me child support you better hurry you are running out off time fast .have good life you life you old slapper. hey Cinderella go find yourself a fella .and stop posting .bree older enough to find me now if she wants .
C laurie - 13-Jan-21 @ 11:43 PM
In reality i am more like allen ,Shane, Cecil.we are a( dieing breed) and there is not many who is left in reality most have (past) .it was good time when I was Young good party's and good fights .it was a (different time) .but I was in (my element )and they where my tribe my brothers .and in same weird way we all looked after each other .even if we got in drunken punch up next day we best mates again laughing at our black eyes.they don't make people like us anymore we are a dieing breed .it is what is but if your trying cat categorise label me with anyone its these guys .
C laurie - 13-Jan-21 @ 10:40 PM
Sam ,stop trying to match me up with all theses guys ,one minute you think I am mick ,Jamie, Dan,ash,markie ,who eles was there timmy ,johnboy ,blaze. I am none off these guys I am my( own men with my own personality) .that see straight though a women like you and all the guys you just mentioned yours are all little prawns .
C laurie - 13-Jan-21 @ 9:42 PM
My ex partner who is Hungarian and leaves my daughter with me every other weekend and on multiple occasions throughout the year for weeks on end when she returns to Hungary has now decided she’s going to go through CSA rather than our civil agreement of 7 years. Meaning that instead of £60 a week (plus I paid for all my daughters school meals, clothes and school uniform etc on top of this, including when she goes back to Hungary for weeks and leaves our daughter with me) she now wants £100 a week and csa won’t take into consideration that I do have more daughter for more than just every other weekend. What do I do
Dan - 13-Jan-21 @ 6:29 PM
I have recently become divided and we have sorted out all finances. We have 3 kids ,2 who have lived with me permanently since March 2020, the 3rd I have 2 or 3 nights a week. I still pay child support to the ex for all 3 kids but now feel I should only be paying about a third of what we agreed as theoretically I am paying for them twice Any similar situations out there ?
Mrp611 - 12-Jan-21 @ 7:30 PM
I got a girl pregnant whilst I was abroad and we have come to the mutual agreement that I can see the baby. The problem is I live around 5 hours away and the baby hasn’t been born yet. How much money would I be expected to pay for the set up of the child - ie, equipment, cot etc. thanks James
James - 15-Dec-20 @ 11:29 PM
Hi all. I separated from my wife in March after finding out she was cheating. I left behind my 2 girls. I pay regular maintenance of 100 pounds a week that we came to the agreement of between us. Not CSA. I have my girls every other weekend for the whole weekend and I travel 3 hours each way to see them and take them with me as she moved away when we separated. My question is, if I have my girls for a week or more, should my ex be sending me maintenance payments as I send her or do I carry on sending it to her even when my girls are with me? Thank you for any help given
Woody - 9-Dec-20 @ 9:33 PM
Hi all l have a daughter she is 18 years old and started a university got a student loan but still lives with her mother and l still pay a maintenance to her mother l don't know if l should stop paying her mum the maintenance.
Miki - 8-Dec-20 @ 12:40 AM
@Sam.in my situation I don't care if the mother had( social services called on her I don't care if the child was taking into care) .all I want to say is your on your own with (bree) .my advice is with kid age now she older enough stand on own two feet .good luck with your lifes.
Christopher - 3-Dec-20 @ 1:20 AM
@Sam.in my situation I will not be( seeking legal advice) .(it might be my right to see my daughter but I don't want to see her ).i never payed support in 11 years if she hits me now it is what is .l(i wish there family well in life ).(all I ask is to be left alone forever so I can get on with my life) .
Christopher - 3-Dec-20 @ 12:27 AM
Hi, Sorry to hear about the parent struggling to see their kids. You have the right to have your children and should seek legal advice. I have been dealing with various changes with my CMS from employed to not to self employed and employed again on various pay scales with a voluntary arrangement monitored by CMS. The CMS maintenance calculator is always a good reference point. CMS calculate your contribution based on the number of “nights” your children stay with you- which is sometimes the reason you would sense resistance in having your children- and your last reported annual income. Either or both can significantly amplify or reduce your costs. Over 20% up or down on your income should be communicated to CMS as well of employment status. Be patient with CMS, ask for name and if they log the file and you will get to a fair result. I have had my fair share of challenges but the more proactive and accurate you are, the less painful it gets.
Sam - 2-Dec-20 @ 10:53 PM
Looking for advice here. My son has been kept from me based on accusationswith no evidence and this has been going on for a year. This has had a huge effect on my mental health and things that used to be hard for me to stay on top of due to organisation have become seemingly impossible due to lack of focus and depression. I have just revived a alerter from cms saying that I owe just over 550 which I really don't mind paying but I don't want to be punished or fined. The way I saw it is that paying her money to just be told i can't see my own boy was torture. I couldn't bring myself to do it. Any advice would be great.
Greg - 1-Dec-20 @ 11:42 AM
I have 2 kids kayani and Corey with exwife Zara am paying £290 up to £400 some month Corey 16- Kayani 18 in 4month I don’t see or talk to them for years because of the mother so I just wanted to know how long will I have to keep paying child support to my ex wife Zara Gaz - 29-Nov-20 @ 11:25 AM
Gaz - 29-Nov-20 @ 11:28 AM
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
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