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A Guide to Child Maintenance Payments

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 12 Apr 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]
Hi, my daughter turns 18 this summer and is currently doing A levels. She is planning to go to Uni after but would the cma/csa payments stop after she finished her A levels? Not trying to get out of paying as I do provide for her on top of this monthly payment to the mother and she is over at mine quite a bit. It's more so because I know none of the money I pay each month is going towards her so want to be giving this direct to my daughter each month instead. Thanks
L - 12-Apr-21 @ 8:52 PM
I came to this site looking for advice on child maintenance and I’m in shock to see how many comments you have all made in regards to not wanting to pay to support your child. If your child lived with you how much do you think that would actually cost you? And the only contribution you have to make is a small proportion of what you earn. You’re not paying for their mothers lifestyle (as most people believe), you’re paying to help feed your child, put a roof over their head, clothe them... At the end of the day two people made the child, two people should pay for them.
The truth hurts - 10-Apr-21 @ 9:30 AM
Hello I've been paying for my kids for years, I found out by my ex, they are not attending collage, but getting work sent by email or sent by post, is this still aloud, coz there not doing 16 hours a week as here's in bed all day many thanks colin
Fireblade - 7-Apr-21 @ 7:09 PM
Hi, My child turns 18 at the end of September 2021. She is currently working part time and is also at college doing GCSE maths and CTech Level 3 health & Social. When would I stop paying child support please?
Drapes. - 3-Apr-21 @ 4:45 PM
My daughter is now 19 and I understand she is going uni . I’m guessing that she must have done her A levels at school. And finished full time education at 18 .the child benefit office have told me that child benefit can’t be claimed if she is at uni . The uni is advanced education and my question is do I still have to pay CMS if she is a uni ?
O - 1-Apr-21 @ 5:55 PM
Hi, My son Turns 16 November 2021 My Understanding is I would still need to make maintenance payments Until August 2022 as he will still receive Child Benefit. I have no Communication with his Mother or My Son. I have no way of to prove he’s actually going to stay on at School or If it’s collage he’s going to be going. Can I stop my payment And receive proof of attendance. I pay his mother directly vie bank transfer the Amount has all been arranged by Child maintenance Service. Any advice would be excellent thanks.
John Mitchell - 1-Apr-21 @ 1:14 PM
I have a son aged 18, and I have been paying child support since he was 8, I have called the college to check if he’s attending and his mother does not speak to me nor does my son. How can I check that my son does attend college ? Do I still have to pay the payments ?? I am unsure how long he is at college or if he actually goes.
CGF - 1-Apr-21 @ 11:41 AM
My father never paid child maintenance from the moment I was born until I turned 18 and left full time education. My mom really struggled and I feel she still needs the money she lost out on to keep a roof over our head. Can we get a CMS agreement even though I am now over 18? I have a letter stating he has paid nothing but surely he still technically owes my mom this money?
Jas - 1-Apr-21 @ 9:26 AM
Hi , my hubby daughter , is moving away for college. He’s ex was soon on the phone for more money towards college fees . What I would like to know , if his daughter moves away from home to go to college, will he still have to pay Maintance . As we can’t afford to pay Maintance & college fees etc etc
Sammysam99 - 23-Mar-21 @ 6:23 PM
Ex wife never told csa that my child had left fulltime education and started work, 16 months later I found out and ceased paying, informed csa....and told them over £4700 had been taken from me wrongly.....they did not want to know and made up every excuse not to do anything.....why are these people allowed to throw us in jail without any reason, but don't care if the father is finacially abused?
Bunty - 15-Mar-21 @ 9:23 PM
I have a question as I'm a little puzzled. I live in Sweden, I have two children in the UK with an ex-partner. I pay the whole of the mortgage and other bills. Is this in anyway deductible to the CMA payment?
DJM - 15-Mar-21 @ 3:03 PM
I currently pay child support through a family based arrangement but for the last 12 months 2 of my 3 children have lived with me. Is it correct I should continue full payments to my ex ? She currently still claims the child benefit and universal credit
Mrp611 - 24-Feb-21 @ 4:14 PM
Hi, my daughter has just turned 16, she has just got a job and will starting soon after that then she willbe going onto do college course in September. Will I still have to pay maintenance when she goes to college or does it stop once she starts work ?
Queenside - 22-Feb-21 @ 8:03 PM
Last post . gods truth I am not her (biological father anyway) .in reality I never had any children i was just there step dad for a( short period time a very long time ago).when I was very young and naive.
C laurie - 17-Feb-21 @ 4:36 PM
Sam stop posting .you got your way have your daughter if is pregnant she just wreacked her life but thats your and your partner issues. I'm doing what right for me I'm buying in the near future 800 acres with my brothers make a go off a farm business. You will do you bounce from one relationship to next get caught cheating get abused thats your way off life .and bye the sounds off things it will be the same for your daughter .as long as it makes you happy you will be grandmother soon looking after a baby .yeah that's not my lifestyle. But all the best to yours .
C laurie - 17-Feb-21 @ 4:06 PM
Hi my child has turnt 16 in November and has had her own child how long do I have to pay child maintenance for thanks jay
Jay - 17-Feb-21 @ 12:45 PM
If your ex partner earns a lot more than you do but they split from you and then you pay maintance how is this fair for the guy in this case me who earns alot less than the ex/children's mother and I have had to rent a place so I can have my children while she still gets about 25% of my income a month
Mm - 15-Feb-21 @ 2:18 PM
Hi my son wants to move in with his girlfriend and her family he is only 17 will I still have to pay child maintenance
Tray - 15-Feb-21 @ 12:35 PM
Hi! My daughter lost her mother my ex wife in 2016. Before that I had my daughter 2 nights a week shared care. Since her mums death she has lived with myself and my new wife. Since the start of 2020 she seems and sided with scheming grandparents (Mother parents) and has said she doesn't like living with us anymore and her grandparents have taken to live there without my full consent. Her grandparents keep saying her happiness is their only priority. I think my daughter is playing one off the other because she proabably knows she gets her own way there more and perhaps thinks now she can get a better quality of life there. She has been living there full time now sine the Sep 2020 and coming here occasionally when she wants something with out my consent. Her grandparents are now seeking child maintenance through CMS even though i have not consented to this? Where do I stand with this please as her father ? I have tried to reconcile with her but she adamant she wants to live there now. I have provided a loving home and done nothing wrong to deserve this treatment?
Ping - 10-Feb-21 @ 9:54 AM
My daughter finishes her college in Septemberwhich has taken her 2 years. She turns 18 in June. She has decided to take another course, I am sure she was persuaded, do I still have to pay maintenance? Would happily support an apprenticeship but loathed to pay for a pointless course.
Bob - 26-Jan-21 @ 10:59 PM
Hello all. Check out Family Law in Partnership website (flip). Very useful!
Beenie - 26-Jan-21 @ 10:54 AM
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
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