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A Guide to Child Maintenance Payments

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 30 May 2022 | 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]
Samantha I will never( forgive you )not only did you repeatedly cheat on me and on top off that you sent me to prison ,you are the one that should be begging for my forgiveness. But you think your victim I personally think your the one with mental health .and on top off everything you still won't let me meet bree .just a heads up dont ever come near me because you are the only person( I want to kill and im not afraid off spending the rest off my life in prison for doing it .)you haven't got a distant bone in your body you are (junkieThief that has sex with under age boysthat has put my daughter in jeopardy) .I want to f you up kick your teeth out then cut your throat because your the one thats evil .and you thought sending love hearts on social media you would get me ha ha ha you loser .
Truth - 30-May-22 @ 9:42 PM
My 16 year old daughter just started a paid apprenticeshipand goes college 1 day a week do i still pay child maintenance
Moz - 30-May-22 @ 12:36 PM
Any advise please My ex have changed the surname of my son with my concern. Do i have to report it? and to who? What happen to my case maintenance case, now his name has change.
JB - 13-May-22 @ 5:02 PM
My ex have change the surname of my son to hers, without my concern. Do i have to report to who? Do i still have to pay child maintenance if his surname is not mine anymore.
JB - 13-May-22 @ 4:57 PM
My husbands ex wife has gone to the csa after him paying maintenance for 6+ years since they separated. He was briefly unemployed due to being paid off and had no money to give her while I covered the bills. She has claimed he only has them less than 52 days a year. We have them every second weekend so that falls into the next bracket 52-103 (we also have them a week in easter/summer/October & some days at xmas). He has called csa but they are still saying they base off this calculation! Along with his previous years earnings, which he no longer makes due to his new job paying less! What can we do!? This is causing so much stress & anxiety! She wants direct pay but will not speak to him either!
ACass19 - 30-Apr-22 @ 12:42 AM
Hi my hubbys ex went to the CSA when they had a brief separation.They got back together until 2018when they separated and got divorced!The CSA are after him from 2015, but they were together then!We have evidence that proves that they were together!Can they still make Him pay from 2015? The ex has made a false claim In our eyes and this shouldn’t the case? Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Bella - 26-Apr-22 @ 11:32 AM
My partner wants to see his 17 yr old daughter but she doesn’t want to and my partner feels she is being manipulated by his ex (mum). She is now asking for maintenance and saying he never has care of her…. But if he had the choice he would have her half the time! Is there anything that can be done here? It’s not that he is refusing to look after her - it’s that his daughter is for some reason not wanting to see him anymore..
Lucy - 7-Apr-22 @ 6:34 PM
If the mother has kicked both her children out one child 15 years old and the other 17 both in educationand are both now living with the father can he claim child maintenance from the mother? Thank you
TC - 7-Apr-22 @ 4:36 PM
My daughter has started working while at college and my ex is taking money from her wages. Do I still pay the full maintenance that was agreed ?
Sb - 31-Mar-22 @ 10:51 AM
Hello - I have three children who I am paying Child maintenance for. I am paying for my two girls in Australia and for my girl in the UK. The UM Child Maintenance people do not, however, recognise the fact that I am paying for three children (two of them in Australia) and calculate the maintenance payment for my UK Child as though I was only supporting her. Can somebody please help me and advise how I can get this corrected? I have spoken to the DWP/ CMS line month after month but it seems people are unable to help. I would appreciate any advice anybody would have. Best regards!
Holger - 28-Mar-22 @ 8:48 PM
This country must stop rewarding women who plan pregnancy, trick men and then don't need to work - the child is their meal ticket. My son was making regular direct debit payments but nasty ex wanted CSA involved so she could buy more clothes and takeaways. It wasn't about the child. Now we can't make contributions to a little savings account for the child for when she's older, because lazy, greedy mother is getting it. Courts should allow dad's to save regularly for their child's future, not line the benefit claiming mothers purse with more money she doesn't earn. What does it teach the poor child, not striving, working, achieving, but sit back, claim all you can. It really is shocking.
Eg - 6-Oct-21 @ 9:08 AM
How much of the payments i make to my ex does she actually receive
Cockneythug - 13-Sep-21 @ 6:22 PM
My sons father used to pay child support through the csa which we know is no longer a going concern. He has just stopped paying for our son as he is 16 yet our son is continuing on to full time education. I informed him via text that he needs to continue to pay until he is 18 yet he has ignored any further communication with me.What can I do now?
Jules - 1-Sep-21 @ 7:00 AM
Hi, I have one child living with me and the other living with his mum. I am aware of the shared care rule with the CMS whereby if one or more children spend their time equally with each parent then neither pays but apparently this doesn’t take into account the equally shared burden of one child with each parent?!? Surely both scenarios are in effect the same thing so any ideas on how to get CMS to be reasonable here? Thanks.
Gary - 27-Aug-21 @ 5:21 PM
My daughter is now 18 and has just finished her college course. Now that course has completed do I have to carry on paying maintenance if the following happens. 1 she starts a completely different course to the one she has just taken. 2 if she doesn’t start the course till January. (Do I stop paying till January) 3 if she gets a job for a year but then leaves that job to go back to college. Do I then have to start paying again?
Tony - 12-Aug-21 @ 4:37 PM
I have a set arrangment to have my two children every 2nd Wknd for 2 nights and through CSA we have a calculated amount I pay each month, however I am taking my children away on holiday for 11 full days should I still have to pay the same amount this month?
John - 12-Aug-21 @ 11:34 AM
If a dad pays maintenance and his ex has either remarried or living with sum1as man and wife. Does the dad have to pay more towards his child if a payment plan is set in place. As he pays her monthly but as she's going into secondary school she wants more money. Is this fair on the dad. He's a work colleague of mine.
Darling - 5-Aug-21 @ 12:52 PM
I currently have my son once a week I pay £45 a week maintenance. I've been asked to have him for 2 weeks during summer holidays, should I pay maintenance for those 2 weeks?
Mike - 29-Jul-21 @ 5:42 PM
I am separated from my ex,we have 4 kids together,15,12,7,6, she has kicked the 12 year old out due to his temper and he is now living with me,the 15 year will be leaving the family home at the weekend apparently to live with her family member. ( the 15 doesn't want to live with me). How do i go on with child maintenance? I can't afford to pay 4 kids, 2 that don't live with her and have to pay extra for my 12 year old. Is there anything I can do Thanks
SH - 27-Jul-21 @ 6:41 PM
Hi, my son dropped out of full time education a year ago and started full time employment. Now 18yrs old he has decided to resume full time education- must I resume maintenance costs?
Mike - 22-Jul-21 @ 7:16 PM
Hi, I'm paying maintance for my child who's 18 and will be continuing in full time non advanced aproved Education from September, studying L3 (A level) . I've been told that they are looking for a part time job. Will I still have to pay maintenance if they have a part time job and still in education? Thank you.
D - 12-Jul-21 @ 4:53 PM
Ifpaying child main bit chil ears over 300 a week why do I still pay for her shes at collage
David - 4-Jul-21 @ 3:53 PM
If my ex gets a new boyfriend do I still have to pay maintenance in full
Cfc - 12-Jun-21 @ 5:36 AM
Hi I was wondering if someone could give me some help/advice my son is 21 a payment plan was put in place through the csa with his mother when he was growing up which I stuck too but there was areas at the beginning I don’t pay for my son now but Im still getting a deduction order out of my wages for the debt even tho the mother isn’t getting any of it is this right can they still just take what they want ?
Steve - 8-Jun-21 @ 9:04 PM
Hi, I hasn’t received my child maintenance this month and have found out that my daughters father is in prison and will be there for 12 months. What happeneds to my child maintenance and if I dont get it while he is in prison. Will it be back paid when he gets out? TIA x
Sha - 8-Jun-21 @ 5:14 PM
Hi I've a son who is 16 and will be going to do his A levels on September but also has a part time job. Do I still pay maintenance to his mum until he's 18? Thanks in advance
C - 31-May-21 @ 5:06 PM
My God, I was looking for some advice. This is pure horror, all that fighting on websites. You damage the children by doing that! This is what my boyfriend his ex also is doing... Don’t you all (who seek for negatieve attention) even posting things on Facebook! Feel ashamed of yourself, putting you first and then the children, So the whole world would be against him. (Always two sides of the story). But you need brains to see that. You know what.... I feel sorry for most dad’s! They get arrested because of lies or exaggeration. And it seems so easy here to do! We never talk dirt about his ex when one of his children is around, one she still keeps away from his dad and it causes psychological problems for both of them and us, talking dirt, never! because it is still his mom. She is just looking for attention to express her hate. Even uses her health conditions to make things look worse (I feel sorry for her) I put children first! And in private we talk about issues, but never put the children in the middle! They are damaged already for the rest of their lives! Talk to eachother! With or without counseling. But stop talking dirt about one of the two or both and damaging the children!! They struggle for the rest of their lives and their relationships.... just think about it please!
Please think! - 26-May-21 @ 7:15 AM
Seeking advice I'm a separated dad. My ex and I were short term but unexpected twins. She kicked me out 2019 because I was getting in the way of her single parent benefits. When moving she said I needed to move to a place near a station so she could get the boys to and from. A couple of weeks after I moved she stopped access and we arranged family mediation and agreed on when I could see the boys. We also agreed an amount to pay her. This continued to lockfown when she requested I have them every weekend.I agreed and in July I requested a weekend to myself. She refused for weeks until eventually agreeing late August. I had one weekend and on returning them she said it was the last time I would see them for a long time. She then prevented access for 3 months resulting in me applying to court. She also then submitted that I was at risk of kidnapping and we are still sitting court for claims of abuse. The court has ruled I can see them as we had agreed prior lockdown. She has also since now put a claim to CMS for an amount of arrears despite agreement and also now insisting on more than what was agreed. I love my children to the ends of the world and will do everything I can to give them the best life but I cannot afford her demands and will not be able to give them any form of what I hoped to see my kids have. My only option of survival is to remove them entirely from my life and hope that when the kids are at an age they ask about me they find it in their heart to forgive me, hopefully I can build a relationship then. Can CMS honestly believe that removing a father from two children is the best interests of the children or am I seeing it completely wrong? Input would be great
Grimby - 24-May-21 @ 8:17 PM
My son who is 18 finishes his college course this year. As he has decided to cut me out of his life and not tell me how he is getting on, does his mother have to provide proof if he stays on at college next school year ?
Kenny77 - 19-May-21 @ 10:28 AM
My daughter is 18 and is just finishing sixth form college. My Question is, when do I stop paying the mother. I will continue to support my daughter as always but from what I understand payments stop now she’s going to college or uni after the summer
Mike - 17-May-21 @ 12:11 PM
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