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A Guide to Child Maintenance Payments

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 30 Jan 2024 | 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'm paying Maintenance for my 16 year old son who was in full time education at college but has since dropped out at the beginning of this year and I am unable to find any concrete answers as to if I still have to pay or not. I am willing to pay him direct an amount as I struggled to pay tha amount CSA set. So my question is do I still have to pay or not??? Any advice greatly appreciated
Barney - 30-Jan-24 @ 8:42 AM
Five year old daughter spends 8 consecutive nights with mum followed by 6 with me. I am not willing to pay the ‘advised’ maintenance direct to her bank for near 50/50 custody, almost 10% of my salary this cannot be right? Mum threatening to go through CMS, and also complaining that it is not me ‘looking after’ daughter. Daughter gets on great with my girlfriend and mother so they help out with some school, evenings, weekend babysitting as I have work and sometimes other commitments. Any advise from similar situation would be appreciated.
DannyJ - 9-Aug-23 @ 5:39 PM
I too would like to know how you get the cms to listen when the paying party has a dispute about the child leave education before it is 18 years old then deciding to return after a year's break and still claim for cms because I was led to believe if they leave education or dont attend before their 18th birthday then all cma payments stop. I've since been told the payments will only stop when child benefits stop and not before,so this means that the receiving party will still get cma whether they attend or not is this correct.
Abused father - 6-Aug-23 @ 11:29 AM
Mu ex-wife (who I have two children with) made false allegations to the CMS about me receiving extra money on top of my Universal Credit. The CMS has rejected her accusations, but has allowed an appeal which will be taken to HM Courts in due time. Does anyone know if the courts will automatically go through my personal details (eg:bank accounts etc.)as part of this process; or are the allegations likely to be rejected once the HMRC has been consulted ? Any advice would be most welcome.
Martymack - 20-Jul-23 @ 3:12 AM
I would (never )marry a (slapper like you )let alone (date )I curse the day i had bree to you .I’m old school to a (fault )I should have fought you tooth and nail( bitch) I could have raised her better as a single men
Chris - 12-Jul-23 @ 10:09 AM
Your a clown that’s why you hide bree because if she come to me she would drop you in heart beat junkie whore love dogs more then your child
Chris - 12-Jul-23 @ 9:44 AM
My husband hasn't seen his daughter for 7 years now she is now 17 no contact whatsoever. We still have a yearly letter come thru from child maintenance to pay the ex so we do but how do they know that she is still in education and not an apprenticeship earning money and the greedy ex is just taking our money
Moaning minnie - 12-Jul-23 @ 6:20 AM
Hopefully someone can help with a quick question I'm finding it impossible to get answered. I've paid a private maintenance payment for years to my lad's mum. She claims the child benefit too. My lad is 17 and doing A levels so I know I have to keep paying and I'm happy to.However a few weeks ago he moved out and is sharing a flat with mates. His Mum doesn't help out financially in any way so my question is... do I have to keep paying her? If he's not living there is she still entitled to receive payments? I don't want to get in trouble but it seems wrong to pay when none goes to my lad. Can I not pay my lad an amount instead and put the rest towards his future education costs? Any advice appreciated
Eric - 27-Jun-23 @ 7:26 PM
I separated from my sons mum 12 years ago and have always paid half of the mortgage, an agreed amount every month for maintenance and other things such as trips etc. He is soon to be 18 and is in full time education (A Levels). he spends at least one night a week with me and every other weekend (more during holidays). his mum says i have to continue to pay half the mortgage and maintenance until he leaves university as she cant afford to get a mortgage to buy me out of the house. I am retired with a small pension. What are my rights regarding payments and the mortgage?
Bertie - 26-Jun-23 @ 11:45 AM
My brother has just been advised he has to pay £165.00 per week for 1 child that lives with her mother despite him having their other daughter in his full time care where he doesn’t receive a penny nor has he claimed child benefit. They had an arrangement in place but greed has got the better of her and she clearly has no thought for the child in his care (her daughter!) and the impact this has for that child. She works, also has child maintenance from another father for another child. The poor logic of CMA is a sham… if you have two children and have 1 each surely that’s just like a shared care arrangement and none of you should be paying anything to the other parent. No wonder there is a rise in men’s MH and suicide! Who needs that amount of money per week for 1 child?!
MB - 26-Apr-23 @ 6:39 PM
The section on shared care stating if there is a shared care is in place, no payments to or from either parent are required is not entirely correct. I have my daughter 50% of the time but both the CMS and the tribunal courts require me to pay a.significant amount in CM payments as they have determined that a primary career needs to be established, which is her mother. Incredible frustrating, stressful and financially difficult but neither the courts or the CMS look at things logically.
Caredad - 1-Feb-23 @ 7:06 PM
My husbands 16 year old has gone no contact! She has dropped out of college & moved to a different part of the country. Bio mum has now made a claim through cms & to cb stating daughter in full time education. How can my husband confirm if his daughter is in education?
Loulou - 29-Jan-23 @ 9:26 AM
My partner has 1 daughter from his marriage, who is now aged 17. Unfortunately, we don't have any kind of contact with her. We don't know if she is still in education. We heard from a reliable source that she is working full-time, but the CSA says she is on a traning course to become a carer. I didn't know there were long term full time courses for carers. The CSA won't give my partner any details as to the length of the course etc., Is there a way that my partner can find out what they are doing as their biological father? Regards, Gill
Whinny - 6-Jan-23 @ 9:19 AM
My husband has 3 daughters from his previous marriage. The eldest is about to turn 18 and the middle one is 17. Unfortunately, we have no kind of contact with them anymore. We don't know if they are still in education. We heard from a reliable source that they are both working full-time. Is there a way that My Husband can find out what they are doing as their biological father?
Sj - 23-Oct-22 @ 10:09 AM
My child’s other parent…dad… pays me money every week for our child, if I go through csm to ensure he keeps up with these payments, will they try to recover any payments he has already made to me, as this is what he is telling me
Carrie - 11-Oct-22 @ 4:02 PM
I have been divorced for 2 years and paying maintenance for my daughter my son decided to live with me so one child each living with each parent how does maintenance work
Exasperated Dad - 23-Sep-22 @ 7:04 PM
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
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