The Child Maintenance Service

The Government’s aim is that improved help and support to parents will help more parents work out child maintenance themselves without needing to involve the state.  However, the Government recognises that separated parents cannot always work things out and there are some occasions when it is not appropriate for them to try.  This is why the Government wants to provide an effective statutory child maintenance service as a fall back.

The Child Maintenance Service is the new statutory child maintenance service.  It works out how much, and when, child maintenance should be paid on behalf of some separated parents in England, Wales and Scotland.  It also has the capability, where necessary, to collect child maintenance from one parent and pay it out to the other (e.g. by deducting child maintenance at source from earnings or bank accounts).

It supports parents who can’t make a family-based arrangement.  The aim is to get more money to more children, by helping parents who live apart to contribute towards their children’s upkeep.


What are the new features of the Child Maintenance Service?

The Child Maintenance Service is a different service to the Child Support Agency.  It has with new features and that aims to provide a better service to separated parents and their children.

New child maintenance calculations.

The Child Maintenance Service uses the paying parent’s gross annual income, from the latest available tax year, as the starting point to work out child maintenance.  In most cases, this information is provided to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) by the paying parent, their employer or accountant.  This means it can process applications more quickly. It also means the Child Maintenance Service can work out an accurate amount without waiting for the paying parent to provide information.

Annual Reviews.

Every year the Child Maintenance Service will review the paying parent’s income, benefit status and other circumstances.  This will help to work out if the amount of child maintenance they pay for the next 12 months should stay the same, or if it should go up or down.  This is called the Annual Review, and will be done automatically.  It will ensure that maintenance calculations remain fair and accurate.

Increased flat rate of child maintenance.

Parents who are on low incomes or on benefits pay a flat rate of child maintenance.  To reflect the increased costs of bringing up a child, this flat rate has been increased from £5 to £7 for parents using the Child Maintenance Service. 

This increase in the flat rate will increase the amount of money flowing to children and reflects more closely the maintenance which non-resident parents in work, but not on flat rate, are required to pay. 

The flat rate for existing cases within the Child Support Agency will remain at £5.

Shared care.

Unlike in the Child Support Agency, parents who share the day-to-day care of their children exactly equally are not required to pay maintenance to each other if they have a Child Maintenance Service case.  Both parents are required to show evidence that the day-to-day care is shared exactly equally.  

An assumption of shared care equivalent to one night per week may be made where parents agree in principle that there is a shared care arrangement but cannot agree on the number of nights and neither parent is able to provide evidence supporting their claim.

A firm approach to non-payment.

If a paying parent does not pay the right amount of child maintenance on time, then the Child Maintenance Service can, and will, take appropriate action to get the money owed.  If a paying parent knows they’re going to be late making a payment or miss a payment, it’s important they tell the Child Maintenance Service straight away so that the situation can be discussed.

Within 72 hours of a payment being missed, the Child Maintenance Service will contact a paying parent to seek continuing payments and so stop arrears building up.

If child maintenance continues not to be paid, there are three things the Child Maintenance Service can do to get unpaid child maintenance from a paying parent:

  • take the money direct from their earnings;
  • take the money from their bank or building society account;
  • or take action through the courts.

If the matter goes to the courts, there are several actions the Child Maintenance Service can take. 

For example, it can ask the court to:

  • instruct bailiffs to recover the money;
  • sell a paying parent’s property;
  • or send a paying parent to prison.

If the Child Maintenance Service has to take action through the courts, then the paying parent may have to pay their own legal costs as well as the Child Maintenance Service’s legal costs.  This would be in addition to the child maintenance owed.

Regular communication

Both paying parents and receiving parents will be sent a statement each year.  Paying parents will see how much child maintenance they have paid during the previous 12 months.  Receiving parents will see the amount of maintenance they have received during the previous 12 months.


It is mandatory for parents wishing to apply to the Child Maintenance Service to have a conversation with Child Maintenance Options to discuss their choices and consider alternatives before they can proceed with their application.

Change in the upper age limit.

One final change is that for all cases managed by the Child Support Agency and Child Maintenance Service the upper age at which children can qualify for child maintenance has changed to their 20th birthday (up from their 19th birthday).  This is in line with the Child Benefit age range.


Future Changes.

A further round of changes will take place after the Child Maintenance Service has been shown to be working well:


It is intended that in future there will be a fee for applying to the Child Maintenance Service.  There will be exemptions to this application fee for victims of domestic violence and applicants aged 18 or under.  The proposed level of the application fee is £20. 

There will also be a collection fee if parents use the Child Maintenance Service to collect and pass on payments (a Collect & Pay arrangement).  Collection fees will be payable by both parents, including those people who have become clients of the Child Maintenance Service before charging has been introduced.  The proposed collection fee will be 4% of child maintenance for the receiving parent and for paying parents it is 20% calculated as on top of the child maintenance calculation.

Paying parents will also have to pay enforcement charges if the Child Maintenance Service has to take enforcement action against them.

***The introduction of charging is subject to the final approval of Parliament***.

The Government intends that the fees will encourage parents to think about whether they can make a family-based arrangement rather than just default into the Child Maintenance Service or, if they are unable to do that, to consider a Direct Pay arrangement within the Child Maintenance Service.  

Changes to Direct Pay.

At present, both parents have to agree to a Direct Pay arrangement (called Maintenance Direct within the Child Support Agency).  In future, either parent with a Child Maintenance Service arrangement will be able to request Direct Pay.  Parents will be able to avoid collection fees by opting for Direct Pay in the future, but will still have to pay the application fee.  If payments are not made, the case can be moved to the Collect & Pay service.

The Government has also worked with banks and building societies so that people can get an account that allows them to receive money from the paying parent securely and without having to disclose personal details (e.g. contact numbers or bank account details). 

Case closures.

After the Child Maintenance Service has been shown to be working well, the process of closing existing Child Support Agency cases will begin.  Parents will then have the opportunity of deciding whether to make a family-based arrangement or apply to the Child Maintenance Service.  Support will be provided by Child Maintenance Options to help them do this. 

Parents will be given six months notice that their case is to close.

This process of case closure will take around three years and affect around two million parents.  In the meantime, it’s important parents keep paying their regular child maintenance payments.

The Government has committed to providing information and guidance to help organisations support people who turn to them for advice.

***Final go-ahead for cases to close is subject to the approval of Parliament.***

Hide comments (136)


  • Bob
    Bob Sunday, 07 June 2015

    Has this all been confirmed by parliament?

    Hi all,

    Is this information up to date?
    Can anyone tell me if this has all been approved by parliament as yet?

  • Team 1 Team 1 Wednesday, 08 June 2016

    Hi Bob - if you check out the Child Maintenance website they will be able to confirm updated information:

    Many thanks

    DAD.Info Team

  • Guest
    Angry Parent Tuesday, 08 March 2016

    Incorrect Information

    Please note as a parent with full time care who has been fighting the CMS in respect of non payment of sums, the information on your web page is incorrect. The non residential parent has five WORKING days to make payment before contact from CMS will be made not 72 hours and both parents DO NOT agree to how payment should be made, the parent making payment has the decision not the parent with care.

  • Team 1 Team 1 Wednesday, 08 June 2016

    We are in the process of updating the information on this page, as things do change from time to time. We appreciate your comments and feedback very much.

    Kind regards

    DAD.Info Team

  • Bethany Parker
    Bethany Parker Friday, 18 March 2016


    I am a single mother of 10 & 8 year old girls.
    I work and support them and we don't have any contact with their father.
    At present I get £5 per week through the CSA, but their services are due to stop in June.
    I've contacted you to see if you can help me get future maintenance payments for my daughters.

  • Team 1 Team 1 Wednesday, 08 June 2016

    Hi Bethany - Thank you for your comment - did you manage to get this issue resolved?

    We are unable to help you directly but the Child Maintenance team might be able to give you some advice. Their contact page link is above under Bob's comment.

    Many thanks

    DAD.Info Team

  • Guest
    cb Thursday, 24 March 2016


    I just need a bit of advice really. Basically, i used to just pay my ex £200 cash each month for our 2 boys, an arrangement we made our selves and have been happy with for the last 2 years.
    for the last 6 months me and my new partner have been struggling to pay this amongst our household bills and a new baby, that we have managed to get into debt just to pay my ex! My partner has taken more hours at work and i work 60 hour weeks just for us to pay the bills each month and we literally have £6 left after rent, council tax, debts and maintenance etc is paid. (thats with my gfs mum pretty much buying everything we need for our current baby!)
    A few months ago, i approached my ex to speak about the issue as we are on reasonable terms (we have the kids every other weekend fri-sun and occasional wednesdays after school plus longer during school holidays)
    we agreed £150 a month from now on, as we had the baby and were struggling. (at this point i will also mention we do all the travelling to see the kids, its 120 mile round trip to collect them friday and the same again sunday to drop them back, costing around £40 in fuel each weekend we have them and about £20 on a wednesday)
    after 2 months of paying the £150, she approached me and said she has contacted the child maintenance agency and they told her she is entitled to £204 a month and they will be in contact soon.

    truth is i just cant afford this payment! i love my kids and love having them but honestly the reality is, if i have to pay this i cant afford the fuel to go and see them or have them over! or i dont pay my rent, so i have the fuel money, but then have no house for my current child and they cant come and stay anyway.

    this is even more enfuriating when i see my ex goes out every weekend drinking and days out with the kids! i would love to be able to treat them, but i just cant! she clearly doesnt need this extra money!


  • Team 1 Team 1 Wednesday, 08 June 2016

    I'm sorry to hear about the problems that you have been having. If you are still struggling you may be able to get some help from the following two websites: this one relates to debt management this one is for child maintenance

    We wish you all the best - if we can help any further please let us know.

    Kind regards

    DAD.Info Team

  • Guest
    Rola P Monday, 06 March 2017

    Rola P

    Take care of your youngest at home while only one works, you're not likely to be worse off. Unfortunately the boxing ticking brigade do not have a care. Even when 6months bank statements show you can't meet your bills, not eating to put petrol in the car to fetch your child and more the advice is speak to someone about your debt management. When married we had spent less on all 3 of our children monthly both working than the mother now claims for one in her part time care. She has even been on an overseas holiday while my youngest was cared for by me. It appears to be a direct attempt of the state to undermine and damage dad's. The scheme is unfair and has little logic involved. While married with both working our expendable income was less than 3% of our total available income now after I have rent to pay 290% more than my mortgage was; I should now wave a magic wand and pay 12% of gross income PS - they even calculate what you must pay inclusive tax which is taken before you receive a penny, Sickening.

  • Guest
    Annie Wednesday, 05 April 2017


    If you have to travel to see your kids you can claim expenses back for the cost of that travel - there is a form you should be able to get from them and it will reduce the amount of maintenance you have to pay. This effectively allows travel expenses to come out of the maintenance.

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Guest Thursday, 20 July 2017