Types of Maintenance Agreements

DAD.info looks at types of maintenance agreements for you to talk through and discuss...


Family-based arrangements

Parents don’t have to use the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service to arrange child maintenance. They are free to choose the best child maintenance arrangement to suit their family’s needs. In most cases, this will be a family-based arrangement. More than half a million British families now have an arrangement in place that they’ve set up between themselves.

Family-based arrangements are agreements between both parents about who will provide what for a child. They don’t have to be just about exchanging money – the paying parent could, for example, agree to provide school uniforms.

The main benefits of family-based arrangements are that they’re quick and easy to set up. They’re also completely private, meaning that no-one else needs to get involved in a family’s arrangements. Research has shown that separated parents are twice as likely to be happy with a family-based arrangement as they are with a statutory arrangement.

If separated parents can’t make a family-based arrangement work, or if they’ve tried to set one up and it hasn’t worked, they do have other options.

Statutory arrangements (through the Child Maintenance Service)

Direct Pay

Direct Pay (known as Maintenance Direct in Child Support Agency arrangements) is a payment option offered by the Child Maintenance Service that enables parents to keep control of making and receiving payments. The statutory service works out the payment amounts for parents but won’t get involved in other areas, like collecting the payments and enforcement, unless a parent asks them to. If a parent wants the Child Maintenance Service to get involved in enforcing payments, then the parent needs to move to a Collect & Pay arrangement.

Direct Pay is often a good option for parents who have trouble agreeing or talking about how much child maintenance payments should be.

Collect & Pay

Collect & Pay (known as ‘the calculation and collection service’ in Child Support Agency cases) is a calculation, collection, payment and enforcement service for parents who can’t make a family-based arrangement work. If a parent applies to the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service for this, they will gather information from both parents and use it to work out how much child maintenance the parent without the main day-to-day care of the child will need to pay to the other parent. If payments aren’t made on time, a range of enforcement actions can be taken to collect them.

From Spring 2014 the Government is going to introduce fees and charges for using the Child Maintenance Service.  Further details on this are here .

Consent Orders and Minutes of Agreement

Consent orders

In England and Wales, a consent order is an order made by a court that makes an agreement between two parties legally binding.  For child maintenance, courts can make a consent order which says that the parent without the main day-to-day care of the child must keep to the child maintenance payments they have agreed, either collaboratively between themselves or through solicitors.

It is usually only the best option if the parents are going to court for other reasons (like arranging a divorce or dividing property or other assets), as putting a consent order in place does involve legal costs.

Minutes of Agreement

In Scotland, parents can register a Minute of Agreement in the Books of Council and Session held by Registers of Scotland.  After they’ve made their family-based arrangement - with a solicitor’s help, if needed – parents can make it a contract called a Minute of Agreement.  They can then register this for preservation and execution to make it legally binding and enforceable.

It’s important to note that parents cannot set up a statutory child maintenance arrangement within 12 months of setting up a consent order or Minute of Agreement, but they can do so after this period. 

Child Maintenance and benefits

Parents who claim benefits are free to choose the child maintenance arrangement that best suits their own particular circumstances, whether or not they are on benefits.

For receiving parents, any child maintenance received does not affect benefit entitlement.  For paying parents, any benefits they receive are included as income by the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service when calculating their child maintenance payments.

A small number of local councils in England count child maintenance as income when they work out whether someone is entitled to have their council tax payments reduced.  Parents should speak to their council if they are making an application to their Council Tax Reduction Scheme or already receive a reduction in their Council Tax under a Council Tax Reduction Scheme.


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Hide comments (7)


  • Guest
    Chris Friday, 15 July 2016

    The choice of payment options


    I am a single father who pays Child Maintenance. Now, with this new scheme which I found out about, in under 3 months of my case allegedly closing, that I would have to explore new payment options. I requested to pay Direct Pay, as I don't want the charges to go with it, however, my ex-partner (who has sole care of my son) refused this. Does she have the say as to payment option? Thanks

  • DAD.info Team 2
    DAD.info Team 2 Monday, 18 July 2016

    Hi Chris

    Thank you for your question - the child maintenance people should be able to answer your query - here is the link plus the link to the main child maintenance website:



    It may be that other Dads have looked into this issue historically so it would be also really good if you posted your question on our forum:


    Kind regards

    The Dad.Info Team

  • Guest
    William Friday, 02 September 2016

    Please advise ....

    I've always paid direct debit for my son , now I have a bill in saying I owe my ex £3000 .....how much do I have to pay back monthly .....how do I go about paying this ...what are my options ....
    Many thanks
    For a frustrated dad .

  • Guest
    Azzy Man Thursday, 20 October 2016

    Family based arrangements.

    I agreed and set mine up with the aid of the calculator on the Child Maintenance page on the .gov site. I filled it in truthfully and rounded it to the next whole pound. Set up a standing order paid monthly and has worked ever since.

    If you receive a pay rise adjust it straight away to pay the adjusted amount to the next whole pound.

    My ex wife recently tried to pull me through the CMS because she believed I was earning more than I was saying. When CMS tried to put my payments through them I contested the amount because they tried to take overtime into account. They can't..

    Because I used the calculator they soon had a letter on my doormat saying that I was right and it was case closed.

    Pay correctly and forget about those payments. It's a pain but they're our kids.

  • Guest
    Si Thursday, 03 November 2016

    Additional costs

    I pay my ex a weekly amount agreed by her. Now shes asking for me to pay for my sons birthday party, she dosent allow me to see him at all anyway and i wont be invited to his party, is she allowed to do this? Do i need to pay her extra for his parties or is my agreed maintenance enough? Obviously i buy him presents but most of the time she throws them away anyway. Any help/advice would be appriciated!

  • Guest
    Puma-g Saturday, 10 March 2018

    Additional costs

    Unfortunately it’s a tough one. My ex does exactly the same. I pay £500 a month then on top she asks for half school Uniforms, half parties, half activities as well as I have to provide clothes when they are at mine and any cost when they are with me. Of course you don’t have to pay but the emotional blackmail comes in when she stops your kids doing the activity or having to go into school without uniform. CMS or Child Support don’t take any of this into account. Whilst they might sympathise there is no governance over what payments include. Question is how much is your relationship with your kids worth. I am lucky as I am not on the breadline financially but some non resident parents are and there is no consideration for them at all.

  • Guest
    A. Ross Wednesday, 15 November 2017

    contract work

    I'm due to start a new job but it is contract work and I wont be paid for holidays how is the payments worked out. I cannot find anything on their site explaining this.

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Guest Wednesday, 21 March 2018