- What is the Child Support Agency and the Child Maintenance Service?
- Who can make a statutory child maintenance arrangement?
- How can I make a statutory child maintenance arrangement?
- How long does it take to make a statutory child maintenance arrangement?
- How do the statutory services calculate child maintenance?
- What if I have a statutory child maintenance arrangement and I want to switch to a family-based arrangement?
- What action can the statutory services take to enforce child maintenance payments a parent doesn’t pay?
- What happens if the paying parent has to pay child maintenance to more than one receiving parent?
- What happens if a person denies they are the parent of a child?
- What help is available to paying parents if they are struggling to make their payments?
- How do the statutory child maintenance services calculate child maintenance?
- I think my payments are too high, what can I do?
- What is "Maintenance Direct" and "Direct Pay"?
- What is "Collect and Pay" or the "calculation and collection service"?
What is the Child Support Agency and the Child Maintenance Service?
The Child Support Agency manages the child maintenance schemes that were introduced in 1993 and 2003 but is now closed to new applications. The Child Maintenance Service manages the 2012 child maintenance scheme.
There is a £20 fee for applying to the Child Maintenance Service. You will need to call Child Maintenance Options on 0800 988 0988* first. They will give you the information and support you need to set up the best child maintenance arrangement for your family.
At the end of your conversation, if you decide to apply to the Child Maintenance Service, the Child Maintenance Options agent will give you a reference number, which you will need to make your application. They will then transfer you to the Child Maintenance Service to start your application straight away, or give you a contact number to call at a more convenient time.Page top
Who can make a statutory child maintenance arrangement?
Applications to the statutory child maintenance service can be made by:
- the parent or person with the main day to-day care of the child, or
- the parent without the main day to-day care of the child, or
- a child living in Scotland over the age of 12
The parent or person with the main day to-day care of the child is sometimes called the receiving parent.
The parent without the main day to-day care of the child is sometimes called the paying parent or the parent expected to pay child maintenance.
A person can ask for a statutory child maintenance arrangement as long as:
- the person asking to receive child maintenance has the main day-to-day care of the child and lives in the UK, and
- the parent expected to pay child maintenance lives in the UK, or works in the civil service, the armed forces or for a UK-based company, and
- no court order is in place from before 2003, or there is a court order from after April 2003 but it was set up more than 12 months before the application.
- The child named in the application is:
- under the age of 16, or
- between 16 and their 20th birthday and undertaking full-time, non-advanced education, or
- between 16 and their 20th birthday, registered with certain types of government-approved training courses, and child benefit is in payment.
Previously the upper age limit was the 19th birthday, but this changed in late 2012 to bring the age limits in line with those of Child Benefit. This change applies to all the child maintenance schemes.
The child must live in the UK. They must also live with the receiving parent, although there are some exceptions to this rule. Children at boarding school or who are hospitalised long-term are still classed as qualifying children. This is different to the 1993 and 2003 schemes.
For more information about how the statutory child maintenance service works, see www.gov.uk.Page top
How can I make a statutory child maintenance arrangement?
The Child Maintenance Service manages all new statutory child maintenance cases.
By talking to Child Maintenance Options before applying to the statutory scheme you'll get free, impartial and confidential information specific to your circumstances.
They also offer practical information on a range of subjects linked to separation, such as housing, work and money, and can put you in touch with organisations who can give you more specialist help and advice.
You’ll also need a reference number from them if you want to apply to the statutory schemePage top
How long does it take to make a statutory child maintenance arrangement?
Most statutory child maintenance arrangements can be put in place within about 6 weeks of the application being made – much depends on the information available and the co-operation of both parties.Page top
How does the statutory service calculate child maintenance?
You can see the things the statutory child maintenance service takes into account by looking at our child maintenance calculator. Our calculator can give you an indication of the amount of child maintenance you might pay or receive if you had a statutory child maintenance arrangement.
If you'd like more information about how the statutory service calculates child maintenance, visit www.gov.uk.Page top
What if I have a statutory child maintenance arrangement and I want to switch to a family-based arrangement?
You need to contact the statutory service and tell them you want to close it.
But before you do this, make sure you and the other parent can make a family-based arrangement. The most important thing is that an arrangement is in place to provide child maintenance for your child.Page top
What action can the statutory service take to enforce child maintenance payments?
When a payment is missed, the statutory service will contact the parent expected to pay child maintenance to find out why they haven't paid and arrange for them to pay what they owe. It will also warn them about what action might be taken if they don't pay.
There are a range of powers that can be used to enforce the payment of child maintenance. This includes taking money directly from a parent’s earnings or bank account, seizing property and other assets, or through the courts, sending someone to prison.
The Government has introduced enforcement charges for paying parents using the Child Maintenance Service 2012 scheme who fail to pay in full and on time.
For more information about deduction from earnings orders and the other actions the statutory child maintenance services can take, visit www.gov.uk.Page top
What happens if the paying parent has to pay child maintenance to more than one receiving parent?
The statutory service can work out the total amount of child maintenance that should be paid for all the children involved. That amount would then be shared between the receiving parents.
You can also work it out this way if you have a family-based arrangement. If you make a family-based arrangement it's a good idea to write down the details of your agreement. You can use our family-based arrangement form to do this.Page top
What happens if a person denies they are the parent of a child?
You could ask the statutory service to arrange child maintenance on your behalf. The service would contact the person named as the parent of the child. If that person denies being the parent of the child, the service would ask both parents to provide evidence to support their claim.
The statutory servicecan order DNA testing where necessary. You can read more about this on www.gov.uk.Page top
What help is available to paying parents if they are struggling to make their payments?
If you have a statutory service case and you’re worried about missing a payment, you should contact the service straight away. It will look at your circumstances to see if your regular child maintenance payments can be changed. It may also be able to help you manage your arrears payments so they are more affordable and you don’t build up more debt.
If you’re still worried about money, there are other organisations that can help you.Page top
How does the statutory child maintenance service calculate child maintenance?
To work out child maintenance amounts, the statutory service uses information about the paying parent’s circumstances. This information includes:
- their income
- the number of children they need to pay child maintenance for
- how often the child or children stays overnight with them
- the number of other children the paying parent (or their partner) gets child benefit for
The calculation is not based on the relative lifestyles of each parent. It is based on the idea that the paying parent must contribute a proportion of their income to support their children.Page top
I think my payments are too high, what can I do?
If you think your statutory payments are too high, you should contact the statutory child maintenance service straight away and check that they have the correct information about your circumstances.
You should contact them immediately if you are having problems paying or you are going to miss a payment.
If you're struggling to pay back arrears speak with someone immediately as they may be able to consider changing what you pay. But, regular on-going child maintenance payments must be paid in full and on-time.Page top
What is "Maintenance Direct" or "Direct Pay"?
If you have a statutory child maintenance arrangement then the statutory child maintenance service will always calculate a child maintenance amount. But, if you want to manage your payments yourself, the paying parent can make payments directly to the receiving parent. This is called “Direct Pay” in the Child Maintenance Service and "Maintenance Direct" in the Child Support Agency.
If you use Direct Pay or Maintenance Direct, it’s up to you to agree with the other parent how and when money is paid.
Even though you manage the payments yourself through Direct Pay or Maintenance Direct, you should keep a record and receipts for your payments, in case there are any problems in the future.
The main difference between a Maintenance Direct or Direct Pay arrangement and a family-based arrangement is that the statutory child maintenance service decides on the amount – and this means it’s legally binding. If the paying parent doesn’t keep up with payments the receiving parent can ask the service managing their case to take enforcement action.
There are fees and charges for using the Child Maintenance Service but there are no collection fees for parents who pay or receive child maintenance using its Direct Pay service. There are no fees or charges for using the Child Support Agency.
In the Child Maintenance Service, either parent can ask to move to Direct Pay.
Paying parents may not be able to choose Direct Pay if the Child Maintenance Service has a reason to believe they would be unlikely to pay using Direct Pay. If the paying parent misses any payments (or doesn’t make them in full), the Child Maintenance Service can move the case to Collect & Pay and take action to enforce the payments if the receiving parent asks them to. Both parents would have to pay collection fees, and the paying parent may have to pay enforcement charges.
Both parents must agree to use Direct Pay in Child Support Agency cases.Page top
What is "Collect and Pay" or the "calculation and collection service"?
If you have a statutory child maintenance arrangement and are unable to use Direct Pay/Maintenance Direct then the statutory child maintenance service will collect payments from the paying parent, and pass them on to the receiving parent. This is called "Collect and Pay" in the Child Maintenance Service or "the calculation and collection service" in the Child Support Agency. There are collection fees for parents using Collect & Pay through the Child Maintenance Service.
This means that:
- paying parents will pay an additional 20% collection fee on top of their usual child maintenance amount for using the Collect and Pay service
- receiving parents will have a 4% collection fee deducted from their usual child maintenance amount for using the Collect and Pay service
The Child Maintenance Service believes that charging both parents to use the service will encourage them to consider working together to arrange child maintenance.
With Collect and Pay the Child Maintenance Service will manage the maintenance payments and can take enforcement action if the paying parent doesn’t keep up with payments.
If you need help deciding which type of arrangement is best for you, see comparing your options.
Or, you can call us in confidence on 0800 988 0988 to discuss your options.Page top