Comparing your options

This table shows the differences between the child maintenance arrangements you can make. You can use it to compare the options available to you and the other parent.

 
Question Family-based
arrangement
Maintenance Direct
and Direct Pay
Collect and Pay Consent orders/
minutes of agreement
What is it? A flexible arrangement that parents arrange themselves. A financial arrangement using a statutory service which allows parents to choose a method of payment. A financial arrangement using a statutory service, where the service managing the case arranges payments between parents. Arrangements usually made with the help of solicitors.
Who sets it up and how long does it take? You and the other parent. It can start straight away, if you can reach agreement. The Child Maintenance Service. Most statutory arrangements can be put in place within about 6 weeks. The Child Maintenance Service. Most statutory arrangements can be put in place within about 6 weeks. You and the other parent, usually with the help of a solicitor or mediator Depending on your situation, it typically takes between 1-3 months.
What does it cost? It’s free to set up. There is an application fee for using the Child Maintenance Service, but there are no collection fees with Direct Pay. There is an application fee for using the Child Maintenance Service. With Collect & Pay there are also collection fees. Possible costs include solicitor or mediator fees and court costs if you need to go to court. These can vary depending on your case.
How do I set up the arrangement? You and the other parent agree on your child’s needs and who will provide what. You can use a family-based arrangement form (338KB) PDF to keep a record of what you agree. Contact us to find out more. Contact us to find out more. You usually need to agree with the other parent when and how much child maintenance is paid. You can then ask a court to turn this agreement into a consent order (in England and Wales). In Scotland you can make your agreement legally binding without going to court.
How will you make/receive payments? It’s up to you and the other parent to decide how your payments will be made. Read about ways to pay child maintenance. You agree with the other parent when and how payments will be made. In the Child Maintenance Service, you will avoid paying collection fees through Direct Pay. The statutory service managing your case will collect and pass on payments. If you have a Child Maintenance Service case, you will have to pay collection fees. The paying parent will pay in the way set out in the court order/ minute of agreement.
What’s the legal position? Family-based arrangements aren’t legally binding. But if a parent doesn’t pay, the other parent can ask a statutory service or the courts to arrange child maintenance. If a parent doesn’t pay, you can move to Collect & Pay (called the collection service in the CSA) and your payments will be collected and passed on by the service managing your case. They can take action to enforce the agreement. If a parent doesn’t pay, the statutory service managing your case can take action to enforce the agreement. For more about this, visit www.gov.uk. If a parent doesn’t pay the court can take action to enforce the arrangement. The courts can order money to be taken directly from wages and can force the sale of property and possessions if a parent doesn’t pay. In Scotland a sheriff officer can collect and enforce payments.
What are benefits of this type of arrangement? Good because:
  • You can control how your child is supported.
  • You can adapt to your child’s needs and both parents’ circumstances.
  • It can help keep things friendly with the other parent.
  • It can encourage the other parent to stay involved.
  • It’s quick and easy to set up.
Good if you and the other parent:
  • Can’t agree on a payment amount.
  • Want a statutory child arrangement which still has some flexibility.
  • Don’t want a delay in payments being received.
Good if:
  • The paying parent would be unlikely to pay using Direct Pay.
  • You can’t agree child maintenance.
  • You tried a family-based arrangement, or Direct Pay but it didn’t work.
  • You don’t know how to get in touch with the other parent.
  • The paying parent won’t pay.
Good if:
  • You’re going to court for other reasons, such as arranging a divorce or dividing a property or other assets.
  • You have a family-based arrangement and want to make it legally binding.