Keeping payments manageable

As a separated parent, your financial situation will probably have changed. However, most parents agree that it’s important to make sure that children don’t miss out on the support they need.

If you’re the parent who is expected to pay child maintenance, you might be worried about being able to meet your financial responsibilities.

Child maintenance doesn’t always have to be about money

If you can reach agreement with your child’s other parent, then child maintenance doesn’t always have to be about money.

With a family-based arrangement, you can decide between yourselves what counts as child maintenance. For example, you could agree to share the care of your children instead of money changing hands.

Even if you decide that monetary payments are the best option, with a family-based arrangement you and the other parent can agree between you how much these payments are. You can also agree to change your payments if your circumstances change.

If you’d like to speak to your child’s other parent about making a family-based arrangement but you’re not sure where to start, take a look at our discussion guide.

You might also find it helpful to read our guidance on how much child maintenance should be paid.

Make sure your payments don’t build up

If you are expected to make regular payments, it’s important to pay in full and on-time. This will help make sure that your payments don’t build up and become unmanageable. It also means your children won’t miss out on the regular support they need.

Another way of making sure you can afford your payments is to make a budget. This is where you work out what money is coming in and going out.

If you think your payments are too high

If you think your child maintenance payments are too high, there are a couple of things you can do, depending on what type of arrangement you have.

If you have a family-based arrangement, the best thing to do, if you can, is try to have an open and honest conversation with your child’s other parent about your finances. If you’d like more help with this, read our guidance on talking about child maintenance.

If you have a statutory child maintenance arrangement, then contact (external website) the statutory child maintenance service straight away to make sure they have the correct information about your circumstances. Remember to tell them about any changes which may affect your payments in the future.

You can find contact details and more information about the changes that you need to report on Gov.uk (external website)

If your payments still seem unreasonable, then you might want to consider this: official figures suggest that the cost of raising a child to the age of 18 will average out at about £775 a month (excluding housing and household bills). Read the full article (external website)

Dealing with debt

If you’re worried about getting into debt with your child maintenance payments, deal with it now.

If you have a family-based arrangement, then, again, the best thing to do is talk to your child’s other parent about how you can keep your payments manageable. For help with this, read our guidance on talking about child maintenance.

If you have a statutory child maintenance arrangement, it may help to ask the statutory child maintenance service if you can change how often you make your payments. Regular child maintenance can be paid:

  • every week
  • every fortnight
  • every four weeks
  • every month

If you are behind on your child maintenance payments, you can also ask them about paying this money in smaller more manageable instalments.

For more help dealing with debt, see our other useful organisations section.