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Child Maintenance

Child maintenance is regular, reliable financial support paid towards a child’s everyday living costs.

Payment of child maintenance is made from the parent without day-to-day care of the child to the parent with the main day-to-day care responsibilities.

What Child Maintenance Options are Available?

If you think you can sort out child maintenance between yourselves, you do not need to use the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) and can create a private agreement yourselves. A private agreement is an arrangement between you and the other parent about how much maintenance will be paid. You can use the child maintenance calculator to work out what the statutory maintenance payments might be.

What should I do if the agreement breaks down?

If you cannot reach an agreement or the agreement breaks down, you would need to ask the CMS to take over.


The CMS is the government’s statutory child maintenance service. The CMS can calculate and collect child maintenance for you and can act as a third party if you do not want any contact with the other parent of your child.

The CMS can:

  • Find the other parent, even if you do not know their address
  • Collect and enforce payments
  • Protect both parents’ privacy if they do not want contact

Either parent can apply to the CMS. Whilst the arrangements are legally binding, they are not as flexible as a private agreement. For example, it can take a while to change your payments if either of your circumstances change.

The CMS provide a calculation-only service called Maintenance Direct. This means that the CMS works out the amount of child maintenance due, but you pay each other directly, rather than through the CMS. Maintenance Direct is only suitable if you are happy to agree between yourselves when and how the money will be paid.

If you need a new calculation because something has changed, the CMS can provide guidance and they can step in if the non-resident parent does not make the payments.

It is important to seek specialist advice and speak to a solicitor to understand how the different arrangements work and what happens if the arrangements you make break down.

How the courts can help

Whilst the CMS can assist with regular child maintenance, there are some cases where the CMS does not have the power to be involved and in these cases you could apply to the Court for an order. This can include:

  • If the parent without day-to-day care lives overseas
  • To top up maintenance if the parent without the day-day care is a high earner (usually more than £3,000 per week gross)
  • If money is needed for school or university fees
  • If money is needed to meet the costs of a child’s disability
  • For children who have completed secondary education

If your circumstances involve any of these issues and you cannot reach an agreement, then it should be dealt with by the Court rather than the CMS.

Already in Court to sort other financial matters?

If you and your ex have privately reached agreement about child maintenance but are in court to sort out other financial matters, for example financial proceedings following a divorce for example, then you could ask the Court to include your child maintenance agreement as part of the final court order. This has the benefit of potentially giving you the option to ask the Court to enforce the agreement if necessary and you do not wish to use the CMS. Generally, matters could be returned to the CMS 12 months after the order is made.

For advice on child maintenance or Family Law please contact Helen Davies by calling 01244 568635 or email Visit our Arrangements for Children page for more details on our services relating to child arrangement orders.

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