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Making a child maintenance arrangement

Child maintenance is an arrangement between you and the other parent of your child. It covers how your child’s living costs will be paid for when one of the parents no longer lives with them. It’s made when you’ve separated from the other parent (or if you’ve never been in a relationship).

How it works

Both parents are responsible for the costs of raising their children, even if they do not see them. Making agreements about access to your children happens separately.

Child maintenance can be either:

  • A private arrangement between you and the other parent.
  • Made through the Child Maintenance Service - a government scheme.

You need to have child maintenance arrangements for children under 16 (or under 20 if they’re in approved education or training). If you make a private arrangement you can continue paying after then.

If you’re a victim of domestic violence or abuse

A private arrangement would involve agreeing an amount with the other parent and being in contact. If you do not want to do this because you’re a victim of domestic violence or abuse you can use the Child Maintenance Service who’ll contact the other parent for you. You will not pay the application fee.

Making an arrangement for the first time

  1. Talk to the other parent about making your own arrangements.
  2. If you cannot agree, contact Child Maintenance Options for help and support.
  3. If you decide to use the Child Maintenance Service, they’ll give you a reference number and explain how to apply.

Arranging child maintenance yourself

You can make arrangements for your children if both parents agree. This might cover their living costs and care.

This is a private arrangement where you and the other parent organise everything yourselves. No one else has to be involved. It’s flexible and can be changed if your circumstances change. For example, you could both agree that one parent:

  • Does school or nursery pick ups.
  • Looks after the children in the holidays.
  • Pays a proportion of their income to the parent with day to day care.
  • Pays for things like housing, school uniform, trips or after school clubs.
  • Pays a regular set amount directly to the parent with care.

Working out payments

If you agree to make regular payments, you can use the child maintenance calculator to help you decide how much payments should be.

To calculate your child maintenance payments please visit the website (external link).

Get help to make an arrangement

You can contact Child Maintenance Options for support on 0800 953 0191. Their opening times are Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday 9am to 4pm.

Using the Child Maintenance Service

The Child Maintenance Service is for parents who have not been able to make a private arrangement about how their child’s living costs will be paid. The payments are a fixed amount on a schedule.

Once the Child Maintenance Service calculates the maintenance amount, payments are usually managed between parents. If you use the service to collect and transfer payments, you’ll pay a fee each time you make or receive a payment.

The Child Maintenance Service can:

  • Work out child maintenance payment amounts (you can do this yourself with the calculator).
  • Arrange for the other parent to pay child maintenance and take action if payments are not made.
  • Help find the other parent (they’ll need information from you and will not be able to set up a case if they cannot be found).
  • Sort out disagreements about parentage.
  • Look at the payments if changes in parents’ circumstances are reported.

You can switch to arranging child maintenance yourself later on.

Who to contact

Contact Name
Child Maintenance Options
0800 083 4375

Time / Date Details

Session Information
Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm
Saturday 9am to 4pm
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