Paying for your children

All parents have a responsibility to provide financially for their child even if they live apart from the child and the other parent

Child maintenance can make a significant difference to a child’s wellbeing and the quality of family relationships.

What is child maintenance?
Child maintenance is regular, reliable financial support parents provide for their child when they separate. It can help towards a child's everyday living costs and give them the best start in life.

Legal changes have happened in child maintenance over the last few years. They mainly affect parents with the main day-to-day care who are on benefit.

Since 27 October 2008 if you’re the parent with the main day-to-day care and you’re on benefits, you can now choose to arrange child maintenance through a family-based arrangement. If this doesn’t work or you are unable to make one, you can still use the Child Support Agency (CSA) or the courts.

Recent changes in the law mean that money you receive for child maintenance won’t affect any state benefits you’re entitled to.

Until the law changed, if you were the parent with the main day-to-day care and you were on benefit, you had to arrange child maintenance using the Child Support Agency (CSA). You weren't able to opt out and make a family arrangement with the other parent.

Since 12 April 2010, all parents with the main day-to-day care who receive income-related benefits have been allowed to keep all of their child maintenance, without it affecting their entitlement to benefit.

Until the law changed, if you were the parent with the main day-to-day care and you were on benefit, the amount of child maintenance you received may have affected the amount of benefits you received.

Child maintenance Options

Child maintenance Options
Where do I start?
Have a look at their CMO website

Child maintenance Calculator
If you’re trying to agree on an amount for your family-based arrangement, our calculator can give you an indication of the amount that you could expect to pay or receive.

The calculation is based on the rules that the Child Support Agency (CSA) currently use, so you can also use it if you’re making an arrangement through the CSA or the courts.
Click on Calculator

Family-based child maintenance arrangement
A family-based arrangement is free to set up. It can be quite simple and quick to arrange because you don't have to deal with any official rules or authorities. It's just an agreement between two people. Here are some things you'll need to think about before deciding if it's the best arrangement for your circumstances.

Can you work together and trust each other?
Can you keep the agreement going?
Do you want to keep control of your arrangement?
Do you want to choose how to make or receive payments?
Do you want the flexibility to change your payments if your circumstances change? Then:
Read about family-based child maintenance arrangements at

People the CMO has helped - Are you listening in private?
Watch/hear their stories when no-one else may listen:

Family-based arrangement - Mark's story

Using the Options service - David's story

Child maintenance through the CSA - Mary's story

If your family-based arrangement breaks down

  • You could ask a family mediator to try and help you resolve any problems
  • As a last resort, you can ask the CSA to arrange child maintenance for you.

Next steps

Ask the CMO a question
Call on 0800 988 0988
Lines are open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 4pm Saturday.
Email us

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