1. Overview

Child maintenance is financial support towards your child’s everyday living costs when you’ve separated from the other parent.

You and your ex-partner can arrange child maintenance yourself if you can agree. This is called a ‘family-based arrangement’.

A family-based arrangement is a private way to sort out child maintenance. Parents arrange everything themselves and no-one else has to be involved.

Talk to Child Maintenance Options to get impartial information.

If you can’t agree

The Child Maintenance Service is for when you and the other parent can’t agree to a family-based arrangement.

You must talk to Child Maintenance Options before you can apply to the Child Maintenance Service.

The Child Maintenance Service can:

  • try to find the other parent if you don’t know where they live, to sort out child maintenance
  • sort out disagreements about parentage
  • work out how much child maintenance should be paid
  • arrange for the ‘paying’ parent to pay child maintenance - the parent who doesn’t have main day-to-day care of the child
  • pass payments on to the ‘receiving’ parent - the parent who has main day-to-day care of the child
  • look at the payments again when changes in parents’ circumstances are reported
  • review the payment amount every year
  • take action if payments aren’t made


On 30 June 2014 the Child Maintenance Service introduced application fees and enforcement charges. From 11 August, if you decide to use the Collect and Pay service, you’ll also have to pay fees for collecting and paying out child maintenance.

You won’t have to pay any fees if you choose a family-based arrangement.

You won’t have to pay collection fees if:

  • you choose Direct Pay where you make your own payment arrangements
  • your case is handled by the Child Support Agency (CSA)

Moving to Direct Pay

If you already have a Collect and Pay case you must contact the Child Maintenance Service to change to Direct Pay and avoid collection fees. You should make any outstanding payments before you call.

Call the number you were given over the phone if you’ve recently made an application. You can also find the number in your welcome pack or at the top of any letter they have sent you.

Manage your Child Maintenance Service case online

You can manage your case online by setting up a self-service account or logging into an existing account.

CSA child maintenance arrangements

The CSA only handles existing cases. New applications are dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service.

Child maintenance arrangements made through the CSA will be ending between now and 2017.

Get someone to manage your case for you

You can ask someone else to deal with your Child Maintenance Service case for you.