4. How to pay

Child maintenance can be paid:

  • directly between parents
  • directly from the ‘paying’ parent’s earnings - the service arranges this with their employer
  • by direct debit - the service managing your case can set this up.

Payments are paid into the ‘receiving’ parent’s bank account.

The receiving parent has main day-to-day care of the child. The paying parent doesn’t have main day-to-day care.

Paying child maintenance directly

Once the Child Maintenance Service or CSA has worked out an amount, you can make your own payment arrangements if you both agree. This is called:

  • Direct Pay - if you’re using the Child Maintenance Service
  • Maintenance Direct - if you’re using the CSA

The easiest way to pay is by standing order - payments go direct from the paying parent’s bank, building society or Post Office account into the receiving parent’s account.

The Child Maintenance Service or CSA can still enforce missed payments. You should keep a record of payments, in case there are any problems in the future.

Either parent can choose Direct Pay without needing the other’s consent, unless there’s evidence that the paying parent is unlikely to pay.

When payments are managed for you

If you’re using the Child Maintenance Service or the CSA to collect and pass on payments, they’ll arrange this based on when the paying parent is paid their wages, pension or benefits. This is called:

  • Collect and Pay - if you’re using the Child Maintenance Service
  • the full collection service - if you’re using the CSA

Contact either the Child Maintenance Service (using the contact details on any 
letters you’ve been sent) or your local CSA office if you’re a paying parent and 
having problems paying.

Collection fees

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’ll have to pay a fee each time you make or receive a payment:

  • paying parents will pay a 20% fee on top of their regular child maintenance payment
  • receiving parents will have a 4% fee deducted from their regular child maintenance payment

You can’t avoid collection fees by making payments in advance.

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)

Collection and payment schedules

If you’re the paying parent you’ll be sent a letter explaining how much you need to pay and when.

This is called:

  • a payment plan - if you’re using the Child Maintenance Service
  • a collection schedule - if you’re using the CSA

If you’re the receiving parent, you’ll be sent a letter telling you what and when payments will be made.

This is called:

  • an expected payment plan - if you’re using the Child Maintenance Service
  • a payment schedule - if you’re using the CSA

Paying off child maintenance arrears

If you’re a paying parent and you’ve missed paying child maintenance you’ll usually be asked to pay the full amount you owe straight away.

You can pay:

  • with a credit or debit card
  • through your bank

In some circumstances, you might be able to agree with the service managing your application to pay the arrears in instalments.

The Child Maintenance Service or CSA can take action if child maintenance isn’t being paid.