Press release

Separated parents working together on child maintenance arrangements

Thousands of children are benefiting from their separated parents working together on child maintenance arrangements, new figures show.

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The parents of more than 15,900 children have set up ‘family-based arrangements’ for paying child maintenance after receiving information and support from Child Maintenance Options, which was set up in 2008 to help separated parents work together in the best interests of their children.

Child Maintenance Options provides free, impartial support to help parents come to their own arrangements. Then, if that is not possible, they can turn to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). The CMS supports parents to manage payments between themselves where they can, and helps those in difficult or vulnerable situations.

Minister for Welfare Delivery Caroline Nokes said:

We know children grow up to have better health, emotional well-being and educational attainment if their parents – whether together or separated – have a positive relationship. All children deserve the best start in life and that’s why, through Child Maintenance Options, we encourage separated couples to work together in the best interests of their children.

But we also understand a minority of separated parents, especially those in difficult or vulnerable circumstances, won’t be able to come to their own arrangements and our staff can give them that extra help.

Of the family based arrangements made by parents, for 87%, payments were regularly being made and a parent said it was working well.

About the Child Maintenance Service and Child Maintenance Options

The CMS is replacing the old Child Support Agency, which failed families because it was overly complex and did not encourage collaboration, plus did not provide value for taxpayers’ money.

Child Maintenance Options is there to help parents work things out. Child Maintenance Options is a free service that provides impartial information and support to help separated parents make decisions about their child maintenance arrangements.

Talking about child maintenance might feel like the last thing you want to do, especially if your relationship with the other parent is strained. But, in the long run, having this conversation as early as possible could mean you end up working together as parents rather than against each other.

DWP Child Maintenance Options Service Manager Ian Wilkins said:

It can be tough when a family separates, but we know it is better for children if their parents can work together to reach an agreement on caring for them, including decisions about financial arrangements. Our staff are highly trained in providing support to separated, and separating, parents and have vast experience of dealing with a wide range of separation issues. If you require any information or support, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Ian’s 5 steps to working together on a family-based arrangement for your children:

Step 1 – Find the right time

Sitting down to work out a child maintenance arrangement might seem a bit of a daunting task. But the quicker you can work out an arrangement, the clearer your child’s future will seem and the more secure you’ll feel.

Step 2 – Work out what your child needs

The next step is to work out what your child needs, and how much this will cost. All children need clothes, food, and a roof over their heads. You might also need to think about child care costs or other costs dependent upon the age of your child.

Step 3 – Decide how you will share the cost

How you share the cost of raising your child is for you and your ex-partner to decide. For example, you might agree to ‘split the difference’, or vary it according to how much money you each earn.

Step 4 – Write it down

This way you’ll both have a record of what’s been agreed, and will have made a joint commitment to sticking to it.

Step 5 – Do it and review it

Some parents decide to review their family-based arrangement every year, or when children reach milestones like birthdays or a change in schools.

Our website, www.cmoptions.org, contains a wealth of information about family-based arrangements, other ways of arranging child maintenance, as well as a library of tools, leaflets and information to help parents to calculate and talk about child maintenance, record a family-based arrangement and manage their finances.

To speak to someone at Child Maintenance Options call 0800 988 0988.

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Published 7 February 2017