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).

This guide is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

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 experiencing domestic abuse or controlling behaviour

Domestic abuse includes controlling behaviour. For example:

  • emotionally controlling or manipulative behaviour
  • controlling your finances
  • controlling the way you look after your children

You can use the Child Maintenance Service to arrange child maintenance if you do not want to contact the other parent yourself. They will contact the other parent for you and you will not need to pay the application fee if you’re experiencing domestic abuse.

How it affects benefits

Child maintenance payments will not affect any benefits that you and your children get. You will not have to pay tax on them.

Your Council Tax Reduction could be affected. Contact your local council to find out if this applies to you.

Making an arrangement for the first time

  1. Talk to the other parent about making your own arrangements.

  2. If you cannot agree, or you feel at risk talking to the other parent, 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.