Making a child maintenance arrangement

Skip to contents of guide

Using the Child Maintenance Service

The Child Maintenance Service is for parents who have not been able to make a private arrangement about how their child’s living costs will be paid. The payments are a fixed amount on a schedule.

Once the Child Maintenance Service calculates the maintenance amount, payments are usually managed between parents. The payments are fixed amounts paid on a schedule.

If you use the service to collect and transfer payments, you’ll pay a fee each time you make or receive a payment.

The Child Maintenance Service can:

You can switch to arranging child maintenance yourself later on.

If you’ve experienced domestic abuse or controlling behaviour from your child’s other parent

If you’re worried about your child’s other parent contacting you, tell the Child Maintenance Service. You do not need to be in contact with the other parent.

Tell the Child Maintenance Service if it’s not safe for the other parent to know your location or personal information, for example if you’ve changed your name.

Getting payments without sharing your location

There are ways to get payments from your child’s other parent without sharing your location.

You can ask your bank to set up a ‘non-geographical’ bank account if you do not want the other parent to know your address. Ask the Child Maintenance Service to give you a letter to explain why you need it.

You can also set up a pre-payment card which is not connected to a bank account. The paying parent can set up a standing order to your pre-payment card.

Eligibility

Your child needs to be under 16 (or under 20 if they stay in approved education or training).

You need to live in the UK as your main home and have the right to live here.

You can apply if you’re:

  • either parent (you do not need to live with the child)
  • a grandparent or other guardian of the child
  • a child over 12 living in Scotland

If you’re in prison or a full-time student with no income, you do not have to pay child maintenance - there’s no need to apply.

You cannot use this service if you have an existing consent order approved by a court that is either less than a year old or made before 3 March 2003.

If one of the parents lives outside the UK

You cannot apply if the child and the parent with main day-to-day care live outside the UK.

The service can only help if the paying parent works outside the UK for a British organisation.

Fees

The application fee is £20.

You will not have to pay this if you:

  • have experienced domestic abuse
  • are under 19 years old
  • live in Northern Ireland

How to apply

Contact Child Maintenance Options before you apply.

They’ll discuss your maintenance arrangements with you, give you a reference number and explain how to apply.

Child Maintenance Options
Telephone: 0800 953 0191
Webchat
Online form
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm

Video relay service for British Sign Language (BSL) users - check you can use the service
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm

Welsh language: 0800 408 0308
Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm
Find out about call charges

There are different contact details if you live in Northern Ireland.

What you’ll need to provide

You’ll need to give information about you and your family, for example:

  • details about the child you’re applying for - including the full names of their parents
  • your National Insurance number
  • your bank account details (tell the Child Maintenance Service if it’s not safe to tell the other parent your name, if you’ve changed it, or location)

How your information is used

Your information is used to set up and manage child maintenance payments, and sometimes to try to find the paying parent.

The Child Maintenance Service will share your name and your child’s name with the other parent. They will not share your address.

They may share your contact details with other government organisations, debt collection agencies or the courts. They will not share details of your case.

If the Child Maintenance Service cannot get the information from either parent, they might ask others, for example:

  • the paying parent’s employer
  • government organisations like Jobcentre Plus
  • prison services or local councils
  • the paying parent’s bank or building society