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:
- work out child maintenance payment amounts (you can do this yourself with the calculator)
- arrange for the other parent to pay child maintenance and take action if payments are not made
- help find the other parent (they’ll need information from you and will not be able to set up a case if they cannot be found)
- sort out disagreements about parentage
- look at the payments if changes in parents’ circumstances are reported
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.
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.
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.
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