Making a child maintenance arrangement

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. 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.

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, you do not have to pay child maintenance - there’s no need to apply.

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 in certain circumstances if the paying parent lives abroad.

Fees

The application fee is £20.

You will not have to pay this if you’re:

  • a victim of domestic violence or abuse
  • under 19 years old
  • 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 083 4375
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
Saturdays, 9am to 4pm

Welsh language: 0800 408 0308
Monday to Friday, 9am 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, if the Child Maintenance Service needs to collect and transfer payments

How your information is used

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

Your name and address will not be given out to anyone unless ordered to by a court, but information might be shared with other government organisations, debt collection agencies or the courts.

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