When the parents of a child do not live together, they need to make arrangements to cover the child’s living costs, which should remain in place until the child is 16 years old, or 20 years old if they remain in approved eduction or training until then.
Where possible, parents should try to reach a private agreement over child maintenance arrangements. The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) website has useful information on working out costs, calculating maintenance and mediation.
It is not always possible for parents to reach a private arrangement, and so the Child Maintenance Service can also help parents to reach an agreement.
The parent will need to speak to Child Maintenance Options before they apply. They will discuss the maintenance arrangements with the parent, give them a reference number and explain how to apply.
Child Maintenance Options
Telephone: 0800 083 4375
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
There is a small application fee to use the Child Maintenance Service, unless the parent:
- has experienced domestic abuse
- is under 19 years old
- lives in Northern Ireland
If the service is used to collect and transfer payments, here is a fee payable a payment is made or received. See here for further details: https://www.gov.uk/making-child-maintenance-arrangement/using-child-maintenance-service
You can find contact details for the Child Maintenance Service in our Hotlines List.
The House of Commons Library has some very useful briefings on Child Maintenance:
- Child maintenance: Fees, enforcement and arrears (CBP07774)
- Child maintenance: Calculations, variations and income (UK)
- Child maintenance: Challenging the undeclared income of paying parents (casework article)
- Child maintenance: Support for victims of domestic abuse (CBP09661)
- Child maintenance: Cases when someone lives overseas (CBP07775)
- Child maintenance: The write-off of arrears on Child Support Agency cases (CBP07776)
- Arrangements for children when parents separate