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Child Maintenance Service & Child Support Agency

Child maintenance is financial support that helps towards a child’s everyday living costs when the parents have separated.

It’s for children who are either under 16 or under 20 and in full-time education (but not higher than A-Level or equivalent).

You can sort out/arrange child maintenance yourselves (called a ‘family-based arrangement’), if you can agree between yourselves. If not, you can apply for child maintenance through the Child Maintenance Service.

From 25th November 2013, the Child Maintenance Service replaced the Child Support Agency (CSA) as the place to send new claims. However, CSA still handles existing cases.

How does it work?

The parent who doesn’t have day-to-day care of the child (the ‘paying parent’) pays Child Maintenance to the parent or person who does (the ‘receiving parent’).

The ‘receiving parent’ could be a grandparent or guardian, as well as a parent.

The Child Maintenance Service can find the other parent, if missing; calculate how much is owed by the ‘paying parent’; collect and pass on payments, if you can’t sort out Direct Payments (i.e. between yourselves); and enforce missed payments.

Please Note: the Child Maintenance Service will only calculate and collect child maintenance if someone applies for it. Your first step is to contact Child Maintenance Options on 0800 0835 130 (telephone) or 0800 988 988 (textphone).

If you miss your payments, you could be taken to court or have your possessions removed to cover the payments.

Other considerations

You do not have to pay Child Maintenance if you are:

  • A full-time university student;
  • A student aged 16-19 and in full-time advanced education;
  • Living in residential care or a nursing home and receiving help with fees;
  • A prisoner.

There are also other situations when child maintenance payments stop.

Child Maintenance does not affect how much you’ll get in non-means-tested benefits, nor in means-tested benefits, because it is not counted as income.

How much you get in Child Maintenance might be affected if you are claiming Universal Credit.

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