How do I arrange child maintenance payments?

If you separate from your partner, you will both need to help with your child’s living costs. One parent will usually pay the other an agreed amount on a regular basis. This is the case even of one of you doesn’t have contact with the child.  

Separating from your partner can be a difficult process. So remember to look after your mental health and ask for support when you need it.  

Who can get or give child maintenance?

A child is someone under 16 or under 20 if theyre in approved education or training 

You can get child maintenance payments if: 

  • You’re the main carer of a child (even if you’re a grandparent or kinship carer). 
  • You live separately from the child’s other parent. 

    Agreeing child maintenance with your ex partner

    How you organise child maintenance payments will depend on your relationship with your ex partnerYou may be able to arrange the payments between you. Or if you can’t make a private arrangement, you can use the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). You should use the CMS if you’re experiencing domestic abuse. 

    If you agree on child maintenance payments privately, you can decide how much and how often to pay. This can be changed at any point if you both agree it needs to. But remember that it’s not legally binding. 

    The government child maintenance calculator provides some guidance on how much a parent or carer should pay.  

    Arranging child maintenance through the CMS

    You can make an application to the CMS if you are:  

    • The child’s parent, whether you live with them or not. 
    • Youre the main carer of the child. 
    • Youre a child over 12 living in Scotland. 

    Using the CMS is the best option if: 

    • You can’t come to an agreement with your ex partner.  
    • You don’t want to contact the other parent. 
    • You don’t know how to contact the other parent. 

      You will need to contact Child Maintenance Options before you apply.  

      The child maintenance process can seem intimidating and complicated. It may take a bit of time for you and your ex partner to work out whats right for you. If you need more detail to decide on an approach, visit Citizen’s Advice and or the GOV.UK website. 

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      This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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