Making a child maintenance arrangement


Child maintenance is an arrangement between you and the other parent of your child. It covers how your child’s living costs will be paid for when one of the parents no longer lives with them. It’s made when you’ve separated from the other parent (or if you’ve never been in a relationship).

Both parents are responsible for the costs of raising their children, even if they do not see them. Making agreements about access to your children happens separately.

Child maintenance can be either:

  • a private arrangement between you and the other parent
  • made through the Child Maintenance Service – a government scheme

You need to have child maintenance arrangements for children under 16 (or under 20 if they’re in approved education or training). If you make a private arrangement you can continue paying after then.


Arrange child maintenance yourself

You can make arrangements for your children if both parents agree. This might cover their living costs and care.

This is a private arrangement where you and the other parent organise everything yourselves. No one else has to be involved. It’s flexible and can be changed if your circumstances change. For example, you could both agree that one parent:

  • does school or nursery pick ups
  • looks after the children in the holidays
  • pays a proportion of their income to the parent with day to day care
  • pays for things like housing, school uniform, trips or after school clubs
  • pays a regular set amount directly to the parent with care

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:

  • 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.


Your child needs to be under 16 (or under 20 if they stay in approved education ot 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.

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.


The application fee is £20 (the fee not include in our fee for application)

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

  • a victim of domestic violence or abuse
  • under 19 years old
  • in Northern Ireland