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The 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme - what to do if your circumstances change

This advice applies to England

If you use the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to calculate maintenance using the 2012 Scheme, the arrangement will be expected to last a reasonable time.

However, if your circumstances change, the maintenance calculation may need to be adjusted. Changes of circumstances which could result in a change to the maintenance calculation include things such as earning more or less money, or becoming financially responsible for additional children.

This page tells you more about what to do if you have a change of circumstances. Before you use this information, check the original calculation was made using the 2012 Scheme. Maintenance calculations made by the Child Support Agency using the 1993 and 2003 Schemes have different rules about dealing with a change of circumstances.

Reporting a change of circumstances

There are a number of important changes that you must report to the CMS.

You don’t need to report a change until it's actually happened. However, it’s a criminal offence not to report some changes of circumstances and you could be prosecuted and fined up to £1,000.

If the CMS wants to prosecute you for committing an offence, it has 12 months from the date of the offence to bring the case to court.

Call the CMS to report a change. You’ll need your 12-digit reference number when you call - you can find this on the letters the CMS send you.

Child Maintenance Service
Telephone: 0800 171 2345
Textphone: 0800 232 1975

Calls to this number are free.

If you’re the parent who pays maintenance

If you’re the parent who pays maintenance, you must tell the CMS within seven days of changing your address.

If you have a deduction of earnings order against you, tell the CMS within seven days if you leave your job or get another job. A deduction of earnings order is an instruction to your employer to take money from your salary to pay back money you owe. The CMS may have set one up if you failed to pay maintenance.

If the amount of maintenance you pay is based on current income, you must tell the CMS within 14 days if your income goes up or down by 25 per cent or more. You don’t have to tell them of a change if you’re self-employed.

You must also tell the CMS if you form a new relationship and have to support another child.

If you’re the parent getting maintenance

If you’re the parent getting maintenance and you think the calculation is no longer valid, you must report this to the CMS. They can then recalculate the amount you get. Changes which affect the calculation include when:

  • a child reaches the age when maintenance is no longer payable
  • a child is no longer in full-time non-advanced education
  • you no longer have day-to-day care of the children that are included in the maintenance calculation
  • you, the person paying maintenance or one of the children move overseas. This means you will no longer be habitually resident in the UK
  • the parent paying maintenance is no longer the parent of the child. For example, if the child is adopted by someone else.

Other changes you can report to the CMS

Either of you can contact the CMS to tell them of changes or new information that might affect the maintenance calculation. For example:

  • if you’re getting maintenance, you may find out that the parent paying maintenance has got a second job which the CMS don’t know about
  • you used to share care of the children equally but now one of you provides more day-to-day care than the other
  • either of you or any of the children move overseas. This means you will no longer be habitually resident in the UK
  • if either a child or a parent dies.

When will the new arrangement start?

If the change took place after the maintenance calculation was made, the CMS will review the calculation and change it to reflect the new circumstances. The new arrangement will start on either:

  • the date when the change happened. For example, the date when a child was adopted or the date when one of the parents died or stopped living in the UK, or
  • the date when the change was reported. For example, when you told the CMS your income went up or down by at least 25 per cent.


If your circumstances change for certain reasons, you may qualify to ask for a variation. This means that you can ask for your maintenance calculation to be worked out again because different rules now apply to you.

If you’re paying maintenance

You might ask for a variation if you have extra costs related to children you’re responsible for.

If you’re getting maintenance

You might ask for a variation if you become aware that the parent who’s paying maintenance has other income that may not have been included in the first calculation.

Other useful information

The government’s Child Maintenance Options Service can provide information about your options. They also provide forms, leaflets and a maintenance calculator to help you get started.

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