This advice applies to Northern Ireland. Change country
The 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme: how maintenance is paid - the Direct Pay scheme
Both parents are legally responsible for the financial costs of bringing up any children. If you split up and you don’t have day-to-day care of the children, you may have to pay child maintenance to the other parent.
If the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) arranges maintenance for you under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme, they will calculate how much maintenance has to be paid.
There are two ways to arrange payment to the parent who gets maintenance. You can have the money paid to you directly from the other parent through the Direct Pay scheme. Or you can ask the CMS to collect the payments from the other parent and then pay you through the Collect & Pay service.
This page tells you more about how the Direct Pay scheme works.
In Northern Ireland, you can arrange maintenance through the Northern Ireland Child Maintenance Service.
If you want more information about the different ways you can arrange child maintenance, go to Child Maintenance Choices at www.nidirect.gov.uk.
Therefore, when the page refers to the Child Support Agency (CSA) or the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), in Northern Ireland this means the Northern Ireland Child Maintenance Service. When the page refers to Child Maintenance Options, in Northern Ireland this means Child Maintenance Choices.
What is the Direct Pay scheme
Direct Pay is where child maintenance is paid directly to the other parent without using the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). This happens after the maintenance calculation has been made by the CMS. Either parent can choose Direct Pay without needing the other's agreement.
Under Direct Pay, neither parent pays collection fees.
You agree between yourselves how and when the maintenance will be paid. If you like, you can swap payments for taking care of other expenses, such as buying new school uniform or paying for school trips.
The CMS don’t check whether the maintenance has been paid so you need to be confident that payments will be made in full and on time. If you've a good reason to believe you might not get payments then you should ask to use the Collect & Pay service when you make your application. You will only be able to use the Collect & Pay Service if the paying parent agrees or the CMS decides that the paying parent is unlikely to pay maintenance.
Direct Pay - how maintenance is paid
Maintenance is usually paid monthly. However, it could be paid weekly in some cases. It is up to both of you to decide how often payment should be made in the Direct Pay scheme.
The parent who pays maintenance will normally pay by standing order or direct debit. You can also choose to pay by:
- debit card
- postal order
- voluntary deductions from earnings.
You should be able to use Direct Pay safely and securely. The CMS can securely pass the receiving parent's bank account details to the paying parent so they can use Direct Pay without having contact with each other. If you do not want the paying parent to know where in the country you live, you can set up a 'non-geographic' bank account. You should contact the CMS for more information.
If you’re the parent who pays maintenance, it’s best to pay the money into the account a few days before it’s due. The money will usually take time to clear, and this will help you avoid getting into arrears.
Maintenance payments to other people
In some cases, the parent who has to pay maintenance could pay the maintenance to someone else, instead of directly to the parent with day-to-day care of the children. For example, they could pay all or some of it to the other parent’s mortgage lender.
What happens if a payment isn’t made
If you don’t get a maintenance payment when it’s due, get in touch with the CMS. They will try to contact the parent who should pay maintenance.
The parent who should pay maintenance has to provide evidence within 14 days that they’ve made the payment. If they can’t do this, the CMS has the power to make sure that payments are made and will transfer payments to the Collect & Pay service.
Moving back to Direct Pay
If you should pay maintenance and you've been brought into the Collect and Pay service because you missed a payment under the Direct Pay scheme, you may want to move back to Direct Pay. You will only be allowed to do this if the CMS is satisfied you are unlikely to miss payments.