The 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme - how maintenance is paid
Both parents are legally responsible for the financial costs of the 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 under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme, they will calculate how much maintenance has to be paid. They will then let each parent know how this amount will be paid.
This page tells you more about the way the money can be collected and paid under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme.
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.
Ways of paying maintenance
There are two ways to pay maintenance:
- the Direct Pay scheme
- the Collect & Pay service.
The Direct Pay Scheme
If you use the Direct Pay scheme you arrange between yourselves how and when the maintenance will be paid. There is no further involvement from the CMS.
The Collect & Pay service
If there's a reason why you can't make payments between yourselves, you can ask to use the Collect & Pay service. The CMS will collect payments from the parent who pays maintenance and pay them to the other parent.
Collection fees have been introduced for parents using the Collect & Pay service.
How to work out which payment method to use
Working out which payment method to use depends on how easily you can agree payments between you and also whether you're paying or getting maintenance.
If you have to pay maintenance
In most cases, the CMS will ask you whether you want to pay using the Direct Pay option.
You can ask to use the Collect & Pay Service but bear in mind that you'll eventually have to pay a fee for using this service and the other parent will also get less money.
If you're the parent getting maintenance
At the moment, you have to agree before a Direct Pay arrangement is set up.
You can only ask to use the Collect & Pay Service if the parent paying maintenance has failed to keep to a Direct Pay arrangement or you have good reason to think they may miss payments.
If you think the parent may miss payments
If you’re the parent who should get maintenance and you have good reason to think that your ex-partner is unlikely to pay, make sure you let the CMS know your reasons when you make an application for maintenance.
Where possible, give proof of why you think they won’t make payments. For example, if you’ve tried a family-based agreement that has failed because your ex-partner didn’t keep to it, tell the CMS when you make your application.
Other reasons which the CMS would accept could be where your ex-partner has a history of not paying money that is due for other things, or where you’ve been threatened by your ex-partner.
If the CMS has good reason to doubt a parent will pay maintenance, they won’t offer them the option of Direct Pay. They will have to use the Collect & Pay service.
How is maintenance paid to you?
There are various ways maintenance can be paid to you.
If you're using the Direct Pay scheme
Child maintenance will normally be paid to you through your bank account. However, you can choose another method of payment, such as cheque or through a money transfer scheme
If you're using the Collect & Pay Service
Payments are usually made through your bank account. If you haven't got a bank account you’ll be able to use a new scheme called Simple Payment.
You can use Simple Payment if you can’t use a bank account. You’ll get a Simple Payment card and will be able to collect your child maintenance from a PayPoint outlet displaying the Simple Payment sign.
You can find PayPoint outlets in places such as local newsagents, convenience stores and supermarkets. To get your money you’ll need the card, a memorable date and proof of ID to collect your maintenance.
Whichever scheme you use, it’s important that both of you keep a record of the payments you make and get, in case there are disputes about payment.
If the maintenance is paid through a bank, make sure you each keep your relevant bank statements. If the money is paid by cash, make sure you each have signed and dated receipts. If the money is paid through a money transfer option, keep copies of the paperwork you’ll get with the payment.
Online child maintenance facility
You can register to use the self-service CMS online facility to manage your case. You can make and receive safe and secure payments 24 hours a day, update your details, send enquiries, and see records of letters and phone calls.
- Self-service website for clients – Child Maintenance Service at childmaintenanceservice.direct.gov.uk
Other useful information
- More about the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme at www.cmoptions.org