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The 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme - how old are the children?

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

Both parents are legally responsible for the financial costs of bringing up children. If you split up and one parent doesn’t have day-to-day care of the child, they may have to pay child maintenance to the other parent.

This page tells you about how old the children must be for maintenance to be arranged 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

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.

How old are the children?

The CMS can arrange maintenance for a parent with day-to-day care of a child known as a qualifying child.

To be a qualifying child, a child must be:

  • under 16, or
  • under 20 if they are in full-time non-advanced education, or
  • you’re still entitled to Child Benefit for them.

Full-time non-advanced education means a level of education not higher than A-levels or equivalent post-16 courses of study.

It doesn’t matter whether or not Child Benefit is actually being paid to the parent with care. What matters is whether or not they’re lawfully entitled to receive it. If they’re not, the non-resident parent is no longer liable to pay child maintenance. [NG v the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2015] UKUT 20 AAC]

Who doesn’t count as a qualifying child?

A child won’t count as a qualifying child over the age of 16 if:

  • they are married or in a civil partnership, or
  • they have been married or were in a civil partnership.

Next steps

Other useful information

  • National Family Mediation:
    National Family Mediation is an organisation of not-for-profit family mediation services, but does not represent all family mediators.
  • Advice Services Alliance:
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