This advice applies to Northern Ireland. Change country
The 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme - who is the parent with day-to-day care of the children?
Both parents are legally responsible for the financial costs of bringing up any children.
If you split up, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) may be able to arrange maintenance under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme.
If you qualify, either parent can apply for a child maintenance assessment under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme. This page tells you more about how to work out who is the parent with day-to-day care of the children.
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.
Do you care for the children on a day-to-day basis?
Day-to-day care means taking care of any children at least 104 nights in total during the year. The CMS will usually look at the number of days you gave day-to-day care to the children during the 12 months before you apply. However, you can use another period of time if this is more appropriate.
You will be considered to care for the child on a day-to-day basis if you meet the 104-night rule. Even if some care is done by someone else, such as a child-minder or family member, you’ll be considered a day-to-day carer as long as you still have overall responsibility for the children and have a home with them.
Several people may share the care of the children. This can make the decision about who is the parent with day-to-day care more complicated.
What is your relationship to the children?
To get maintenance under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme, you must be either:
- the parent with care, or
- a person with care.
A parent with care
You can be a parent with care if you're the:
- biological parent, or
- adoptive parent, or
- child’s legal parent because of donor insemination or fertility treatment, or
- child’s legal parent under a parental order if they were conceived by a surrogate mother.
A person with care
A person with care is someone who is not the child's parent, for example, a relative or friend. If you provide day-to-day care for someone else’s children of at least 104 nights a year, you can apply for maintenance from either, or both, of the parents.
If you’re a foster parent you can’t apply for maintenance under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme.
Shared care between parents
You may both share the day-to-day care of the children. For example, the children may stay with one of you for four nights a week and with the other parent for three nights. The parent who spends less time caring for the children will be the one who has to pay maintenance.
If you’re getting Child Benefit for your children, it will be assumed that the parent who isn’t entitled to Child Benefit will be the one to pay maintenance. However you can give evidence to show why the parent who doesn’t get Child Benefit shouldn’t have to pay maintenance if that is better for your situation.
If you share overall care equally, neither of you has to pay maintenance to the other.
Other ways day-to-day care can be shared
Day-to-day care of the children can be shared between other people. For example:
- someone who is not the child's parent and the child's parent
- two people who are not the child's parents
- the child’s parent and an organisation such as a children’s home.
If more than one person has day-to-day care of the children, only the person with parental responsibility can apply to the CMS under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme.
If your children are cared for by other institutions
Local authority care
If your children are in the care of a local authority but are allowed to live with you for part of the time, you can have maintenance arranged by the CMS under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme even if you aren’t providing day-to-day care.
However, you must usually be getting Child Benefit for them. The amount of child maintenance you’ll get will be reduced to reflect the amount of time the children are being looked after by the local authority.
If you aren’t getting Child Benefit, you may still be entitled to child maintenance. This could be for example because:
- no-one else is getting Child Benefit for the children, or
- someone else gets Child Benefit but you are still the main provider of day-to-day care.
Boarding schools and hospitals
If the children are at boarding school or in hospital, the parent with care is the parent who would otherwise be providing their day-to-day care.
Can children apply for maintenance for themselves?
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, children can’t apply for maintenance in their own right under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme.
- Do you qualify for the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme?
- Child Maintenance Options: www.cmoptions.org
Other useful information
- National Family Mediation: www.nfm.org.uk
National Family Mediation is an organisation of not-for-profit family mediation services, but does not represent all family mediators.
- Advice Services Alliance: www.asauk.org.uk