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Child maintenance enforcement - deductions from your benefits

This advice applies to Scotland

Both parents are legally responsible for the financial costs of bringing up the children. If you split up, usually the parent who doesn't have day-to-day care of the children is responsible for paying maintenance.

If the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) arranged maintenance for you and you fall behind with your maintenance payments, you'll have to find a way of paying back the arrears. If you don't do this, the CMS could take enforcement action against you to try and make you pay back what you owe.

This page tells you what happens if you owe maintenance and the CMS wants to take money directly from your benefits to pay off the arrears.

Payment of arrears direct from benefits

If you owe maintenance, the CMS can take regular deductions from your benefits until the arrears are paid off. They don’t need to get a court order to allow them to do this. Deductions can also be made to recover any collection fees owed.

How much can be deducted

If you pay the flat rate of child maintenance, you’ll have to start paying back your arrears when your usual maintenance payments end. This usually happens when your child turns 16 - or when they turn 20 if they’re in full-time education.

The CMS will deduct £8.40 a week from your benefits for your arrears. This is the same amount as the flat rate of child maintenance. It includes £7 that goes towards paying off your arrears and a collection fee of £1.40.

Find out more about the flat rate of child maintenance

When deductions for arrears can't be taken from benefits

The CMS won't make deductions from your benefits towards paying off arrears if you pay maintenance at the nil rate. This could be for example because:

  • you’re a child
  • you're a prisoner
  • you have a net income of less than £5 a week.

Students

You don’t pay maintenance at the nil rate. The CMS can take deductions from your benefits.

How the deductions are made

The CMS will decide if a deduction from your benefits will be made. They then send a request to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) who will amend their payment system.

Reviews and appeals

If you disagree with a decision to take deductions from your benefits to pay for child maintenance arrears or you think the amount being taken is wrong, you can ask for the decision to be reviewed. This is called asking for a reconsideration.

Next steps

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