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Help and frequently asked questions

Here's a list of all our FAQs.
Visit our Contact us page to find the best way of getting in touch.
We send you a full breakdown of how we've worked out your child maintenance when an initial application for child maintenance is made, or when something happens to change the payments such as a new calculation.

But in most cases, we generally follow six steps when we work out child maintenance.

Step 1 - Income
First, we look at the paying parent's gross weekly income. This is the amount before Income Tax and National Insurance are deducted, but after occupational or personal pension scheme contributions are taken away. We include things like earnings, profits from self-employment or income from pensions in this gross income figure.

Step 2 - Factors that affect income
Next, we check for things that could reduce this gross weekly income, such as private or occupational pension contributions or if the paying parent has other children living with them.

Step 3 - Child maintenance rates
We then find which rate of child maintenance is payable. There are four rates of child maintenance, and your rate depends on the paying parent's weekly income that we've worked out in the first two steps. The four rates are:
  • Basic / Basic Plus (Basic for income between £200 and £800 / Basic Plus for income between £800 and £3,000)
  • Reduced (for income between £100 and £200)
  • Flat (for income below £100 or if the paying parent gets certain benefits)
  • Nil (for income below £7 or if the paying parent gets certain benefits)
Step 4 - Children
We also look at how many children need child maintenance, and how many other children the paying parent supports. Then we use the child maintenance rate to work out a percentage amount of the paying parent's weekly income that they must pay.

Step 5 - Weekly amount of child maintenance
Using this percentage, we work out a weekly amount of child maintenance.

Step 6 - Shared care
Finally, we also reduce the amount of child maintenance if a child that needs child maintenance stays overnight with the paying parent on average at least one night a week. This is called a 'shared care' allowance.

The percentage reduction depends on the number of 'shared care' nights per child needing child maintenance.

You can find out more details about how we work out child maintenance in our leaflet 'How we work out child maintenance'.
You can find leaflets for cases based in Great Britain on our GOV.uk web pages.
You can find leaflets for cases based in Northern Ireland on our NIDirect web pages.
Either parent can contact us and ask for their Collect & Pay case to be moved to Direct Pay.

If the paying parent makes the request, we will contact the receiving parent and ask them if they will agree to move to Direct Pay. If the receiving parent agrees then the case will be moved automatically to Direct Pay. If they disagree, we will look carefully at the case to see whether we think the paying parent is unlikely to pay voluntarily. If we find that the paying parent is not unlikely to pay, we will move the case to Direct Pay without agreement from the receiving parent.

If the receiving parent makes the request, the case will be moved automatically to Direct Pay.

If you fail to pay your child maintenance on Direct Pay, the receiving parent can ask us to move the case back to Collect & Pay. Collection fees will be applied to all Collect & Pay child maintenance payments including any payments you missed on Direct Pay. You may also have to pay enforcement charges.

If you want to make a family-based arrangement, you'll need to agree this with the other parent directly, and then let us know.
If you have a Collect & Pay case, there are three ways to pay child maintenance:

1- You can set up a Direct Debit from your bank account
2- We can set up a Deduction from Earnings Order (DEO) with your employer, and deduct your payments directly from your salary.
3- If you're on benefits, we will deduct your child maintenance directly from your benefit.

If you need to pay in another way, please contact us, but the vast majority of people pay using one of these methods. And remember, if you moved your case to Direct Pay, you could pay maintenance directly to the other parent in any way you choose.

Set up a Direct Debit now
Most parents prefer to set up Direct Debit. You can set up or change a Direct Debit here and it only takes a few minutes. Just go to the 'My details' section and click on 'My bank details', then enter your bank information.

Alternatively you can download a Direct Debit form and post it to us, but this will take us longer to process. Please use the address on our Contact us page.

If you use Collect & Pay, a collection fee will be applied to each Collect & Pay payment we collect from you, on top of your regular amount of child maintenance. You can avoid collection fees by switching from Collect & Pay to Direct Pay. Direct Pay is where we calculate child maintenance amounts but you arrange payments directly with the receiving parent. No collection fees are applied and payments are still legally enforceable.

If you fail to make your payments, we may put you on an enforced method of payment for which an enforcement charge may also be applied, and you will be unable to move to Direct Pay without the agreement of the receiving parent until your payment history improves. The receiving parent will also have collection fees applied, reducing the amount of child maintenance they receive.


Missed a payment?
If you have missed a payment, it's vital that you pay us what you owe immediately. There are three ways to do this:

1 - Online with a debit or credit card
You can make a fast and secure payment with a debit or credit card. Just go to the 'My payments' section of the self-service website and click on 'Pay by card'.

You can pay with the following cards:
Switch
Solo
Visa
MasterCard


2 - Bank transfer
You can make a payment by direct transfer. Our details for British cases are:

Sort code: 40-34-18
Account no: 84041690

And our details for Northern Irish cases are:

Sort code: 40-34-18
Account no: 54041712

Please include your customer reference number when you make a bank transfer so we can keep track of your payment.
The Child Maintenance Service can make payments directly into your bank account or into a Post Office card account you have set up for receiving Child Benefit.

You can tell us your bank details or set up Direct Payments here and it only takes a few minutes. Just go to the 'My details' section and click on 'My bank details', then enter your bank information.

If you use Collect & Pay, a collection fee will be applied to each child maintenance payment we collect from you, and each payment we pass on to you.

You can avoid collection fees by switching from Collect & Pay to Direct Pay. With Direct Pay we work out child maintenance amounts and then you arrange payments directly with the other parent. No collection fees are applied and payments are still legally enforceable.

If you want more control over your arrangements - like deciding what counts as child maintenance, how much is paid and when, then speak to your child's other parent about making a family-based arrangement. No-one else has to get involved, as long as you both agree
Collect & Pay cases

If you use Collect & Pay and you fail to make your payments, we may transfer you onto an enforced method of payment and an enforcement charge may be applied. This is in addition to the collection fee that is applied to each child maintenance payment we collect from you. You may also be unable to move to Direct Pay without the agreement of the receiving parent until your payment history improves. The receiving parent will also have collection fees applied, reducing the amount of child maintenance they receive.

Please make an immediate payment. You can make a payment now by debit or credit card - go to the 'My payments' section and click on 'Pay by card'. To pay by another method, see the 'My payments' section of these FAQs to find out your payment options.

If you can't make a payment immediately, please contact us. If you do not make this payment the Child Maintenance Service will contact you to collect the money you owe.

Direct Pay cases

If you use Direct Pay and you fail to make a payment, speak to the receiving parent straight away to agree a new payment date. The receiving parent can ask us to move a case to Collect & Pay if a payment is missed. If your case moves to Collect & Pay, collection fees will be applied to each child maintenance payment we collect from you. You may also be unable to move to Direct Pay without the agreement of the receiving parent until your payment history improves.

If you are struggling to make regular payments with the Child Maintenance Service, you and your child's other parent can make a family based arrangement. This is where you agree between yourselves what counts as child maintenance, how much is paid and when. This might be better for your circumstances.
It depends how the child maintenance is paid.

If you use Collect & Pay you should allow 6 to 10 days for a Direct Debit payment to clear. If child maintenance is collected directly through a Deduction from Earnings order (DEO), it will depend on when the employer submits the payment to us.

If you want your payments to reach your children more quickly, why not switch to Direct Pay? The money will go directly to your child's other parent and you could agree on a faster method of payment.

If you use Direct Pay, it depends on the method of payment you have agreed with the other parent.
If you want to report an issue with the site, please go to the 'My messages' section and send us a message, setting the subject as 'Submit feedback'. If you're not logged in, you can contact us in another way.
When you use the Child Maintenance Service, you can ask us to calculate, collect and pass on child maintenance for you. This is called Collect & Pay. If you use Collect & Pay, a collection fee will be applied to each child maintenance payment we collect and pass on. This means you will pay more, and you will receive less. If you fail to make your payments we can apply an enforced method of payment, such as a Deduction from Earnings Order (DEO) to take child maintenance payments directly from your wages. An enforcement charge may also be applied for doing this. The receiving parent will also have collection fees applied, reducing the amount of child maintenance they receive.

You can avoid paying fees and charges by making a FREE Family-based arrangement or by switching from Collect & Pay to Direct Pay. This is where we calculate child maintenance amounts but you arrange payments directly with the other parent.

However, if the agreed Direct Pay child maintenance payments are not made, the receiving parent can ask us to switch the case back to Collect & Pay.
To encourage parents to work together and make family-based arrangements where possible, parents are now charged for applying to and using the Child Maintenance Service. These fees and charges include:
  • a £20 application fee
  • a 20% collection fee for paying parents using Collect & Pay
  • a 4% collection fee for receiving parents using Collect & Pay
If you use Collect & Pay, a 20% collection fee will be applied to each child maintenance payment we collect from the paying parent and a 4% collection fee will be deducted from the money passed to the receiving parent. Collect & Pay is when we calculate, collect and pass on child maintenance for you.

If you fail to make your payments we may put you onto an enforced payment method such as a deduction from earnings order (DEO) and an enforcement charge may also be applied. These include:
  • a £50 charge for setting up an enforced deduction from earnings order/request (where we take child maintenance payments directly from wages)
  • a £50 charge for setting up an enforced regular deduction order (where we take regular child maintenance payments directly from a bank account)
  • a £200 charge for setting up a lump sum deduction order (where we freeze a bank account to deduct child maintenance arrears)
  • a £300 charge for setting up a liability order, the final step before we take serious legal action.
You can avoid paying fees and charges by making a FREE Family-based arrangement or by switching from Collect & Pay to Direct Pay. Direct Pay is where we calculate child maintenance amounts but you arrange payments directly with the receiving parent. Payments are still legally enforceable.

If you opened a Child Maintenance Service case before 31st March 2014, you will get at least a month's notice before any collection fees are introduced. We will send you a letter to tell you when the changes will happen.
This is your unique reference number that we include on all our letters to you.
Please quote this in your correspondence with us so we know who you are.

It's important that you keep this information safe, just like bank account details or a PIN.
You can request Braille or large print versions of all correspondence, forms and leaflets. We also have versions of standard leaflets on audio tape, CD and DVD.

We have a dedicated textphone number - see the Contact us page for more details of this service.

We also provide spoken language interpretation services for face-to-face and telephone communications.

To request information in an alternative format or language, please contact us.
We use the paying parent's gross weekly income as a starting point when we work out child maintenance. Gross weekly income is defined as weekly income before Income Tax and National Insurance are deducted, but after occupational or personal pension scheme contributions are taken away.

In most cases we work out gross weekly income using income information that you, your employer or accountant gave to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). The income figure will always be from the most recent, complete tax year, and taken from either a tax-payer's self assessment return or from an employer's PAYE return.

But if you or the other parent don't agree with the amount of income we are using, you can give us evidence of a more up-to-date figure. We will then use this amount to work out your child maintenance payments - but it has to be at least 25% more or less than the figure based on HMRC data. We may also ask you or your employer for this up-to-date information if HMRC can't give us an accurate figure.

We'll then check this income figure 12 months later to see if your payments need to change or if they should stay the same.
There are two ways of getting information, depending on what you want to know.
1. We can give you the following information free of charge:
- How your child maintenance has been calculated.
- A copy of a specific letter we have sent you.
- An update on your case.
Please contact us if you want this information.

2. For all other personal information, you must submit your request in writing.

If you want to make a request to see your personal information, please ask us for a Subject Access Request (SAR) form by sending us a secure message from your account. Remember to select 'Ask for subject access request form' as the message subject.

If you have cases based in Great Britain AND Northern Ireland, please make two individual requests, one marked GB and one marked Northern Ireland.

You can request a SAR in other ways if you prefer. Please see our Information Charter for more information on SARs and other ways to apply.
We'll send you an annual statement each year on the anniversary of the start of your case. It's like a bank statement, and it shows you:
- the individual child maintenance payments you've made and received for the year
- if you've paid any costs such as court costs
- the total balance of your payments
- any outstanding payments or arrears
- any applicable fees

We'll send this either through the post, or online through the self-service website, depending on your contact preferences.
Payment Plans give you a complete picture of how much child maintenance you need to pay and when, for all your cases.

As a paying parent, your payment plan tells you the dates on which you need to make your payments and how much they will be for. It also gives you details about any arrears payments you may owe, and when you have agreed to repay these.

We send paying parents a Payment Plan when we first work out child maintenance payments or when the amount changes. You should keep it in a safe place.

Receiving parents receive a similar plan, called an 'Expected Payment Plan'
The Expected Payments Plan gives a complete picture of how much child maintenance a receiving parent should receive and when, if the other parent pays in full and on time. If you're a receiving parent, you will receive separate 'Expected Payment Plans' for each paying parent.

It sets out how often the paying parent must make their payments and how much they will be for. It also gives the details of any arrears payments that may be owed, and when the paying parent has agreed to repay these.

We send every receiving parent an Expected Payments Plan when we first work out the child maintenance payments or when the amount changes. You should keep it in a safe place.

Paying parents receive a similar plan, called a 'Payment Plan'.
With the self-service website, all the information you need to manage your child maintenance is in one place. You can make maintenance payments, update personal information and send us secure messages.

The site also gives you a history of all the communication between you and the Child Maintenance Service
The site is protected via the Government Gateway, which means that to gain access you must have a valid Government Gateway User ID and password.

The site uses an HTTPS connection to limit the ability of unauthorised third parties to intercept the connection. However it's still your responsibility to make sure your Government Gateway details are secure and to use the site in a safe environment. This means not writing your details down and taking care when using the site in a public place.
You can manage your password through the Government Gateway. Once you're logged in, click the link to 'Your Account' and then 'Change Password'.

Please note that this password is used for all services that you use through the Government Gateway.
You should immediately change your password. You can manage your password through the Government Gateway. Once you're logged in, click the link to 'Your Account' and then 'Change Password'.

Please note that this password is used for all services that you use through the Government Gateway, for example completing PAYE reports online.
The Child Maintenance Service in Britain is a different organisation from the Child Maintenance Service in Northern Ireland. We have different legislation and different contact details.

The location of the paying parent affects which organisation runs your case.

If all your cases involve paying parents who live in Great Britain, you will see this site slightly differently from a receiving parent who has only Northern Irish paying parents. You can check which organisation runs your case by looking at the letters you receive from us.

The only difference you need to be aware of when using this site is that British and Northern Ireland cases have different contact details, so make sure you use the contact details for the correct organisation when you contact us
It can get more complicated if you have separate paying parents from Britain and from Northern Ireland. This would mean you had cases with the British and Northern Ireland Child Maintenance Services.

In these cases, we will show branding from the British Child Maintenance Service, but also include alerts to remind you that you have cases run by the Northern Ireland service too. You won't be told which is which, so you'll need to check your letters from us to find out.

The only difference you need to be aware of when using this site is that British and Northern Ireland cases have different contact details, so make sure you use the contact details for the correct organisation when you contact us

If you are requesting a SAR, and have cases based in Britain AND Northern Ireland, please make two individual requests, one marked GB and one marked Northern Ireland.
 
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