Child Maintenance Arrears

Child maintenance arrears.  Worried about child support payments?

You pay child maintenance, the official name for “child support”, to help with your child’s everyday living costs, like food and clothes.

If you’re trying to balance debt repayments and child maintenance payments our information will give you practical ways to help you manage your situation.

Common questions asked:

-What if I’ve built up arrears on my child support payments?

You must contact CSA or CMS as soon as possible if you are having problems paying or if you are going to miss a payment.  You can find the local office address on any letter they have sent you or we could assist you in searching for one when you visit us next.  Your local office can help you clear your arrears and continue making child support payments.

What happens if I don’t pay my child support?

If you are tempted not to pay, you need to weigh up  your consequences which can be quite severe.  CSA or CMS have the powers to deduct your arrears and ongoing child maintenance payments straight from your earnings or bank account.  They can also start enforcement action through magistrates court by getting a liability order, confiscate your driving licence, force you to sell your assets or send you to prison.

We understand that it is often tough for parents living apart from their children.  But, its important to stay on top of your payments and treat them as one of your top priority outgoings, so you make sure you need to pay this before any of your unsecured debts like you credit card or personal loans.  You can use this 60 second debt check tool if you would benefit from free impartial assistance to deal with your debt.

If you’ve got a family-based child support arrangement your first step is to speak to your ex-partner and explain your situation.  You may be able to put together an interim arrangement in place until you are able to resume your original agreement.

You can find tips on talking about money with your child’s other parent in this child maintenance options guide.

Child support options

There are many ways you can help support your child instead of going through the Child Support Agency (CSA) or Child Maintenance Service (CMS). The best way to deal with child support is to come to a family-based arrangement. This is where you and your ex-partner decide between yourselves how and when you’ll both support your child.

You could: 

          Pay for certain items directly
Like school trips or uniforms. This would mean you could save up a certain amount of money each month to cover these costs, rather than having to make a monthly payment. In months where you have a bit less money you could put a bit less away.Make a monthly paymentThis can be an amount that’s agreed by you and your ex-partner. This way you can discuss what’s affordable and realistic, rather than having to pay a set amount

Combine some of these options

Maybe pick one or two and do what works best for you and your ex-partner.

For more information on setting up a family-based arrangement and impartial information and support visit Child Maintenance Options. They have a wide range of tools and suggestions to help you come to an arrangement that meets your needs.

A few points to remember…

1.  The government is thinking of bringing in fees for setting up and managing child maintenance. To avoid these fees try working with your ex-partner to come to a family-based arrangement.

2.  If you’re receiving child maintenance it won’t affect any benefits you’re receiving but you should still tell the Jobcentre Plus about the arrangement.

3.  If you’ve got arrears or you’re struggling with your family-based arrangement speak to your ex-partner and try to come to a family-based arrangement. If you’re finding it hard to do this check out Child Maintenance Options in our useful resources below.

4.  If you’ve got arrears speak to the CSA or CMS and try to come to an arrangement to repay them. Remember these are a priority debt and you need to pay it before your unsecured debts.

5.  The CSA will start to end current arrangements over the next four years (from 2014). Everyone with an arrangement through the CSA will be sent a letter explaining this and given help to set up a new arrangement. Where possible they’ll be encouraged to make a family-based arrangement. If they can’t do this they can apply to the Child Maintenance Service


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