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Child maintenance arrears. Worried about child support payments?

Child maintenance is the official name for “child support”.

These payments go towards your child’s everyday living costs, like food and clothes.

signpost iconThe Child Support Agency (CSA) was abolished and replaced in 2012 by its successor, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

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What happens if I do not pay child maintenance?

Child maintenance is considered a government debt.

This means the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has a wide range of legal powers. They can:

  • Take payments from your earnings or bank account
  • Take arrears from your earnings or bank account
  • Get a 'liability order'
  • Force the sale of a property
  • Take your passport or driving license
  • Imprisonment. This is as a last resort

These payments are a priority. Make sure you pay them before debts like:

  • Credit cards
  • Personal loans

What if I have arrears on my child support payments?

You should contact the CMS as soon as possible.

The details of your local office will be on any letter they send you.

They will work with you to help you:

  • Clear your arrears
  • Continue making child support payments

Can I pay child maintenance arrears in instalments?


Ask the CMS to agree to a repayment plan.

Make a budget, detailing your income and expenditure. You can use this to:

  • Come to a payment arrangement
  • Keep on top of future payments

Find out how to complete an income and expenditure form.

Have you claimed Child Benefit?

Child Benefit can be claimed by parents or guardians with a child:

  • Under 16 in their household or
  • Under 20 if they stay in approved education or training

You can get:

  • £1,331 per year for a first child
  • £881 for any other child

These rates are as of April 2024.

You can now claim fully online. The money should arrive within three days.

Family based arrangements

You may be able to support your child without going through the Child Maintenance Service.

This is called a family-based arrangement.

You and your ex-partner decide between yourselves how and when you both support your child.

This could mean:

  • Making a monthly payment
    • This amount is agreed by you and your ex-partner
    • You can discuss what is affordable and realistic
  • Paying for certain items directly
    • For example, school trips or uniforms
    • You save the money for these each month instead of making a monthly payment
  • Combine options
    • Pick one or two items to be responsible for
    • Also make monthly payments
    • Change payments if needed

Debt in a family-based arrangement

Speak to your ex-partner if you are struggling to pay. You may be able to work together to come up with a plan.

Things to remember

  1. There are fees for payment arrangements set up through CMS. Working out and keeping to a family-based arrangement with your partner will help you avoid these fees
  2. Your benefits should not be affected by receiving child maintenance. But you should still tell the Jobcentre Plus
  3. Speak to your ex-partner if you have arrears or are struggling to make payments
  4. Get free debt advice if you need help

Help and advice

Our debt advice tool can help if you are struggling with child maintenance or other payments.

We will:

  • Help you work out a household budget
  • Understand what you can afford
  • Recommend solutions