Child Maintenance

NI Direct

Child maintenance is regular financial support that helps pay everyday living costs of bringing up a child when parents are separated. It’s for children who are under 16 or under 20 and still in full-time education not higher than A-Level.

Arranging child maintenance

Child maintenance can help your child’s well-being and the quality of family relationships.

The parent who doesn’t have the day-to-day care (the ‘paying parent’) pays child maintenance to the parent or person who does (the ‘receiving parent’).

When possible, you should make sure your child is looked after by having an effective maintenance arrangement in place. Both parents are legally responsible for the financial costs of bringing up their children, even parents who don't live with their children.

Separated parents can arrange child maintenance:

  • privately through a family-based arrangement
  • through a Consent Order from a court 
  • through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS)

Getting help with child maintenance

If you need more information, contact Child Maintenance Choices (CM Choices). It's a free advice service that can help you decide the best maintenance arrangement for you and your family.

It's important that both parents make a final agreement that provides regular and reliable financial support to help with the child’s living costs.

Child Maintenance Service

For parents who don't have a Consent Order in place or can't make their own family-based arrangement, CMS can help you set up an arrangement. You can arrange maintenance payments by ‘direct pay’ or with the CMS ‘Collect and Pay’ service.

Charges may apply depending on which you choose. New applications to the CMS for maintenance are dealt with under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme.

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