How Do I Arrange Child Maintenance?


If you have children, both parents are expected to pay towards the cost of bringing them up until they’re at least 16. There are several ways to arrange child maintenance if you and your partner split.

Options for arranging child maintenance

There are four options for arranging child maintenance payments with your ex-partner:

1) Family-based arrangement: you and your ex-partner arrange child maintenance between you

2) Direct Pay: the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) calculates how much child maintenance should be paid, but you and your ex-partner arrange how it will be paid between you

3) Collect and Pay: the CMS calculates how much child maintenance should be paid, collects the money from one parent and passes it to the other

4) Court-ordered arrangement: If you can reach an agreement for child maintenance with the other parent you can apply to the court to make it a formal legally binding agreement. This is used, for example, if the paying parent lives abroad or to help decide how much to pay for the cost of a child’s disability (as the CMS doesn't take these extra costs into account in their calculations).

If you live in Scotland, and are aged 12 to 19 and in full-time, non-advanced education or training can apply for child maintenance. You can apply to the Child Maintenance Service directly to ask for an assessment of child maintenance to be made.

For the 'pros & cons' of each of the four options, please click here.

Changes to child maintenance

If you or your ex-partner’s income or wealth changes substantially, you might be able to adjust the level of child maintenance payments. If you have a family-based arrangement with your ex-partner, you can talk to them about making changes.

It’s important that you check with a solicitor about updating the court order (if you have one) that contains previous agreements on child maintenance payments.

If you move in with a new partner and you’re receiving child support, this won’t be affected by your relationship – whether or not you marry or enter a civil partnership.

But you can agree with your ex-partner to change the level of payments if, for example, income levels change. If stepchildren are involved, it might be worth getting legal advice.

Your next step

Read our guide How much child maintenance should I pay?

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