A Complete Guide To The Child Maintenance Service in the UK

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One of the toughest elements of being a single parent is getting to grips with finances. Whether you’re parenting alone, or co-parenting, you may be entitled to child support from your children’s other parent. The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is a government service that helps parents who are separated or divorced to arrange financial support for their children. In this Frolo guide, we will cover everything you need to know about the CMS, including what it is, how to use the CMS calculator, how to contact the CMS, whether you are entitled to child support, and what to do if your ex-partner won't pay child support.

Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash

Get Support Via Frolo 

If you want to connect with other single parents going through issues with the CMS, or have questions about finances, you’ll find help and support on the Frolo app. Not only can you share you experiences or questions on the main feed, there is a specific Frolo Finances group chat where you might find answers to your questions. 

What Is The Child Maintenance Service?

The Child Maintenance Service is a government service that helps separated or divorced parents to arrange financial support for their children. Child maintenance is regular financial support that helps pay everyday living costs of bringing up a child when parents are separated. It is for children who are under 16 or under 20 and still in full-time education not higher than A-Level. The CMS can help you set up an arrangement if you don't have a Consent Order in place or can't make your own family-based arrangement. You can arrange maintenance payments by ‘direct pay’ or with the CMS ‘Collect and Pay’ service. gov.uk/child-maintenance-service

What is the CMS Calculator?

The CMS calculator is a tool that helps you estimate how much child maintenance you might have to pay or receive. The Child Maintenance Service usually follows six steps to work out the weekly amount of child maintenance. The calculator shows you what the government is likely to work out for you. The CMS will find out the paying parent’s yearly gross income from information supplied by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). They’ll also check if the paying parent is getting benefits (tax credits, student grants and loans do not count as income). The ‘paying parent’ does not have main day-to-day care of the child. The ‘receiving parent’ has main day-to-day care of the child. The CMS will take into account the number of children the paying parent has to pay child maintenance for. This includes any other children living with the paying parent. You can get an idea of how much child maintenance you should receive online at gov.uk/calculate-child-maintenance

How Do I Contact The CMS?

You can contact the CMS by calling 0800 171 2345 or through your online account. 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. If you're the person with day-to-day care of the child, you can apply to the CMS for child maintenance. You could be their parent or someone else - like a grandparent. You must be the parent who is responsible for the child's day-to-day care.

Am I Entitled To Child Support?

Both parents are responsible for the costs of raising their children, even if they do not see them. You must have a child maintenance arrangement if your child is under 16 (or under 20 if they are still in full-time education). Child maintenance can be arranged privately between parents, if both parents agree, or through the Child Maintenance Service. A person might be responsible for child maintenance if they:

  • Are the child's biological parent
  • Have legally adopted the child
  • Have been named in a court order as the child's parent
  • Are the child's legal guardian

My Ex Won't Pay Child Support

If your ex-partner won't pay child support, you can contact the CMS for help. The CMS can take enforcement action against the paying parent if they don't pay child maintenance. This can include taking money directly from their earnings or bank account, taking legal action, or even sending them to prison. If your circumstances change and you think you should be able to start paying less child maintenance, you’ll have to contact the CMS office that manages your case. They’ll take down your information and tell you whether you qualify to reduce your payments.

Does The CMS Work?

We know that single parents in the UK have mixed experiences when it comes to using the CMS. We’d love to hear about your experiences and will be reaching out on the Frolo app to see how you have fared. Join the Frolo Community now to be part of the conversation.  

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