11 Ways To Reduce Your Child Maintenance Payments In The UK

December 2023

Child Maintenance Loopholes & How to Avoid Paying In The UK In December 2023

In this article, we are going to look at:

  • child maintenance loopholes
  • how to avoid paying child maintenance in the UK
  • how child maintenance works;and
  • how to reduce child maintenance payments.

We also look at some of the consequences of not paying.


Topics that you will find covered on this page

You can listen to an audio recording of this page below.

What Is Child Maintenance?

Child maintenance is the financial contribution that a non-resident parent makes to their child’s upbringing.

This payment helps to cover the costs of day-to-day living expenses such as food, clothing and housing. It is usually paid directly from the non-resident parent to the resident parent for the duration of the court order or agreement.

How To Avoid Paying Child Maintenance In The UK

Here are 11 ways to reduce child maintenance payments in the UK.

1 – Make sure you have the right information about your situation

Before considering reducing child maintenance payments, investigate your legal rights and responsibilities. This includes researching whether both parents should be paying the same amount of money for their children’s care and what other support may be available to help with childcare costs.

2 – Negotiate with the other parent

Rather than looking for child maintenance loopholes, try discussing payment issues directly with the other parent often results in a mutually agreeable solution that reduces or defers payments until circumstances improve. Agreeing upon an appropriate arrangement beforehand can prevent any later disputes over payments.

3 – Seek professional advice

Consider consulting a lawyer or financial adviser if negotiations fail to produce a satisfactory agreement between both parties. All parties involved should know the legal rights and obligations around child maintenance payments to find a solution of lowering child support that works for everyone.

4 – Apply for a ‘variation’

If you think your situation justifies it, you can apply to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) or court for an adjustment to your existing agreement. This is known as a variation request and is based on factors such as changes in income, illness or disability.

Watch Our Short Video on Different Ways To Reduce Your Maintenance Payments

The video has a lot of useful information to help you.

You can also watch this video on Youtube.

An alternative video for you to watch

5 – Claim benefits

If you are struggling with your payments, check if you qualify for any relevant government benefits like Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit. This could help reduce your financial burden and make payments easier to manage.

6 – Make use of employer benefits

Some employers offer benefits to help with childcare costs, such as tax-free childcare vouchers and employer-supported childcare.

7 – Consider self-employment

Many people find that moving from a salaried job to self-employment reduces their child maintenance payments significantly. Self-employed parents can declare a salary lower than their true earnings, allowing them to pay less in maintenance costs while still providing for their children.

8 – Make use of payment holidays

Some situations may entitle you to a break from paying your full amount in child maintenance, such as if the other parent is ill or on maternity leave. Ask the CMS about this option if it applies to your situation.

9 – Take out insurance

If you’re worried about the possibility of an unexpected event affecting your ability to pay child maintenance, consider taking out an insurance policy. This could help cover any costs that arise from a sudden change in circumstances.

10 – Request mediation

If both parties have difficulty coming up with a mutually agreeable solution to reduce or defer payments, it may be worth seeking professional mediation. 

A qualified mediator can help both parents find an arrangement that works for everyone and reduces the burden on either party.

The child stays overnight

11 – The child stays overnight

One of the most used CSA loopholes is that if child stays overnight with their non-resident parent at least once a week, then this may reduce the amount of child maintenance payable. This arrangement must be agreed upon by both parents and is subject to approval from the CMS or court.

In addition, if you have more than one child for whom you are paying child maintenance, the amount will usually be reduced if all the children live with their non-resident parent for at least one night a week. How many children you have will impact what you pay.

If you have three or more children and the third child stays overnight with their non-resident parent for at least one night a week, then you may be eligible for a reduced maintenance rate for all three children.

By following these steps, you can reduce or manage your child’s maintenance payments more effectively. It is important to remember that all decisions must be kept within legal guidelines set by the government and must ensure proper care and support of any children involved.

"Child maintenance is the financial contribution that a non-resident parent makes to their child’s upbringing."

What Is The Child Maintenance Service?

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is a UK government agency that helps handle financial support for children whose parents are not living together.

Through CMS, you can apply for child maintenance payments from the other parent or set up your own payment arrangement. The service also provides guidance on reducing or deferring payments if necessary.

In some cases, it may be possible to adjust an existing child maintenance agreement through the CMS, or even request a payment holiday. It is important to remember, however, that all decisions must ensure proper care and support of any children involved.

Maintenance Payment For A Child

It’s also worth noting that there are time limits in place when it comes to making changes to your existing arrangements with the CMS, so make sure you’re familiar with the deadlines.

If you are unable to reach an agreement without help, consider seeking professional mediation or consulting a financial adviser for child maintenance advice. Knowing your rights and obligations will help make sure everyone involved is treated fairly.

Child Maintenance Advice for Fathers

Understanding what your legal responsibilities are, is a critical first step. However, navigating through the child maintenance process can be difficult, particularly if you have not done it before.

Here’s some practical advice for fathers.

Communication is key

Open dialogue with the other parent can often help you simplify the process.

It can lead to a mutually agreed ‘family-based arrangement’, which can be more flexible and less formal than having the CMS involved.

Financial planning

Budgeting for your child maintenance payments means that you can meet your legal obligations without causing undue financial stress.

Keeping records of all the payments you have made can safeguard against potential disputes in the future. This includes keeping any records of bank transfers, cheque payments, or even cash payments.

Seek professional advice

A number of organisations offer free advice to fathers navigating child maintenance. This can provide valuable support and guidance throughout the process.

What Is The Average Maintenance Payment For A Child In The UK?

If you are thinking about trying to reduce your child maintainence payments, you might wonder how much is child maintenance?

The average maintenance payment for a child in the UK is around £80 per week, although this amount can vary depending on the individual circumstances of each case. The payments are based on the gross weekly income of those paying maintenance payments.

Factors that determine the amount include income levels, the number of children involved and any additional costs such as childcare or medical bills.

It is important to note that there are minimum and maximum amounts that parents can be asked to pay under the law; this means you may only have to pay what is deemed necessary by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

If you feel unable to meet your payments or think they’re too high, it may be possible to make an application to the CMS or court for an adjustment to your existing agreement.

It is also worth noting that there are some circumstances, such as if the other parent is ill or on maternity leave, it may entitle you to a payment holiday from your full amount in child maintenance.

It’s always worth checking with the CMS about this option if it applies to your situation.

How Is Child Maintenance Calculated?

So how is maintenance determined in a divorce? The amount of child maintenance payable is calculated using the formula set out by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). This takes into account both parents’ incomes, as well as any additional costs such as childcare or medical bills.

You are legally required to show your gross income when requested.

What If I Can’t Afford Child Support?

Financial strains often lead fathers to ask, “What if I can’t afford child support?” This is a legitimate concern.

The first piece of advice is, don’t panic. It is important to understand that child support isn’t designed to punish the parent but to ensure that the child’s needs are met.

The amount of child support paid usually depends on your income and the number of children you have. It’s not arbitrary but based on a set formula that has to be followed. Understanding this formula can make the process easier to gett through.

If you’re struggling with payments, don’t ignore the issue. Ignoring can lead to legal problems. Instead, communicate your situation to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). They are there to help.

Lastly, it is always advisable to get legal advice. Many organisations in the UK offer free or low cost legal advie to parents facing child support issues. They can help guide you through the process and help you understand your options.

Ultimatrley, child maintenance is essential for your child’s upbringing. If you’re facing financial hardships, there are avenues to explore and professionals to guide you. It’s all about seeking advice, staying informed, and prioritising your child’s needs.

Can CMS ask for bank statements?

CMS has the authority to request that your bank or building society deduct child support from your account. Your consent or a court’s approval are not required for CMS to carry out this action.

The amount deducted from your account may be made in periodic payments or all at once. You can be assessed an administration fee for each deduction by your bank or building society.

Can CMS take money from my paycheck?

If you are employed or get a pension from your employer, CMS may direct them to deduct funds for child support from your income or pension. This is a “deduction from earnings order” (or, if you serve in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, a “deduction from earnings request”). A court application is not necessary for CMS to obtain an order.

Can child maintenance be backdated?

If the Child Maintenance Service ordered the payments, they may be retroactively made. When there have been unofficial, familial maintenance agreements, a problem occurs.

The Child Maintenance Service cannot recover expenditures for you because these are voluntary.

Child Maintenance Calculated

They will look at the gross weekly income of the parent. For example, if a parent earns £15,000 per year and has one child with another parent who earns £25,000 per year, they may be expected to pay around £66 per week in child maintenance payments.

It’s important to note that this amount can vary depending on individual circumstances and may be adjusted according to changes in income levels or additional costs. You can use an online child maintenance calculator provided by the CMS to estimate how much you might have to pay.

How long do you have to pay child support?

The duration of child support payments generally depends on the age of the child and any legal agreements or court orders in place. In the UK, child support is typically paid until the child reaches the age of 16, or until the age of 20 if they are still in full-time education.

However, variations can be based on specific circumstances and any court orders or agreements extending support beyond these ages. It’s important to consult with legal professionals or seek advice on child maintenance from the CMS to fully understand the duration of child support obligations in individual cases.

What happens if I can’t afford child maintenance?

If you’re struggling to pay your child maintenance, it’s important that you get in touch with the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) straight away.

The CMS has a range of options available for those who are having difficulty meeting their payments, including payment holidays and reduced rates depending on individual circumstances.

It is also worth noting that, in some cases, an arrangement can be made with the other parent to make smaller payments over a longer period of time.

It is also important to obtain advice from an expert if necessary; they may be able to help negotiate an agreement or suggest other solutions, such as debt management plans or budgeting assistance.

In any case, making sure everyone involved is aware of the situation and working towards a resolution is key.

Who is exempt from paying child maintenance?

Here is a list of 10 exemptions for paying child support payments. Please note that these child maintenance exemptions are only applicable in England and Wales.

1 – If you’re under 18 and not legally responsible for the child.

2 – If you become insolvent or bankrupt.

3 – If either of the parents has died.

4 – If your child is staying with another parent/guardian full time, without any payments being made by you.

5 – If someone else is now responsible for the child (e.g. adoptive parent).

6 – If it has been proven that there is no financial benefit to the child from paying maintenance payments.

7 – If the other parent refuses to supply a current address so payment arrangements can be established

8 – If you have no means to pay (i.e. unemployed, on a low income or in receipt of State Benefits)

9 – If you are a prisoner with less than 12 months left of your sentence.

10 – If the other parent isn’t married to the child’s mother/father and does not have parental responsibility for the child.

It is important to remember that any exemptions will need to be proven before they can be granted by the CMS.

Therefore we recommend that legal advice is sought if needed. It is also worth noting that these exemptions from paying child support may change over time, so always make sure you check with the CMS who can provide child maintenance advice for fathers that can help you make any decisions.

Can I claim child maintenance if the father is not on the birth certificate?

It is not necessary to be listed on the child’s birth certificate in order to request child support. If there is no question as to who the father is, it might simplify the process.

A DNA test can be used by the non-custodial parent to establish paternity if there is any doubt.


If You Can’t Afford To Pay Child Maintenance

If you are unable to meet your child maintenance payments, it is important that you seek help from the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) as soon as possible.

The CMS can provide advice and support on how best to manage the situation; this may include options such as reduced payments or payment holidays, depending on individual circumstances. 

It is also worth seeking out other sources of help, including debt management plans and budgeting services, if needed.

It is important not to ignore the issue – even if you are struggling financially – because non-payment of child maintenance can result in serious financial penalties and court action by the CMS.

Afford To Pay Child Maintenance

What Could Happen If I Don’t Pay My Child Maintenance?

Failure to pay child maintenance can have serious consequences. If you do not keep up with payments, the CMS may take legal action against you. Ensure you get advice on how to avoid child maintenance payments before you take any steps. 

This could involve enforcing deductions from your earnings or assets, such as bank accounts and pensions. Sometimes, a jail sentence may even be imposed.

Therefore, it is important to contact the CMS as soon as possible if you’re struggling to make payments and work towards an arrangement that fits your individual circumstances.

Seeking advice from an expert on debt management plans or budgeting services is also beneficial.

Can you go to prison for not paying child support?

Laws regarding child support vary by jurisdiction, so the specific consequences for not paying child support can depend on the laws of the country or state where the child support order was issued. However, neglecting to pay child support can have substantial legal repercussions in many jurisdictions, including the potential of incarceration.

In rare situations, a custodial parent or the government agency in charge of collecting child support may start legal actions to enforce payment if a noncustodial parent frequently misses child support payments despite being able to afford to do so. This may entail a variety of consequences, including wage garnishment, asset forfeiture, driver’s licence suspension, and others.

A judge may hold a noncustodial parent in contempt of court in extreme situations if they continue to wilfully avoid paying child support or regularly disobey court directives. Depending on the jurisdiction and the seriousness of the nonpayment, contempt of court penalties may include fines, probation, or even jail.

It’s crucial to remember that legislation and enforcement procedures can vary, so it’s recommended to speak with a legal expert or local government to learn precisely what the child support regulations are in your particular jurisdiction.

What You Can Do If You Think The CMS Decision Is Wrong

If you feel that the decision made by the CMS is incorrect, you can challenge it. Before investigating how to avoid child support, the first step should be to ask for a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ – this is a review of your case by the CSA and can be done in writing or over the phone.

It is also possible to take further legal action by appealing to a tribunal if you still feel that the decision isn’t right; advice from an experienced lawyer may help during this process.

However, it is important to remember that any appeal must be made within one month of receiving the initial decision letter from the CMS.

When do I stop paying child maintenance?

Child maintenance payments will normally stop when the child reaches 16 years old, or 20 years old if they are in full-time education. The CMS may also agree to make exceptions depending on individual circumstances, for example, if a child has special educational needs.

It is important to note that any agreements with the CMS should be kept up until the payment end date; failure to do so can result in enforcement action and penalties.

How to stop child maintenance

In accordance with the laws in your nation or jurisdiction, you must undertake the correct legal procedure to stop making child maintenance payments. Usually, you should get in touch with the appropriate court or child support agency and let them know that you intend to discontinue making payments.

Be prepared to offer solid justifications for your request, such as modifications to custody plans or the youngster nearing emancipated age. To ensure that the termination of child support is done appropriately and in accordance with the relevant laws, it is crucial to follow the legal procedures and get guidance from a family law expert.

How to pay child maintenance

To pay child maintenance in the UK, you can use the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) or make private arrangements with the other parent. If using the CMS, you can make payments directly to the receiving parent or opt for the CMS Collect and Pay service, which manages the payments on your behalf.

Direct debit, standing order, or bank transfer payments can be made. It’s important to keep accurate records of your payments.

Can I pay child maintenance direct to my child when they are 18?

The parent who is responsible for the child’s primary care is typically paid child support directly. The youngster does not directly receive it. The Child Maintenance Service will typically encourage and the court will order that child support be paid via direct debit to the receiving parent if it is paid following an assessment by the Child Maintenance Service or after a financial court order is obtained in the family court.

You might believe that since child support is provided through child maintenance, an older child should receive the money directly. Child support, however, is more than just an allowance for an older child’s entertainment or clothing.

Child support is also intended to cover the costs of the primary caregiver’s household expenses and other things like rent or mortgage payments, food and other necessities, and educational expenses.

It is feasible to agree to pay child support directly to the child if parents reach an agreement over it and the Child Maintenance Service or the court are not involved.



How to stop child support payments

The steps to discontinue making child support payments can change based on the situation and any existing contracts. If you and the other parent have a private arrangement, you should talk to one another and decide whether to change or end the payments.

If the CMS is in charge of managing child support payments, you must inform them about any changes in circumstances that might impact the payments. The CMS will examine the situation and reevaluate the sum or decide if the payments can be halted entirely.

To ensure that child support payments are terminated appropriately and lawfully, it is imperative to follow the relevant procedures and maintain open communication.

Parent Doesn't Pay Child Maintenance

If someone adopts your child do you still pay child support?

No, if someone else adopts your child, you are no longer responsible for paying child support. The adoptive parents assume all legal and financial responsibilities for the child, including financial support.

Are child maintenance payments taxable?

In the UK, child support payments are not taxable. You are not required to pay income tax on the amounts you receive as child support if you are the recipient. Similarly, you cannot claim a tax deduction for child maintenance payments that you make.

To get the most up-to-date and accurate information on how child maintenance payments are taxed in the UK, it is always advisable to verify with official government sources or speak with a tax expert. This is because tax laws and regulations are subject to change over time.

Is child support only for absent fathers?

No, child support is not only for absent fathers. Child support is a financial obligation that one parent (usually the non-custodial parent) has to provide financial assistance for the upbringing and care of their child, regardless of their gender.

Child support is typically ordered by a court or agreed upon between the parents during divorce, separation, or when the parents are not living together.

Can Citizens Advice help with child maintenance?

Yes, Citizens guidance can help with child maintenance and offer guidance. They can give advice on how to set up child maintenance, explain the options and resources available, and assist parents in understanding their rights and obligations.

Can grandparents claim child maintenance?

If the grandparents are the child’s primary carers or have legal guardianship of the child, they may in some cases be eligible to make a claim for child support. However, depending on the country’s laws and the precise custody arrangements, there may be differences in qualifying requirements and the procedure for filing for child maintenance.

Can child support take student loan money?

Child support agencies normally are not permitted to use student loan funds to satisfy their responsibilities. Student loans are frequently not regarded as income and are therefore exempt from child support garnishments. 

To understand how student loans may affect child support calculations or enforcement, it is crucial to review the relevant laws and regulations in your nation or state.

What Happens If A Parent Doesn’t Pay Child Maintenance?

Here is a list of 10 consequences of trying to avoid child maintenance.

1 – You could be taken to court and fined or even sent to prison.

2 – Your passport may be confiscated if you owe more than £1,000 in unpaid maintenance payments.

3 – Your wages and/or bank account can be frozen by the CMS.

4 – The other parent could apply for a ‘charging order’, which means that your assets can be used to cover any unpaid child maintenance debts.

5 -The CMS can take deductions from tax credits and benefits you receive.

6 – If you are self-employed, the CMS can enter into a ‘direct recovery of debts’ arrangement whereby they will collect payments directly from your business bank account.

7 – You may be refused a visa if your unpaid child maintenance debt exceeds £2,000 and you are applying for one.

8- If you are travelling abroad, the CMS can alert border control officers, which could result in entry being refused entry to certain countries.

9 – Avoiding child maintenance payments can cause your credit rating to suffer as the CMS keep records of all unpaid maintenance payments.

10 – Finally, any unpaid child maintenance debts will remain on your credit file for 6 to 7 years.

It is important to remember that ignoring this issue and failing to pay child maintenance can have serious consequences. Therefore seeking help from the CMS or an experienced lawyer should be done as soon as possible.

It’s also beneficial to seek advice from other sources of support, such as debt management plans and budgeting services.

Doing so could help you to make more informed decisions about how best to manage your child’s maintenance payments.

Meet the author

Jane Parkinson

Jane Parkinson

Jane is one of our primary content writers and specialises in elder care. She has a degree in English language and literature from Manchester University and has been writing and reviewing products for a number of years.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Child Maintenance?

Child maintenance is the financial contribution that a non-resident parent makes to their child’s upbringing.

Seek professional advice

Consider consulting a lawyer or financial adviser if negotiations fail to produce a satisfactory agreement between both parties. All parties involved should know the legal rights and obligations around child maintenance payments to find a solution that works for everyone.

What Is The Child Maintenance Service?

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is a UK government agency that helps handle financial support for children whose parents are not living together.

When Does Child Maintenance Stop In The UK? 

Child maintenance payments will normally stop when the child reaches 16 years old, or 20 years old if they are in full-time education. The CMS may also agree to make exceptions depending on individual circumstances, for example, if a child has special educational needs.

After divorce who gets the child?

The best interests of the kid come first in UK child custody decisions following a divorce or separation. In order to protect the child’s welfare, the court will make decisions that will satisfy their needs and, if at all possible, preserve their relationship with both parents.

In most situations, parents are urged to negotiate or use mediation to come to an equitable agreement regarding child custody and visitation. If a compromise cannot be achieved, the court may step in and issue a determination based on the child’s interests, age, and any prior domestic abuse or violent history.

Various custody arrangements are possible, including sole custody given to one parent with visitation privileges for the other, joint custody, where both parents share responsibility, and more.

The goal of the court is to establish a secure and nurturing environment that promotes the child’s emotional and physical growth.

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