Applying for child maintenance

To apply for child maintenance through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), you will first need to contact Child Maintenance Choices. The team will talk you through all of the options available to you.

Child Maintenance Choices

Child Maintenance Choices is a free, impartial service. The team will talk you through all the facts, in confidence, about child maintenance, whatever your circumstances. It will provide support and advice to help you decide how to make the best child maintenance arrangement for you and your family.

If after your discussions, you decide not to arrange child maintenance yourself, the Choices team will help you to apply to use the Child Maintenance Service. All new applications for maintenance with the CMS are made under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme and charges could apply.

Information you need to give CMS

When speaking with the Choices team about applying to CMS for making or receiving payments, you will need to provide information about you and your family. This includes:

  • your National Insurance number
  • bank account details
  • details about the child you’re applying for - including the full names of their mother and father

A full list of what you need to provide is included in the child maintenance application checklist:

How the information is used

The information you give can be used to set up and manage child maintenance payments. It can also sometimes find the paying parent.

CMS won’t give out names and addresses unless ordered to by a court, but information might be shared with other government organisations, debt collection agencies or the courts.

If CMS can’t get information it needs from either parent, it might ask other people or organisations, such as:

  • the paying parent’s employer
  • government organisations like the Social Security Agency
  • prison services or local councils
  • the paying parent’s bank or building society

The Data Protection Act controls how your information is used. Contact the Child Maintenance Service for information about how it uses and stores your information.

How long does it take

You will usually get a response from CMS about your application for Child Maintenance with the 2012 Scheme within six weeks. However, it can take up to 26 weeks if there is a problem with contacting the paying parent.

If the contact details for the paying parent aren’t known, CMS will try to find them - but if it can’t, the Child Maintenance application will stop.

The first child maintenance payment is usually made within six weeks of making payment arrangements with the paying parent.

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