Child maintenance payment methods and plans

Child maintenance can be paid directly between parents or by Collect and Pay through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). CMS can collect from the paying parent’s wages, benefits or by Direct Debit. When parents pay or receive child maintenance through Collect and Pay service, they pay a fee each time.

Direct Pay

When CMS works out the amount of child maintenance the paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) has to pay, both parents can agree on how, and when, the maintenance should be paid. This is quicker and more flexible than paying through CMS and there is no charge for the service.

You can set up a standing order where the money will go directly from the paying parent’s (non-resident parent’s, 2003 scheme) bank account to the receiving parent’s (parent with care, 2003 scheme) account. Or you could use a money transfer service but you might pay a fee for this payment method.

You should keep a record of payments you make or receive. If any payments are missed, CMS can get involved and put the Collect and Pay service in place. This has a collection fee charge (collection fees only applicable to 2012 scheme) which both parents have to pay.

Collect and Pay

The Collect and Pay service collects the payment from the paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) and pays to the receiving parent, (parent with care, 2003 scheme).  Collect and Pay can use three methods: 

  • Direct Debit
  • direct from a paying parent’s earnings
  • direct from a paying parent’s benefits

Paying parents who use the Collect and Pay service must pay a collection fee of 20 per cent of the child maintenance payment on top of the regular child maintenance. Receiving parents will have four per cent deducted from their regular child maintenance payment. 

These fees are paid to child maintenance cases on the 2012 scheme.

Direct Debit

You can set up a Direct Debit by telephone or by contacting CMS. They'll send you forms to complete and return. CMS gives the forms to your bank or building society. If you use internet banking you might be able to set up a Direct Debit online.

The money will automatically be taken from your account and forwarded to the receiving parent, (parent with care, 2003 scheme).

Direct from paying parent’s (non-resident parent’s, 2003 scheme) earnings

If you are employed, you can pay child maintenance direct from your earnings through a ‘deduction from earnings order’. The money is taken from your earnings before you receive them.

If you are a member of HM Armed Forces, you can also pay direct from your earnings through a ‘deduction from earnings request’, which works in a similar way.

CMS can also ask for deductions from a paying parent’s (non-resident parent’s, 2003 scheme) earnings or pension if they owe some child maintenance, or if they have not made a satisfactory agreement to pay child maintenance.

Direct from paying parent’s benefits

If you receive certain benefits the child maintenance you owe will normally be taken directly from your benefit payments before they are paid to you.

Collection and payment schedules

If you’re the paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme), CMS will send you a “payment plan (2003 scheme) or collection schedule ( 2012 scheme)” which tells you how much you need to pay and when.

If you’re the receiving parent (parent with care, 2003 scheme), CMS will send you an “expected payment plan (2003 scheme) or payment schedule (2012 scheme)” to tell you how much you should receive and when it will be collected from the paying parent, (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme).

A schedule or payment plan will usually be in place for 12 months unless the amount of child maintenance changes. If this happens, the paying parent (parent with care, 2003 scheme) and receiving parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) will receive new updated schedules or payment plans. 

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