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.
When CMS works out the amount of child maintenance the paying parent 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 bank account to the receiving parent’s 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 which both parents have to pay.
Collect and Pay
The Collect and Pay service collects the payment from the paying parent and pays to the receiving parent, 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.
You can set up a Direct Debit over the phone or if you’ve registered to use the secure self-service website you can set up your Direct Debit online. The money will automatically be taken from your account and forwarded to the receiving parent.
Direct from paying parent’s 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 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 CMS will send you a collection schedule which tells you how much you need to pay and when.
If you’re the receiving parent CMS will send you a payment schedule to tell you how much you should receive and when it will be collected from the paying parent.
A schedule will usually be in place for 12 months unless the amount of child maintenance changes. If this happens, the paying parent and receiving parent will receive new updated schedules.