Early child maintenance payments and payment problems
You can start making payments to the receiving parent before CMS calculates the actual amount of child maintenance you have to pay. After the child maintenance is calculated and you cannot pay or the payment will be late, you should contact CMS immediately.
Payments before maintenance is worked out
The parent who doesn’t have the day-to-day care (the ‘paying parent’) pays child maintenance to the parent or person who does (the ‘receiving parent’).
You will usually have to pay child maintenance from the date that CMS first contacts you. In most cases they will ring you first but if this is not possible, they will write to you.
If CMS is not able to work out the child maintenance you are due to pay straight away, you can start to make payments in the meantime. These are called “voluntary payments”. You can make them until CMS tells you the right amount of child maintenance you have to pay and from when.
Voluntary payments can prevent arrears building up which you will have to pay on top of the weekly child maintenance amount. You can make voluntary payments directly to the receiving parent.
Before any payments are made, both parents should agree that the voluntary payments are for child maintenance. Both of you should keep a record of all voluntary payments made and received as CMS will need proof when working out if any arrears are due.
Child maintenance payment problems
If you know you are going to miss or be late with a child maintenance payment, you should contact CMS straight away. If you don’t tell CMS that you're not going to make a payment, they will take action to make sure you do.
If you use the CMS Collect and Pay service, CMS will begin a number of actions immediately. They will either instruct your employer to take the payment from your wages which is called a ‘deductions from earnings order’, or request your bank or building society to take the money from your account. Both of these can be done without your permission or any court action.
If you are paying the receiving parent directly and you fail to keep to that arrangement, the receiving parent can contact CMS and request that they collect the money on their behalf. For this service there are collection and distribution fees.