Family-based child maintenance arrangements

In a family-based child maintenance arrangement, you and the other parent agree how you will arrange maintenance for your child. There's no cost to setting up this arrangement. Child Maintenance Service (CMS) doesn't need to be involved.

Agreeing a family-based arrangement   

A family-based arrangement must be agreed by you and the other parent. It does not always have to involve money but must be an agreement that suits you both. For example, you could both agree that the paying parent pays:

  • part of their income
  • a lump sum at different points in the child’s life
  • for specific items such as school clothes instead of giving money
  • a regular set amount directly to the receiving parent
  • bills such as home heating oil or mortgage payments

You don't have to involve anyone else and the arrangement is not generally legally enforceable or binding. This means that a parent who stops paying can’t be forced to do so.

Advantages and disadvantages of a family-based arrangement

Advantages       Disadvantages
A family-based arrangement
is free to set up and is totally
private. No one else needs to
get involved in your affairs.
If the other parent won’t give
you accurate information about
their income, you won’t be able
to work out a figure based on
their income.

Doing things yourself can
be quicker and easier than
through the Child Maintenance
Service (as long as you and
the other parent are able to
work together). There is no
bureaucracy to deal with or
set rules to follow. You can be
more flexible about how, what
and when payments should be

If the other parent isn’t willing to
co-operate, or refuses to
take responsibility, a
family-based arrangement
won’t work. 
If an arrangement can be
agreed without solicitors and
the Child Maintenance Service,
it's easier to keep
relationships on good terms.
It can also be a good way to
rebuild trust for the future.
A family-based arrangement is
not legally binding. Overdue
child maintenance payments
cannot be enforced or collected
if your arrangement breaks
People tend to respect their
own promises more. When
both parents arrange things
together, payments are more
likely to be made in full and on
If you’ve failed to make a
family-based arrangement work
before, it’s less likely to
succeed the second time.
It’s flexible.
You can make special
arrangements or changes at
any time, quickly and easily.
If you don’t know where the
other parent lives, or don’t want
to have any contact with them,
it’s hard to make a
family-based arrangement

A family-based arrangement is not final. If it doesn’t work, contact Child Maintenance Choices about your other options including asking the Child Maintenance Service to put a maintenance arrangement in place.

Reaching an agreement

It's completely up to you and the other parent how quickly you reach a family-based arrangement but it is important for the well-being of your child that an arrangement is put in place as quickly as possible.

You will need all the information that will help you calculate a figure for child maintenance. You may be able to agree everything with the other parent in one evening.

Information both parents need to know

To put in place a family-based arrangement, you might find it useful to have the following information ready for your discussion with the other parent:

• information about your income and theirs - if you have it

• information about the living costs for your child such as school costs, clothing     and food

• information about your own living costs such as mortgage/rent and house             bills

• when you’d like child maintenance payments to be made

• a date for when you review the arrangement

Use the child maintenance calculator to get an idea of how much you might pay or receive. Use the family-based arrangement form below to record information agreed by you and the other parent.

Paying child maintenance through a family-based arrangement

A family-based arrangement allows you and the other parent to choose a payment method that suits both of you. There are different ways to pay child maintenance. You could set up a standing order or use a money transfer service. It’s a good idea to keep a record of every payment.

Alternatively, you could agree to share the care of your child – for example they could stay with the parent who doesn’t have the main day-to-day care during the school holidays or on some nights during the week.

Paying by standing order

If you want to pay or receive the same amount of child maintenance on a regular basis, you could set up a standing order. This is where the money goes directly from one bank account to the other.

If you're the parent who doesn’t have the main day-to-day care, standing orders can help you to:

  • keep a record of payments made
  • stop debts from building up
  • manage your finances more easily

Paying by money transfer service

If you don´t want to share your bank details with the other person, you could use a money transfer service, such as:

PayPal offers an online or "e-money" transfer service.

With MoneyGram you can transfer money through the Post Office, or you can do it online.

It is important to know that some of these services may charge a fee. Check with the service provider to make sure you understand if any charges will apply.

If your circumstances change

With a family-based arrangement you can change the way child maintenance is paid if your circumstances change - as long as both parents agree.

For instance, if the parent without the main day-to-day care of the child loses their job, you could reduce their child maintenance payments temporarily and then increase them again when they're back in work.

If the parent who looks after the child everyday needs urgent repairs to their home, the other parent could help with the cost by paying a lump sum, instead of their regular child maintenance payments.

When you can stop paying Child Maintenance

Mothers and fathers should continue to contribute towards child maintenance for children who are either under 16, or under 20 and in full-time education (but not higher than A-Level or equivalent).

Child Maintenance Choices

If you need more information on family-based arrangements, contact Child Maintenance Choices. They can give free and impartial advice about arranging child maintenance. 

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