Child Maintenance Options – how effective is this service?

Since November 2013, the Child Maintenance Options service has been the mandatory gateway to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). Separated parents must talk to Child Maintenance Options before they are able to access the CMS and put in place a statutory arrangement. Child Maintenance Options will always encourage parents where possible to sort out their own arrangement for child maintenance rather than use the statutory provisions of the CMS. There are a number of separated parents who are able to agree on the amount to be paid and arrange for payment to be made from one parent’s bank account to the other. This is commonly known as a Family Based Arrangement (FBA). If parents cannot agree and have spoken to Child Maintenance Options they are then allowed to use the CMS to supply a formal assessment of statutory child maintenance and if necessary, arrange for the CMS to collect this maintenance from the paying parent.

The Department of Work and Pensions has recently published its findings over how the Child Maintenance Options and CMS are being used. Out of the 297,000 customers that had contact with CM Options between February 2015 and January 2016, 226,700 set up a child maintenance arrangement. 26% of CM Options customers in 2015/2016 set up FBAs which is consistent with the previous year. Nearly half (49%) of arrangements set up were with the CMS. This is a slight decrease from the previous year.

132,200 CM Options customers currently have effective FBAs set up since the service was created in July 2008. The number of CM Options customers with effective FBAs after contact with CM Options is at its highest level since the service was set up. It increased by 15,600 FBAs between April 2015 and March 2016. The DWP says that 93,400 children are benefiting from effective FBAs since CM Options began.

What is clear from these statistics is that there are a number of different ways separated parents can sort out child maintenance and certain ways work better for some than others. For any separated parent who is struggling to reach an agreement with their ex-partner, please contact us. We are here to help.

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Ipswich Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email