Child Maintenance Service

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) was established in 2012 in order to replace the old Child Support Agency. Over the years the CMS has developed its service to parents including enhancing the powers it has to deal with any arrears of maintenance.  Individuals must pay a £20 fee when they make an application to the CMS to calculate child maintenance. The fee is not charged if a person is aged 18 years or under or is a victim of domestic abuse or violence and has reported this to an appropriate person.

Under the regulations governing the CMS fees, an appropriate person is defined as:

  • a court;
  • the police;
  • a medical professional;
  • social services;
  • a multi-agency risk assessment conference;
  • a specialist domestic violence organisation or service including a refuge;
  • an employer;
  • educational services;
  • a local authority;
  • a legal professional; or
  • a specialist support organisation.

When the CMS has calculated maintenance, they provide this information to both the paying parent and the receiving parent. The CMS will always encourage parents to come to their own agreements for payment. The CMS calls this  “direct pay” and there are no additional collection fees.

Where it is not possible for parents to make their own arrangements for payment, they can use the CMS’ “collect and pay”, where the CMS collects and passes on payments, the paying parent must pay an extra 20% of the maintenance due and the receiving parent gets 96% of the child maintenance allowance paid by the paying parent. If arrears accumulate under the collect and pay system, the paying parent is usually sent an arrears notice by the CMS. The CMS will work with the paying parent to rectify the issue swiftly and may offer to put in place a repayment plan. The CMS has said that it aims to recover arrears within two years and expects the paying parent to pay up to 40% of their net income to clear them.

The Child Maintenance Service has collection and enforcement powers to tackle arrears. Without a court order, the CMS may collect arrears through:

  • A deduction from earnings order: An employer deducts payment for arrears direct from the paying parent’s salary.
  • A deduction from earnings request: As above, but for the Armed Forces.
  • A deduction order: Either a lump sum or regular deductions are made from bank accounts.
  • Collection of Assets from a deceased paying parent’s estate.

With a court-obtained liability order, the CMS may take a range of enforcement action. In England and Wales these powers include using bailiffs to take control of goods and applying to the court for an order of sale of an asset once it is registered by a court.

Child maintenance can be one of many issues concerning children on which separated parents find it hard to reach an agreement. At Barker Gotelee our family department can assist with helping to resolve any issues separated parents may face concerning their children. Speak to a member of our team today to find out more about our initial consultation process.

Katherine Parker is a solicitor in the Family Department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.

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