Most parents want what’s best for their children, and nearly all separated parents agree that both of them should pay towards their everyday living costs. But if money is tight and emotions are running high, this might be tough to put into practice.
Below are some common concerns parents have, and ideas for dealing with them.
“Sorting out child maintenance is just too much hassle.”
With a family-based arrangement, there is no official paperwork to do, so payments can start as soon as both parents agree the terms. Our online calculator can help you work out how much you should pay or receive
If you decide to ask the CSA to arrange child maintenance, you can apply over the phone if you want to, rather than fill in lots of forms. As soon as they have all of the relevant information needed, the CSA aims to get the case up and running in 12 weeks or less.
“Things are really up in the air at the moment. If I make an arrangement now then I’ll be stuck with it.”
You and your child’s other parent can decide between yourselves how much child maintenance should be paid, and how often it’s paid. We call this a family-based arrangement. This type of arrangement is flexible, so if your situation changes you can change your arrangement whenever you want to – as long as you both agree to it.
Of course, this type of arrangement isn’t suitable for everyone, and if you want the CSA to get involved, they will and either parent can apply to start the application. The important thing is to get a regular, reliable child maintenance arrangement sorted as quickly as possible after separation.
“I never see my kids so I don’t have to pay child maintenance.”
Contact with your children and parental responsibility - including paying child maintenance - are two separate issues. Whatever your new situation is, a child’s need for financial support remains the same.
Most parents would agree that they want what is best for their children and the most important thing is the welfare of the child.
It is widely recognised that when both parents take an active role in the child's life (as long as it is safe to do so) it can have a positive impact on the wellbeing of the child. But it is important not to use access to the child as a bargaining tool for negotiating child maintenance. If you're the parent without the main day-to-day care and you can't see your child, you can – and should - still contribute to their upbringing by paying child maintenance.
The Centre for Separated Families also offers information about access.
“She’s got the house, the car and the kids. I’m living out of a suitcase and sleeping on my mate’s sofa. Why should I pay?”
Having a child maintenance arrangement can make a significant difference to a child’s well-being, because it can help create a more stable environment for them.
What’s more, research shows that the more that both parents are interested and involved in a child’s life, the more likely they are to do well at school, stay out of trouble and develop self esteem and healthier relationships as an adult.
Most parents want what’s best for their children, and understand that they don’t stop being a parent just because their relationship with the other parent ends. This includes being responsible for financially supporting their children.
By contributing financially you can show your child how you’re still helping to take care of them, no matter what else has changed.
More information about child maintenance
Child Maintenance Options is a free service for separated families. It provides impartial information and support to help parents sort out child maintenance and deal with many of the other issues around separation.
You can call Child Maintenance Options on 0800 988 0988 or visit cmoptions.org.
For more information about using the CSA, visit the Gov.uk child maintenance section.