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If you’re finding it hard to make a family-based arrangement, there is help available. For example, you could try Mediation. Or, as a last resort, you could ask the Child Support Agency to arrange child maintenance for you. You also have the option of going through the courts.

Mediation

If you still find the idea of discussing child maintenance overwhelming, a professional family mediator , or family lawyer , could help you to reach agreement.

The Child Support Agency

If you can’t agree a child maintenance arrangement with the other parent, either of you can ask the Child Support Agency (CSA) to arrange child maintenance on your behalf. This means the CSA calculates how much maintenance should be paid to the parent with main day to day care of the child or children, applying current legislation. 

The CSA can also arrange for maintenance to be collected and paid to the other parent.

All money paid through the CSA is paid to the other parent even if they are in receipt of tax credits or benefits. If the non-resident parent is in receipt of benefits, then under the CSA rules a fixed amount of the benefit will be paid to the other parent as child maintenance.

Find out more about more about using the Child Support Agency at Gov.uk.

Court Orders

Parents living apart can also arrange child maintenance using a court order (in England and Wales), or a Minute of Agreement (in Scotland). You would usually need to get legal advice to do this, and pay legal costs.  Of course you can get more legal support from other Wikivorce pages on going through the courts and using a solicitor.

Consent order (a type of court order in England and Wales)

This is an official ruling made by a court. It’s more commonly used when parents are deciding a divorce settlement or sharing assets, and need to work with a solicitor to agree the amount of child maintenance to be paid. They will then apply to the court to turn the agreement into a consent order. A consent order means the court can enforce payment if the terms of the agreement are not met

If you have a consent order, this can be changed to a CSA arrangement if an application to use the CSA is submitted by either parent, but not for the first 12 months the consent order has been in place. 

Minute of Agreement (in Scotland)

Things are slightly different in Scotland. If you can make a family-based arrangement with the other parent (usually with help from solicitors), it can be made into a contract called a minute of agreement. This can be registered to make it legally binding, without the need to go to court.

If you have a minute of agreement already in place, it can be changed to a CSA arrangement if an application to the CSA is submitted by either parent (but not for the first 12 months it’s been in place). 

If child maintenance payments stop or fall into arrears, a sheriff officer can collect and enforce payments. Again you will probably find there are legal costs involved.

To arrange a court order, you are likely to need:

  • information about your income, and the other parent’s
  • details of living costs for your child, such as school costs, clothing and food
  • a date for when you propose to review the agreement