Child maintenance

Last updated: 18 April 2017

Child maintenance is money to help pay for your child's everyday living costs when you've separated from the other parent.

The child maintenance payments are between:

  • the 'paying' parent, who pays child maintenance – this is the parent who doesn't have day-to-day care of the child
  • the 'receiving' parent who gets the child maintenance payments – the parent who has day-to-day care of the child

How to arrange child maintenance

There are no laws that say how parents who separate should arrange child maintenance – so how you choose to arrange it depends on whether you and the child's other parent can both agree.

You can speak to Child Maintenance Options for advice and information on what choices you have when arranging child maintenance.

If you can agree

You and your child's other parent can choose a 'family-based arrangement' – where you both arrange child maintenance yourselves.

If you can't agree

If you and your ex-partner can't agree on the terms, you can use the Child Maintenance Service which has official powers to:

  • work out a legally enforceable amount of child maintenance
  • manage all applications for child maintenance
  • make sure it's paid

The Child Maintenance Service will only get involved if a parent asks.

Since 2012, the Child Maintenance Service has managed all statutory (legally enforceable) child maintenance arrangements. It replaced the Child Support Agency, which doesn't take new applications but still looks after some arrangements set up before December 2013.

Find out what to do if you've already made child maintenance arrangements with the Child Support Agency (CSA).

You can also contact the Child Maintenance Service or Child Support Agency.

If one parent lives outside Scotland

There are options if you need to arrange child maintenance and one parent lives outside Scotland.

The UK has 'Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders' (REMO) with a number of other countries, meaning courts in these countries can enforce child maintenance decisions made in the UK.

Estimate your child maintenance

Use the child maintenance calculator on GOV.UK to get an idea of the amount, whether you're arranging it yourselves or using the Child Maintenance Service.

You can also find out how child maintenance is worked out.

When child maintenance payments stop

Child maintenance payments usually stop when the child reaches 16 (or 20 if they're in full-time education not higher than Scottish Highers or equivalent). They could stop sooner in some situations.