Child support, also known as child maintenance, is the money you pay to support your child if she lives with her other parent. The amount you’ll have to pay can vary according to whether you make the arrangements yourself, or go through a government body such as the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service. Rates decided by the CSA or CMS are set at a statutory level which is the same whether you live in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. Child maintenance is due until your child is 16, or until she's 20 if she remains in full-time education at A-Level or below.
Make a family-based arrangement with the child’s other parent if you can. Child Maintenance Options, an independent advisory service, explains that family-based arrangements offer greater flexibility, are free to set up and can encourage parents to work together in the best interest of their child. Payments can be at any level and don’t have to be a regular amount -- you might decide, for example, that one parent pays for school clothing, or pays a lump sum at particular points in the child’s life.
Arrange to pay via the CSA or CMS if you can’t reach agreement with the child’s other parent. Payments made through these agencies are calculated at a standard statutory rate, and you can use the online calculator on the British Government website to get a rough idea of how much you’ll have to pay (see Resources). The CSA or CMS will make their calculation based on a variety of factors, including how many children you’re paying maintenance for, how much you earn and whether you receive any benefits.
Check whether you are exempt from paying child maintenance or subject to a reduced rate. Some people do not have to pay any child maintenance at all. These categories include students, young people aged under 16 and prisoners. Individuals receiving certain types of benefit, including income support and job-seeker’s allowance, only pay a small flat fee.
If the CSA or CMS orders you to pay child maintenance and you fail to make the payments, both agencies can take action against you. They can legally arrange for payments to be taken directly from your bank account or from your wages by your employer. They can also take you to court, which could result in bailiffs repossessing your belongings, forcing you to sell any property you own, or even sending you to prison.