Help if you’re struggling to pay your child maintenance

Child maintenance payments are considered priority bills. If you don’t pay, the consequences can be severe. Try and stay on top of your payments and treat them as priority outgoings ahead of any unsecured loans or credit cards.

If you can’t afford to pay child maintenance

There’s no government assistance, but there are options if you’re struggling with payments.

If you continue to receive your full income (or 80% of it), you will be expected to pay your child maintenance payments in full, regardless of the coronavirus crisis.

However, if you’ve been made redundant or lost at least 25% of your income because of coronavirus, you will be able to reduce the amount you contribute.

But remember, the government doesn’t make up any child maintenance shortfall.

What to do if you can’t pay child maintenance

1. Speak to the receiving parent

First, talk to the other parent and try and reach a compromise.

This is the quickest and simplest way to reach an agreement. Good communication and empathy are important, as well as being honest about your financial situation.

It might be worth asking to reduce child maintenance payments for now. Then plan to return to the normal, higher amount when your income returns to normal.

If you can come to an arrangement, and your income has dropped by at least 25%, contact the Child Maintenance Service, to make them aware. There’s a chance they may be able to offer more support because of the pandemic.

2. If you can’t agree, ask the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to step in

Consider asking the CMS to calculate what you should be paying if your income has fallen by 25% or more if you’ve been furloughed or made redundant. The CMS charge a fee for this service, so it’s usually preferable to make an arrangement between you.

If your income hasn’t dropped by that amount – you will have to carry on paying the full amount.

The CMS are currently prioritising parents who have been furloughed or made redundant over those who have had a drop in income, due to a lack of resources.

The CMS will make their assessment based on the paying parent’s gross annual income.

If you can pay, but refuse to, the CMS can enforce payments. These will be deducted directly from your earnings or bank account.

At the moment, you can just call the CMS to let them know how your financial situation has changed because of coronavirus. But you will need to provide evidence to back this up as a later date.

If you need to apply to the CMS for a payment reduction, do this as soon as possible. Their resources are limited because of the pandemic, so the application is likely to take longer than usual.

arrow icon

What could happen if I don’t pay my child maintenance?

The consequences can be severe. If you miss payments, the CMS have the power to deduct arrears and ongoing payments straight from your earnings or bank account. They have a wide range of other powers and, as a last resort, you could face prison if you refuse to pay.

If you’re paying child maintenance in accordance with a court order that’s less than 12 months old, you will be in breach of the order if you stop paying.

If you stop paying without the agreement of your former partner and don’t apply for a variation, enforcement proceedings may be started.

  • If payments are reduced or stopped (unless agreed between you), you will be in breach of the court order.
  • If you genuinely can’t meet payments because your income has fallen, you can ask the court to reduce the amount of child maintenance you need to pay.
arrow icon
arrow icon

When to get debt advice

If you have missed more than one Child Maintenance payment or are juggling other debts, it’s important you pay them off in the right order as some are more urgent than others.

arrow icon
arrow icon
arrow icon
arrow icon
arrow icon

Extra support if you’re struggling financially and with your mental wellbeing

arrow icon

Having mental health issues might mean that you struggle to make the best money-based decisions for you, as well as act on them.

arrow icon

Remember, if you’re struggling financially and with your mental wellbeing, it’s worth getting in contact with your bank, building society, lender or whoever you owe money to, to discuss your options.

However, picking up the phone and talking about your problems is often easier said than done when you’re struggling with your mental health.

arrow icon

Most places that you owe money to have policies about supporting you if you’re vulnerable. But they can’t help you unless you ask.

For some general tips on how you can manage your mental health check out Rethink’s guide. It covers everything from setting a budget to getting help if you, or someone you care about, is having a mental health crisis.

arrow icon
Was this information useful?
Thank you for your feedback.
We’re always trying to improve our website and services, and your feedback helps us understand how we’re doing.
Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
Talk to us live for…
Talk to us live for…
Talk to us live for pensions guidance using…
Talk to us live for money guidance using…
Hours
  • Mon – Fri:9.00am – 5.00pm
  • Sat, Sun and bank holidays:Closed

* Calls are free. We’re committed to providing you with a quality service, so calls may be recorded or monitored for training purposes and to help us develop our services.

Talk to us live for money guidance using the telephone
Hours
  • Mon – Fri:8.00am – 6.00pm
  • Sat, Sun and bank holidays:Closed

* Calls are free. We’re committed to providing you with a quality service, so calls may be recorded or monitored for training purposes and to help us develop our services.

Talk to us live for pensions guidance using web chat
Hours
  • Mon – Fri:9.00am – 6.00pm
  • Sat, Sun and bank holidays:Closed
Talk to us live for money guidance using webchat
Hours
  • Mon – Fri:8.00am – 6.00pm
  • Sat:8.00am – 3.00pm
  • Sun and bank holidays:Closed
Talk to us for pensions guidance using our web form

We aim to respond within 5 working days

Talk to us for money guidance using our web form

We aim to respond within 2 working days

Talk to us live for money guidance using WhatsApp

Download app: WhatsApp

For help sorting out your debts or credit questions. For everything else please contact us via Webchat or telephone.