The Child Support Agency and, by extension, the Child Maintenance Service, are branches of the United Kingdom government and legislative body, based around ensuring that support payments are paid by separated parents to the caregiver of their children. The parent or guardian responsible for the day-to-day care of the child is classed as the “receiving parent” as they are the ones who will be receiving the child maintenance payments. The parent who is not the day-to-day caregiver for the children is classed as the “paying parent” as they are the ones who will be paying the support payments in order to help raise their children.
The CSA and CMS are able to arrange payments in many different ways, but they always encourage parents to come to an arrangement over how much will be paid and when, citing these “family-based” arrangements as the best ways to ensure consistent and healthy levels of support and financial assistance. However, where parents are unable or unwilling to come to their own arrangements, the services can step in and enforce and arrangement, calculating an amount of child maintenance which they consider to be fair and setting the dates for collection and transfer of the funds.
Once a service is involved, they may take child maintenance payments directly from the paying parent’s bank account without permission, or may set up arrangements with the paying parent’s employer, pension or benefits provider to transfer the funds immediately as an automatic deduction to the paying parent’s wages or benefits, and may even take action over missed payments that includes private collection services and court action. For more information, you can call the CSA contact phone number on 0844 248 2560 any time between 9am and 5pm, any day of the week.
Why Would I Need To Call The CSA Telephone Number?
Any issue relating to child maintenance or child support payments may warrant a phone call to the CSA or CMS. Examples include, but certainly are not limited to:
- Calling to arrange setting up child support payments
- Calling to report a missed payment
- Reporting that the payments you are making are unsustainably high
- Complaining about the CSA or CMS
- Arranging to make payments by an alternative means
- Notifying the child maintenance service or child support agency of a change in your details, such as a change in address or a changed name
- Finding out whether you are eligible for child maintenance payments
- Notifying the CSA or CMS of pregnancy or a similar change in your circumstances
Other CSA Phone Numbers
|Head Office||0844 248 2560|
|Security Advisory||0844 248 2560|
|Complaints||0844 248 2560|
CSA Contact Phone Line Opening Hours
|Head Office||9am-5pm, Every day of the Week|
CSA Head Office Address
Child Maintenance Service
PO Box 249
What does CSA cover?
In the event of parents splitting up, and if they cannot come to a financial agreement themselves to help support their children, the Child Support Agency takes child maintenance in the form of financial payments, given by one parent (the parent who does not take full time care of the child) to the other parent (the full-time caregiver).
CSA maintenance payments are calculated based on what a fair contribution would have been, were the parents still together. As a result, it is based on the giving parent’s income, and the projected cost of raising the children, and will be different for everyone. As it is simply a financial contribution to the receiving parent, it can cover whatever they deem to be necessary – it is simply a payment made to them. They may then spend it as they see fit. For more information, you can call the CSA contact phone number on 0844 248 2560 any time between 9am and 5pm, any day of the week.
When does CSA stop?
CSA payments will continue so long as the child is under 16, or is under 20 and in full-time education, or under 20 and is living full-time with a parent who is receiving Child Benefit for them.
From this, we can ascertain that child maintenance payments will stop when:
- A child becomes older than 16
- A child who is in full time education, but not higher education than A-level, becomes older than 20
- A child who lives with a parent who is claiming Child Benefit for them ages up to be older than 20
From this we can gather that your child benefit stops when your child turns 16, unless they are in full-time education (but not higher than A-level) or they are living with a parent that is claiming child benefit for them, in which case their child benefit stops when they turn 20. For more information, you can call the CSA contact phone number on 0844 248 2560 any time between 9am and 5pm, any day of the week.
Who is entitled to CSA?
Child maintenance can be claimed to help financially support the rearing of children who are being cared for by just one parent due to the parents separating or one parent being unable or unwilling to contribute to raising the child(ren). It is always preferable for parents to work out an arrangement between themselves for supporting the children, but in the event that they cannot reach an agreement, the Child Support Agency will calculate a fair payment and enforce the payment plan.
A single parent may be entitled to child maintenance if they have children who are under 16, or are under 20 and in full time education, not exceeding A-level or its equivalents.
A single parent who has a child under 20, who is living with them, and who is claiming child benefit on their behalf, is also entitled to Child Support payments.
Who can use the Child Maintenance Service?
The parent that the child lives with isn’t the only person who can apply for child support payments or apply to the child maintenance service. Applications can also be made by the parent who isn’t living with the child, a grandparent or guardian of the child, if they are living with them, or, in Scotland, any child over 12, who may apply for their own child maintenance!
Who can’t use the Child Maintenance Service?
You won’t be able to apply to the Child Maintenance Service if the parent who would be receiving the child maintenance payments and the child in question live outside the UK.
Child maintenance payments also only go to the parent who takes responsibility for the everyday care of the child – the day-to-day caregiver. The paying parent is always the one who doesn’t care for the child as part of their daily routine. It is also possible, however, that if the paying parent lives abroad, the child maintenance service may not be able to enforce the full range of their normal services. For more information, you can call the CSA contact phone number on 0844 248 2560 any time between 9am and 5pm, any day of the week.
How is CSA paid?
It is possible to pay child maintenance in a variety of ways, to suit your circumstances. The payments are always made by bank transfer, and are deposited directly into the receiving parent’s bank account. It is always preferable simply to have the payments go directly from the paying parent’s account to the receiving parent’s account, but the Child Maintenance Service can arrange the payments for you, if that is easier.
Child maintenance can also be paid directly from the paying parent’s wages, without the money first going to their account – by arrangement with the paying parent’s employer, which can ensure prompt payment and prevent the feeling of resentment or having “lost” something that a paying parent may sometimes see as a stumbling block. The payments can also be made by direct debit, which can be set up by the paying parent or by the CSA themselves.
Paying child maintenance directly
The easiest way to pay child maintenance is to come to an arrangement with the other parent of the child and set up a direct debit for the transfer of the funds. A record of these payments should always be kept, as it is possible that disputes or missed payments could lead to the attention of the Child Maintenance Service. It is important to note that, even in these circumstances, missed payments may still result in enforcement from the CSA.
If the CSA is setting up your child maintenance payment options, it is possible that either parent could choose the “Direct Pay” option without needing the other to agree – this is only ordinarily challenged if there is evidence that the paying parent is likely to try to avoid paying.
Allowing the CSA to manage payments for you
The CSA will collect payments on behalf of the receiving parent, and will make arrangements to enforce those payments as it suits them. They will collect at a date based on the paying parent’s pay day, whether that be from wages, the date of a pension’s release or the day that benefits are provided. However, the child maintenence service or CSA collecting the money on behalf of the parents using their Collect and Pay Service will invoke a small collection fee.
These collection fees will occur with the service every time a payment is made or received, depending on whether the person using the service is the paying or receiving parent. Paying parents will receive a 20% fee on top of their ordinary payments, while receiving parents who use the service will have 4% of their regular maintenance payment deducted. These fees can be avoided by coming to an independent or “family based” arrangement, or by coming out your own arrangement with Direct Pay. They cannot be avoided by paying in advance.
Collection schedules and payment plans
The paying parent will be sent a letter when the plan starts, explaining how much their payments will amount to and when those payments will need to be made. With the Child Maintenance Service, this is known as a “payment plan”, while the CSA calls it a “collection schedule.”
The receiving parent will also receive a letter telling them when to expect payments, and the magnitude of those payments, which are called “expected payment plans” with the CMS, and “payment schedules” with the CSA.
If the paying parent misses a child support payment, they will usually be required to pay the full amount straight away. This can be accomplished using a credit card, if necessary, or by direct payment. It is also possible in some conditions to arrange to pay the debt in arrears in instalments, to make them more manageable. For more information, you can call the CSA contact phone number on 0844 248 2560 any time between 9am and 5pm, any day of the week.
What happens if you don’t pay CSA?
Unfortunately for those who don’t pay their child support payments, the Child Maintenance Service and CSA will take action over a missed payment. Upon notification of a missed payment, the service used will contact the paying parent, and discover why they haven’t paid. They will then arrange for them to pay what they owe, and issue a warning about the steps that will be taken in the event that the maintenance isn’t paid.
If they cannot get through to the paying parent, or can’t get a response, they can take action to recover the missing money.
The penalty for forcing the child maintenance service to take action over non-payment was set as a series of payments in 2014, and the system is still in operation. The following table shows what these penalties are, and how much you can expect to pay if they are levied against you.
|Action taken by Child Maintenance Service||Charge|
|Lump sum deduction order||£200|
|Regular deduction order||£50|
|Deduction from earnings request or order||£50|
In the event that the paying parent pays the receiving parent by an arrangement worked out between the two of them, then the receiving parent must ask the child support services to take action on a missing payment. However, if they are using a payment service through the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Services, it is possible for them to take action immediately upon discovering a missed payment.
The missing money can be collected from the paying parent in one of three ways:
1. Directly from their wages or benefits
If you are working with the Child Maintenance Service or Child Support Agency, they will be able to work with the paying parent’s employer to arrange an automatic payment deducted from their wages. The same thing can be arranged if the paying parent is receiving a state pension, a war pension, or any form of benefits, going completely around the issue of the paying parent’s own responsibility, cutting out the middle man in its entirety and simply taking the earnings directly from their point of origin into the bank account of the receiving parent.
2. Transferred from a bank account or building society account
Transferring money from a bank account, a Post Office account or a building society account is a simple process for Child Maintenance Services (or the CSA, whichever you are using). They don’t need to get the permission of the paying parent to do this, and can either take a one-off payment, which will cover the current missing payment, or set up regular payments, in the event that the paying parent proves consistently untrustworthy or perennially unable to pay.
3. Taking the paying parent to court
It is completely possible that a parent who refuses to pay their child maintenance costs may be taken to court by the CSA or child maintenance service. The courts have full authority to demand the payment, and may send bailiffs to the paying parent’s home to requisition their belongings, in order to sell them at auction and cover the costs of the child maintenance owed.
They may also order the paying parent to complete a prison sentence for refusal to pay, or may collect money owed to the paying parent by a third party to use as payment for the child maintenance that was missed. It is also possible in extreme circumstances that the court may force the sale of a property in order to free up the money that is owed in child maintenance.
In the event that the paying parent attempts to sell off their assets or transfer them to someone else so as to remove their ability to pay, or to remove the court’s leverage over them, it is likely that the CSA or child maintenance service will use a court to stop them from doing so. Any sale or transfer that has been completed already can be reversed by the courts, and all properties returned to their original owners.
If a child maintenance payment issue reaches the courts, the paying parent may have to pay their own legal costs and also the costs of the CSA team who prosecuted them. Therefore it is only common sense to deduce that it would be best for all parties involved, including the child support services, if a dispute never reached the courts. If you are the paying parent, it is possible that you will be able to reach a payment solution that won’t involve bailiffs or court action if you take action when you realise that you can’t make your payment. Get in touch with the CSA using the number on this page, or go to their official website (this isn’t it). Once you’ve done that, let them know what your circumstances are, and ask if it is possible to set up an arrears system or system of instalments for the missing payment. Significant changes in your circumstances may also be taken into account by the CSA, but that will not be possible unless you let them know. Call the CSA contact line on 0844 248 2560 any time between 9am and 5pm, any day of the week, for more information.