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Dealing With Maintenance Arrears

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 6 May 2024 | comments*Discuss
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A parent has the financial responsibility, and obligation, to provide maintenance for their child. This child maintenance is paid to the parent the child lives with, and the amount payable can be agreed through a family-based arrangement or calculated, collected by the Child Support Agency (CSA) or the Child Maintenance Service. In cases of failure to pay, maintenance payment, via a parent’s employer will be enforced via deduction from earnings order (DEO)

How Do You Pay Maintenance?

You are expected to pay maintenance if you are the parent of a child who lives with the other parent. There are however, a number of ways in which this payment can be made:

You may be paying an agreed sum directly to the parent with care. This is a family-based agreement. The amount that is paid will take both parent’s incomes and living circumstances into consideration, and may be adjusted accordingly when required. This form of arrangement only really works well between parents who have maintained an amicable relationship.

A payable sum that is agreed by the court is referred to as 'maintenance'. This is calculated by examining details of the incomes and living circumstances of both parents, and enforced by a court order.

If the relationship between parents is strained, if a non-resident parent fails to comply with maintenance payment requirements or there are other difficulties, monies can be calculated, collected and distributed by the CSA or CMS.

Failure To Pay

Falling into arrears or failing to pay maintenance can have serious consequences. A parent with care could take court action against you. An employer could be ordered to deduct money directly from your wages. A Liability Order can be issued against you, which will result in bailiffs taking away your belongings. A Charging Order could also be issued, which will lead to your home being sold in order to pay off arrears.

What Do To If You Experience Financial Problems

If you are experiencing financial difficulties, and fear you will have problems keeping up with maintenance and child support payments, it is important to notify the CSA/CMS as soon as possible. If your financial circumstances have changed – perhaps your income has been reduced or your living costs have increased considerably – you must contact the CMS/CMS and inform them of the changes. They will then be able to recalculate the amount of maintenance that is payable. Sending them a copy of how you budget for payments will be useful in this instance.

If you get into arrears you will be contacted by the CSA/CMS. It is their job to work with you in finding a suitable way to pay off the outstanding amount of maintenance. They will follow strict guidelines and will expect you to come to some form of agreement regarding paying off the arrears. Do not ignore any letters you may receive from the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service, as the matter will simply grow in severity. It is in your, and your child’s best interests, to sort out the financial difficulties as soon as possible.

If you get into arrears, the CSA or CMS may sometimes negotiate a repayment schedule with you. They aim to collect all the arrears within two years and can ask you pay up to 40 per cent of your income, depending on your circumstances and other financial commitments. So, it is important to try to confront such issues early, if and where you cannot pay, rather than it come as a shock to you later on.

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oliviastephen02 - 2-Apr-24 @ 8:24 AM
I've been paying child maintenance the entire time I've been employed, over and above what I'm expected to pay. The CMS wrongly calculated that I somehow owe almost £5000 in arrears and are now taking 40% of my wages, even though 80% is designated for living costs! They have mismanaged my case repeatedly, ignored my reasonable, legitimate requests for evidence of any arrears they claim I owe and, meanwhile, my ex is living a life of luxury, all the while refusing me access to my son...does that seem morally right to anyone? Certainly doesn't to me. How is this even legal? I'm basically broke, despite working full time. I'm running up thousands of pounds worth of debt, despite living as frugally as possible and doing nothing with my life that would cost money. Cheers Tory government.
Being Robbed - 18-May-21 @ 1:25 PM
Quick question my ex partner has a £6000 arrears from over 35 years ago he's been hiding it for years but I've managed to track him down finally got him to pay through detachment of earnings but it's a proxy £290 a month some months he pays some months he doesn't. Nothing seems to be going about the months that he misses.. i'm sick of it if I'm honest and I just want the £6000 he owes me in one payment done and dusted never have to think about him again am I entitled to get this or do I just have to long it out with them? Have to be mentally abused me and rape me I really don't wanna have to think of him in my head every month whether he's going to make the payment or not and because I'm a single parent with four children admit admittedly they're all grown up but I've got four grandchildren now and I do struggle why should he still be in my head please help Kind regards Jojo
Jojo - 6-May-21 @ 10:46 PM
I dont understand why more people don't take the paying parent to court to get arrears paid back. Am I being stupid??
Holly 91 - 29-Mar-21 @ 2:30 PM
After contacting this new maintenance service two years ago it’s been nothing but problematic and chaos! This dept of dwp is meant to have parents and child matters of concern so suits everybody! 18 months ago I called them stating the review was wrong and a change with contact it had reduced by the dads say so “ other priorities” still this year I called and called fobbed off like it’s you who has to do the investigating! I don’t see the point in this service really nothing positive comes from it. So again this years review I’ve screamed he’s still feeding them false details and proved it so payments amended but only from July 2020 when I’ve had to struggle like most people this year he’s had full paid salary each month given false details stating he’s still married living with his wife and her child and he’s not! Moved into a shared house well rented a room from a family which is weird and wondered why contact had stopped with no address details given! But not backdated to my original call of same complaints! I apply to court to stop all contact and end the order he’s broke because I’ve no address they can’t send/serve papers to attend court! But now I’ve his work address court papers will go there though he’s stated not arsed will not be attending! So CMS don’t get him to pay upfront of arrears for some poor excuse it’s divided over time but he can go on holidays, flights to places in Asia to climb mountains! The guy is a teacher! Yes a guy with a responsibility to teach hundreds of kids and endure welfare is good but can’t do it for his own son! So please all the MEN commenting that women just want money or it comes down to money you’re wrong! It’s about providing for your responsibilities and helping your child! Never attends hospital appointments never takes a day off if he’s unwell my career suffered through this so if I ask for him to pay what’s right he should and should be penalised for feeding false information it’s fraud! A day out with this guy is only a free one park and tap water unless it’s clothing or trips for himself! I used to have to provide clothing and food to ensure my child had what he needed! Ask him for help towards a cost “ no that’s what maintenance is for” the attitude is never corrected by authorities or these service providers so iyou just get ignored! So csa and cms are same as each other just new era new offices renamed the dept within the dwp! So again it’s within the government that makes these laws/acts but let people and families and children down.
Starburst - 1-Sep-20 @ 2:20 AM
Cms do naff all my ex has racked up £26,000 in arrears in 4 years, constantly lies about his income, then they pull his true income from hmrc and just add it to the arrears! Why don’t they do what they say and make him pay what he should? He never pays the full amount never pays on time and they do nothing, he has just bought the lease of a pub and a £300,000 house, what do cms do? NOTHING absolutely nothing
Hayley - 28-Jul-20 @ 9:17 PM
So... tax payers , Ex husband gets clever accountant , becomes silent companies owner. Payment requirements made by CMS £17.42 per week based on false earnings and direct payments initiated. No payments made since June and CMS have not ‘reached requirements’ to collect and pay. Ex has now exploited the family justice system to disable contact as he is unhappy that I request Mondays payments four days late (undertaking signed) . CMS at least make him pay the pathetic amount you have calculated for him
Postnarc11 - 5-Dec-19 @ 11:34 AM
The information in this article is 100% incurrate. If your in financial difficulties the worst thing you can do is call the CSA. All the CSA do is harvest you details and go to your employer and fleece your wages. They will ignore any reasonable offer and resolution and skip to enforcement as quickly as they can. They don't treat men with any basic level of respect. They have enforcement powers over and above what the police or courts have. You will get no fair trial or hearing. They have a licence to rob men. An that is exactly how they operate. Ignore every phone call. Change your bank and swap jobs often. If you try to be reasonable they will destroy you. A reasonable man is a mug to the CSA. These articles are grossly misleading. You have been warned.
God - 28-Nov-19 @ 1:50 AM
My daughter is a victim of domestic abuse she contacted the CMS because her ex wasnt paying anything for their daughter he is self employed and for years has not been declaring a genuine income to HMRC this has been reported but CMS have awarded on his earnings that he declares he moved away from the family home and now lives with friends so in the very least is not paying out anything like he was when they were together and is simply getting away with it while they struggle to make ends meet, I just want him to be honest about his earnings and do right by his daughter, the paperwork my daughter received said that the figures were based on 2017/2018 earning I just don't understand that, because they were together then to summarise how can we get this looked into again and reassessed we know CMS based their decision on what he submitted to HMRC but that was fraud and should also be looked into
Copey - 31-Oct-19 @ 12:30 PM
Toxic ex owes my partner and me £30,000 unpaid family agreement child maintenance arrears £250 a month. CSA disbanded chaos ensued. We are skint in council bungalow, now while, he lives in mother's £500 000 home owns property in America even stopped Grandma sending £100 twice a year for school stuff! It's been hard slog man.
Gigi - 9-Oct-19 @ 10:30 PM
I have 4 children 3 of which are now over 18, I receive 30 pound a month as he apparently has a low income,he owes over 7 thousand pounds in arrears. Csa have apparently tried to contact him a number of times as I know his income is more than what he declares, he has no contact with any of his children nor has he provided any help what so ever in the upbringing of my children. I am highly annoyed to the fact he claims to be unable to support his children but can blatantly show a family holiday (with his new family) on social media every year, run a car and hold a job (which he does not hide). I thought child maintenence was there to assist the lone parent, my experience is the total opposite,I even had to pay 20 pound fee to start a claim which has never helped me at all.
annoyed - 7-Oct-19 @ 8:16 AM
I'm owed child support of £700 dating back to 2000. The Child Maintenance Division have told me they are writing it off because its less than £1000 and over 10 years old. Can they do this? My ex is now retired, but has a good private pension.
Amy - 31-Jul-19 @ 8:35 AM
I see a few comments of women stating my kids are now adults and so on an dcan I claim over ten thousand back and so on Why is it always about money Why leave it this late why not action thisnat the timebut feel like a lump sum is now owed when they are now nearly 40 and so on because you feel a holiday is in order Those paying for support also have a life to live bills to pay rent and possible a new family to provide for This should be a flat rate and not on the amount earned For example 200 for one child end off Not 600 because your earnings changed 12 years later and you have not been in that family cirlxle or life Feels as if no matter how well you do your ex still benifits even if you improve your life and possible in a new marriage or life and they receive your income jncrese WE ARE NOT YOUR LIVELY HOOD OR SECOND BANK ACCOUNT Fix rate and remain a one rate So if the caring parent of the child is in a new marriage or relationship she still gets the same amount where the other is struggling and paying and potentially leading to homelessness I say €|^€{€{$|$
Camo - 5-Jul-19 @ 11:44 AM
My 2 children are now 31&35 my and we split in 1988 when we divorced we had a court order that he had to pay £15 per week per child. This stopped in about 1994/1995when he decide end not to stay in contact or pay the child support. Since about 2001 he has been in touch with the children. As it was a court order am I entitled to now claim back the money owed - it around £13k. I had another child in 1993 and when I was on maternity leave CSA collected the payments but as soon as I went back to work they wouldn't collect it. Really interested in knowing if it's too late or is the court order still legally enforceable.
Lynn - 4-Jul-19 @ 9:54 PM
Asked for Dna test in 2018. Told in Januaryby child maintenance service that case was going to be closed. Stopped paying end of January had letters concerning nonpayments phoned told case is on going. Trying to sort things out Dna took 9 months now they have done a bank order for £169 a week. Crazy.
Head gone - 26-Jun-19 @ 7:54 PM
Hello, My ex-wife put in a claim with the CSA in 2017 (now the CMA) and I have not paid anything to date as my earnings were below £7 per week. I am self-employed and my last Tax Year's earnings for 2017 to 2018 were less than £365. Although the CSA did not take any payments for 2017 to 2018, for the years 2018 to 2019 they are wanting £1200 in total, saying that it is backdated from 2013 to 2014, but I was still living with my ex at the time, we separated in July 2014 and she put the CSA claim in in 2017. The CMS know via HMRC that my earnings for 2018 to 2019 are less than £365, yet they sent me a letter saying they want me to pay £100 per month in arrears and missed payments, this is despite them telling me over the phone in March 2018 that I did not have to pay this amount from arrears dating from 2013 to 2014. I am confused and angry that they are messing me about, and not dealing with my case properly or following up with any updates. I was told in March 2019 that I did not have to pay anything, only to receive a letter in June 2019 saying I owed my ex arrears. Do I need to pay her or not? I'd appreciate any help, as I have not see or heard from my ex or children in five years, she and her family are ignoring me and this has been the case since she left. Thanks, Tony
Tony_K - 20-Jun-19 @ 7:48 PM
I have two kids and always made weekly payments to my ex wife.The CSA has recently transferred the older cases into the CMS and any outstanding arrears were passed on as a form as a balance without a detailed breakdown. I was rather surprised when received a bill £3500 for payments already made between 2013 and 2018. The stress it has caused to establish which periods they were referring to so prove could be provided to confirm that I have never missed a payment is beyond words.It appears the CSA don’t use calculators either as I have provided prove for each alleged missed payment and the figures don’t tie up. I shall make one more attempt before seeking legal advice as I truly had enough of the CSA & CMS. Two kids with my ex wife, one lives with me and I don’t get a £1 maintenance a month and I pay £600 a month to her for the other child. She has since popped out another 3 kids with someone else and currently on maternity leave with reduced income and working on cash in hand jobs. Moral of the story - there is no equality when it comes to children matters as decent fathers always get battered (I had 13 years of it). The CSA and the CMS always believe the scum bags who only value the fathers for their hard earned money.They never gave a dam when I was unable to see my children for 4 years and neither when I complained my children were being subject to domestic violence by the stepdad. In all honesty the system is a truly bag a garbage.
Rods - 17-Jun-19 @ 6:34 PM
I was paying my ex partner regular payments every month and when my daughters birthday came around my ex partner asked me to contribute, obviously I had no problem with this at the time but unfortunately due to redundancies being made at work I was let go from my job meaning I had very little monies so couldnt contribute so she contacted the CSA, I then recieved a phone call from them saying she had done this and me having to arrange a payment plan. The CSA told me under no circumstances should I pay her any monies until this is set up.. 8 months later I get a call from the CSA asking why i have not paid anything, so I told them that they told me not to until the arrangement had been set up. After some investigation on their end they found out my "arrangement" has been sitting on a desk for the past 8 months and now I'm in huge arrears (for my income level). I'm trying to save what little monies I have left after my Bill's have come out only to get a call of CSA today saying that there adding another DOE onto my account bear in mind I only left my last job due to the illegal activity on site and now I'm being told I'm "job hopping" Just reading through these messages is telling me the CSA just cant get anything right
Dan - 12-Jun-19 @ 7:21 PM
My ex husband owes £3400 arrears to me and has no contact with his son and also owes his 2nd ex wife £1,800 maintenance arrears.We've been without any payment since he moved jobs and have had to wait for collect and pay to start deducting from his wages again. The new assessment doesnt include a penny of arrears... it's definitely stacked in his favour!
Debs - 1-Jun-19 @ 5:30 PM
To many loop holes. scummy dad jumps job every 7-8wks that's how long it takes to add an attachment to earnings. He wanted full custody just to leave my son with acoke w##re just so he doesn't have to pay for him. DISGUSTING
Becca - 29-Mar-19 @ 1:43 AM
When our divorce was finalised out of court in 2012 i amicably agreed to pay my ex by BGC the sum of £25,000 from the sale of my business property. I also made payments weekly of £50 pw for my son. In the past two years i have struggled financially & due to health problems have had difficulty in finding work. I am in receipt of Job seekers allowance which amounts to around £70 pw. The CSA told me to pay £7 pw but i made it £10 pw. Unfortunately debts built up & i had to pay off baliffs which was crippling & my payments to my ex fell behind. Im now being chased for the arrears & will contact the CSA this week to try & resolve this. I realise that any cash payments ive made are irrellevant but will the £25000 ive paid previously be taken into account?? I want to pay for my son & i also want to have time with my son. I was having my son every weekend but since i lost my car & my ex has remarried she has made it very difficult for me to even see him. Im unsure what i can do or if any of these factors will be taken into account?
Tony - 25-Oct-18 @ 3:42 PM
My ex hasn't paid a penny child matinance for 4 years for my 3 children I keep getting letters saying I will receive payments on this date and that date but never receive them which is annoying he owes just over 5000 and still can't receive any
Tash - 11-Oct-18 @ 1:50 PM
The CMS obtained a court order to reclaim in excess of £4000 he owed in defaulted maintenance payments. He phoned them up and persuaded them to retrospectively apply a "Change in Circumstances" so that it would pre-date the court order. He has been on a 2-week deep sea fishing holiday to Mexico, paid for 7 to go on a 3-week Disney Florida Vacation (he took the nanny too!), spent two weeks with 6 in the South of France, and had a farmhouse weekend break in Wales. He takes my little girl out for lunch with his new g/f and her three kids - and to theme parks - all the time. He lives in a house worth half-a-million. They say he doesn't have to pay - anything! It really should be renamed the Father Maintenance Service. Meanwhile, I have tried to complain - have any of you found this? Stonewalled. Never getting to speak to anyone - complaint not processed, not passed on. A CMS case officer thought she'd put me on hold - she said audibly "It's just sitting there" ie that the complaint hadn't been processed at all. It's been 2 years. Helpfully, they also told him that he doesn't have to contribute to her lunches. The one thing he was paying for - so he stopped 2 weeks ago.
Artemisia - 3-Oct-18 @ 2:02 PM
I went to the csa in 2006 and my ex partner constantly failed to pay meaning arrears built up. My case was later transferred over to the child maintaince service and arrears were also built up there. The child maintence service then failed to obtain my ex partners up to date income and just calculated it on a estimate they have now ordered him to pay £31.00 a month and have put nothing in place to collect the arrears owed but have said if they do they will collect it at £20 a month.witch is totally unacceptable my ex earns over £10 a hour working over 40 hours a week. He rents the property he lives in for over £700 amonth then pays the mortgage on his home he previous lived with in with me that home is stud empty so I don't know how the hold support agency can justify saying he has to pay me £31a week when his earnings are high and he can afford to pay rent on a property plus pay a mortgage of £500 on a property just to leave it sat in occupied. They have also said most off his arrears with the old csa have been wiped off. I shouldn't have to struggle to provide for our teenage daughter while he lives the high life
Helen - 2-Oct-18 @ 6:51 PM
The number of comments on here about unpaid maintenance are extremely concerning. I am just about to face a court hearing that my ex husband has brought about due to contesting the amount of maintenance he needs to pay for his two kids. He is a director of his own company and can therefore “pay” himself what he likes in order to minimise his tax payable and as a result the level of CM. He is disputing a figure of £2000 arrrears which had he provided honest and correct information in the first place would now not be an issue. This figure is minisculeto him and a CM worker even stated h3 can clearly afford it. Why is it that payments can be reduced when the parent claims he cannot afford it and the recipient is not informed. My ex too reduced his payment after speaking to a team leader something that CMS have confirmed the team leader did not have the authority to do. The impact on my MH as a result of not being able to rely on receiving regular payments has been critical. This has impacted on everything including my kids mental health. CMS need to tighten up their procedures and stop this continual blatant abuse that is ongoing.
Pippy - 21-Sep-18 @ 7:03 AM
Hi my ex arreas outstanding 1,400. Csa keeps habing issues with empoyler educting wages from him since april!! Issue still not being resolved every month employer tells them they havent resived anything from csa when csa sent more them one letter to the empolyer no fine been done towards the empolyer. So frustrating
Ree - 11-Aug-18 @ 10:47 PM
Jo - Your Question:
My ex is in arrears by nearly £13,000! Child maintenance service is involved but it doesn't seem to be going no where. Don't get regular amounts each week/month just the odd month here and there.Is there anyway I could get these arrears back? My ex clearly doesn't care about our kids as he hasn't seen them for 7 years now

Our Response:
The CAB link here may help answer your question. You can apply directly to court. However, if CMS cannot extract the money then you would have to have a strong case that the court can. Therefore, legal advice is suggested if you are contemplating this option.
ChildSupportLaws - 27-Jul-18 @ 11:07 AM
My ex is in arrears by nearly £13,000! Child maintenance service is involved but it doesn't seem to be going no where. Don't get regular amounts each week/month just the odd month here and there. Is there anyway I could get these arrears back? My ex clearly doesn't care about our kids as he hasn't seen them for 7 years now
Jo - 26-Jul-18 @ 12:51 AM
The ex hasn’t payed child maintenance for over 15 years, and owes £9561.86 mh daughter doesn’t see her dad and has no interest in seeing him how do I go about taking action with this as nothing ever seems so come of it and it isn’t good enough!
tracywilson - 20-Jul-18 @ 11:26 PM
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