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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Using the CSA to arrange child maintenance

The CSA runs the current statutory child maintenance schemes. If you or the other parent opens a CSA case, it will work out how much child maintenance should be paid. It can also collect and pass on child maintenance payments. Find out about using the CSA, including how to apply

Who is eligible to use the CSA

You can apply to the Child Support Agency (CSA) if you are a:

  • parent with care
  • non-resident parent
  • grandparent or other guardian of the children needing child maintenance
  • child living in Scotland

The parent or person with care is the parent or carer who the child normally lives with. The non-resident parent is the parent who the child does not normally live with.

Download the following leaflet for more information about applying to the CSA if you are a child in Scotland.

Who isn’t eligible to use the CSA

The CSA can’t accept applications if the parent with care or the children live outside of the UK.

It also can’t accept applications if the non-resident parent lives outside of the UK, unless they:

  • work for a UK-based employer
  • work for the civil service
  • work for a ‘prescribed body’, for example the NHS
  • are in the armed forces

In addition, the CSA can’t accept applications when certain child maintenance agreements are already in place. This includes:

  • court orders (or Minutes of Agreement in Scotland) covering child maintenance that were made before 3 March 2024
  • court orders (or Minutes of Agreement in Scotland) covering child maintenance that were made before 3 March 2024 and are less than 12 months old
  • written maintenance agreements made before 5 April 2023

If you want to change one of the above arrangements you need to ask the court that made the arrangement.

Use the following link for more information about child maintenance for parents living abroad.

What the CSA can help you with

If you decide to use the CSA it can:

  • try to find the other parent if you don’t know where they live
  • help to sort out any disagreements about parentage
  • work out how much child maintenance should be paid

Once your case has been opened, the CSA can:

  • arrange for non-resident parents to pay child maintenance
  • pass payments on to the parent with care
  • look again at child maintenance payments when changes in parents’ circumstances are reported
  • take action if payments are not made

Use the following link for more information about paying child maintenance through the CSA.

Applying to use the CSA

You can apply to use the CSA using the following link.

If you live in Northern Ireland, you should apply to the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Division (CMED). You can get more information about CMED on the NI Direct website.

How long it takes the CSA to arrange child maintenance

The CSA aims to get child maintenance payments to parents with care as soon as possible. Usually, payment should be made to parent with care within six weeks of the CSA agreeing a payment method with the non-resident parent.

It's important that both parents give any information thay are asked for as quickly as possible. This will help the CSA to make sure that:

  • child maintenance amounts are accurate
  • payments are collected and passed on as quickly as possible

How the CSA works out child maintenance

To work out child maintenance amounts, the CSA uses information about the non-resident parent’s circumstances. This information includes:

  • the non-resident parent’s income
  • the number of children they need to pay child maintenance for
  • how often the child or children stays overnight with them
  • the number of other children the non-resident parent (or their partner) gets child benefit for

The CSA carefully checks all the facts of a case before working out child maintenance amounts. If you disagree with their decision or have any more information, you may be able to ask them to look at it again.

Use the following link for more information on how the CSA work out child maintenance.

To find out what to do if you disagree with a CSA decision, use the following link.

When to start paying child maintenance

Under CSA rules, the non-resident parent's responsibility to pay starts as soon as the case is set up. It may take a few weeks before payments are collected and passed on. This may result in several payments being due at once.

If you are a non-resident parent, you can avoid this by making payments directly to the parent with care, before the first collection date. This means your children won't miss out while your payments are being set up. In certain circumstances, direct payments can count towards your future CSA payments.

For more information about direct payments and how they can counts towards your child maintenance payments, download the leaflet "How child maintenance is worked out"

Further information about your child maintenance options

You can find more information about all the options for arranging child maintenance, on the Child Maintenance Options website.

Additional links

Family-based arrangements

If you and the other parent want to sort out child maintenance between yourselves, you can make a family-based arrangement

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