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Child Support / Child Maintenance - what's the difference?

Child Support / Child Maintenance - what's the difference?

In 2012, Child Support became Child Maintenance and many of the rules changed. To avoid disruption, payments agreed before 2012 (under CSA) remained the same, so people with more than one child might be receiving CSA and CMS payments for different children. 

Understanding the language: Before 2012, the main parent whom the child lived with was called the Receiving Parent. Now they are called the Parent with Care (PWC). The other parent was the Paying Parent but is now called the Non Resident Parent (NRP).

Before you can enter the Gateway to using the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) you need a Unique Reference Identifier (URI). For full information about how to obtain a URI please visit: CSA - Unique Reference Identifier (URI).


In June 2014 CMS started charging parents to use their services.

There is a one-off charge to enter the Gateway to CMS of £20 with further charges imposed for collecting payments and enforcement action. There may be a waiver of the Gateway fee in some circumstances especially where domestic violence has occurred. Make sure that you discuss this with the Options Service or CMS at the first opportunity.

For detailed information about the charges and the 2012 scheme, please visit our CSA Maintenance Scheme 2012 article.

The Application Process

  • The PWC makes application via CMS over the phone once a Unique Reference Identifier (URI) has been issued.
  • The CMS takes basic information – names of NRP, Qualifying Child and PWC and passes it to the New Maintenance Case Team (NMC Team)
  • The NMC Team gathers all information available. This information is likely to include:
    • Full Name
    • Date of birth
    • National insurance number
    • Current and previous addresses
    • Telephone numbers
    • Vehicle Registration details
    • Current employer and previous or self employed details
    • Any shared care arrangements
    • Names of NRP partner and children living in NRP’s home (in case there is a live child benefit claim)



Letter sent to NRP and to the PWC at the same time. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are contacted for income details which will transfer across to the CMS computer system and a check is made on the Customer Information System (CIS) for benefit claimants. (If the NRP has not given an address, the CMS has a variety or tracing actions available for it’s use. A case will not be opened until an address is obtained and this letter has been issued).

 DAY 3  Effective date of the application
 DAY 4–6
Child Maintenance Service (CMS) telephone the NRP for information including discussing the income provided by HMRC allowing the PWC the opportunity to provide further income information/proof if income from HMRC is incorrect. The NRP will also be asked if there are relevant other children and about shared care of the children in the application.The CMS make several attempts to contact the NRP.

 DAY 7

If the CMS are unable to contact the NRP, they will issue a reminder letter which allows them 7 days to reply.

 DAY 14 CMS attempt to contract NRP again by telephone.
 DAY 15
CMS consider what further action to take. If income figures are available they will make an assessment.

If no income details are available, CMS can make a Default Maintenance Decision (DMD) using a default Standing Order but as this is not enforceable it should trigger consideration of a referral to the enforcement team.

If the letter sent at Day 1 is returned with “Not Known at this address”, it is referred to as a DLO (Dead Letter Office), the CMS should follow the same tracing procedures as those available to the previous CSA Schemes (now called Legacy cases). Such as:

  • Credit reference agencies
  • CIS systems includes any benefit history and child benefit claims
  • HMRC
  • Contact the employer either by phone or letter but there is no legal obligation by employer to comply

If it is later proven that the initial letter sent at the start of the application process did in fact go to the correct address then we believe that it should be possible to challenge the effective date by going through the Appeal Process.

If the CMS is unable to trace the NRP and the PWC is unable to provide any further information to enable a trace to take place then the case will not be closed but will become “dormant” for 6 months.

The case will be reviewed at the 6 month stage but will be restarted should any information be provided in the meantime.

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