This guide explains how to prepare to make a claim and make sure you’re getting all the protection you should from the CMS.
If you’re not offered the options set out here, you can specifically ask the CMS for them – and make a complaint if necessary.
You and your child’s safety is the most important thing. You might want to think about how the child’s other parent might react to a claim for child maintenance. Women’s Aid has useful advice for people of any gender about leaving a relationship safely.
Step 1 – Use the Get help arranging child maintenance service
Before you can apply to the CMS, you have to use the Get help arranging child maintenance service. This has been designed with people who have experienced domestic abuse in mind.
- There’s a big red ‘hide this page’ button on every page in case you need to keep what you’re doing private. Clicking this changes the page to BBC Weather.
- There’s also a link that says Get help if you have experienced domestic abuse – this takes you through to the gov.uk page with lots of support options.
- The page explains what to do if you’re worried about contacting the child’s other parent.
When asked what type of arrangement you want to make, choose ‘Use the Child Maintenance Service’. This will mean you don’t have to contact the child’s other parent yourself. You’ll be given a reference number to use in your application to the CMS.
Step 2 – Apply to the CMS
Most people make an application to the CMS online – it’s usually quicker than by phone. You’ll need to use the reference number you got in step 1.
If you don’t want to apply online, you’ll need to call the CMS. When you call, you should be asked if you’ve experienced domestic abuse. If you think making a claim will put you in danger, the adviser will direct you to free, confidential help and support. You’ll also be offered help in contacting the police.
The CMS adviser should give you specific advice and options for making a claim safely. Let them know it’s not safe for the other parent to know your name (if you’ve changed it) or your location.
Step 3 – Set up direct pay
The CMS should offer you a way to get paid called direct pay. This means you won’t need to have any contact at all with your child’s other parent. The CMS will contact them and share your bank details so you don’t have to. They’ll keep your identity and location confidential at all times.
Step 4 – Keep your location safe
The CMS should send you information about how to set up a ‘non-geographic’ bank account for the child maintenance payments. This kind of bank account can’t be traced to help protect your identity and location.
Step 5 – Make sure you’re not charged the £20 fee
You shouldn’t have to pay the £20 fee to use the CMS if you’ve experienced domestic abuse and reported it to an ‘appropriate person’. This could be the police, a medical professional, social services, your employer or a specialist support organisation like Refuge or Citizens Advice.