Domestic abuse and child maintenance
Date last updated: 16 July 2021
Claiming maintenance safely
If you have experienced domestic abuse the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) should make sure you can make a claim for child maintenance safely. We recommend you prepare for your conversation and know what service you should receive.
What the Child Maintenance Service should do for you
You are not obliged to make any kind of contact with your child’s other parent in order to make a child maintenance claim if you have experienced domestic abuse.
The Child Maintenance Service can:
- trace your child’s other parent if you don’t know where they live
- make contact with your child’s other parent to arrange child maintenance
- calculate the amount of child maintenance to be paid
- write to your child’s other parent and tell them how much child maintenance they should pay you and how often
- provide your bank details safely without disclosing any other information about you
- give you information about using a safe option to receive payment securely
The CMS should do all this without disclosing your identity, location or any other information about you. If necessary the CMS should collect child maintenance and pay it to you if your child’s other parent fails to pay.
Preparing to call Child Maintenance Options
We’ve made a safety guide to use before you make your first call to Child Maintenance Options. Child Maintenance Options is the service you call to start your child maintenance claim. They will refer you to the CMS who will deal with your child maintenance claim.
Keep this guide with you when you make the call to make sure you get the service you need to claim maintenance and stay safe. If you find that you are not being offered the options set out in this guide you can complain and request the correct procedures are followed here.
Before you make the call, remember that you and your child’s safety is the most important thing to consider. It’s worth thinking about how your child’s other parent might react to a claim for child maintenance and making sure that you have a safety plan in place.
Step 1 - Inform Child Maintenance Options that you've experienced domestic abuse
Make sure you inform Child Maintenance Options that you have experienced domestic abuse at the very start of the call. Once the adviser is aware they should give you specific advice and options about making a claim safely. If they don’t do this you can complain straight away and request specific advice.
Step 2 - Child Maintenance Options should immediately refer you to Child Maintenance Service
Child Maintenance Options should refer you straight to the CMS so that you do not have to have any contact with your child’s other parent. Other parents are usually told to negotiate directly with their child’s other parent before using the CMS (this is called a ‘family based arrangement’). Where there has been abuse you should be referred straight to the CMS. If this does not happen you can complain straight away and request an immediate referral to the CMS.
Step 3 - The CMS should offer and set up direct pay
The first option the CMS will offer you is ‘Direct pay’. Direct pay means the CMS will contact your child’s other parent and write to them with your bank details so that you do not have to. You will not need to have any contact at all with your child’s other parent. Your identity and location should be kept secure and confidential at all times. Only the CMS should know your identity and address.
Step 4 - The CMS should inform you how to set up a 'non-geographic' bank account
You should receive information from the CMS about how to set up a ‘non-geographic’ bank account for child maintenance payments. A non-geographic account is one that cannot be traced and will help protect your identity and location. If you have changed your name you can set up a safety name (an alias) for using on a standing order. The CMS should explain this process to you and explain how they will keep your details safe and confidential.
Step 5 - Make sure you aren't charged to use the CMS
You should not have to pay the standard £20 fee to use the CMS if you have experienced domestic abuse. For more information, take a look at our guide to CMS charges.
Step 6 - Check the CMO's guide for more details
Child Maintenance Options produce a guide called ‘Child maintenance and staying safe’ – it contains details of how they make sure claiming child maintenance is a safe process for parents who have experienced domestic abuse.
Further information and support
Women's Aid offers a wide range of advice and support, including information to help you make a safety planMaking a safety plan
National Domestic Violence helpline
Support, help and information for women experiencing domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf.
Helpline: 0808 2000 247 (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).