Contact the CSA
You should contact the CSA immediately if you are having problems paying or you are going to miss a payment.
You can find contact details for your local office here.
It’s not easy for the CSA to determine whether a parent is experiencing genuine difficulties or avoiding payment, but the actions are the same, so it’s important for you to be willing to discuss the situation if there are problems.
If you are honest with them about your financial difficulties, the CSA will do it’s best to help.
Keep payments manageable
If you’re worried about making child maintenance payments, deal with it NOW.
Ask the CSA if you can change how often you make your payments. Child maintenance can be paid:
• every week
• every fortnight
• every four weeks
• every month
If you miss payments, you will normally be asked to pay the full amount you owe straight away. If you make your payments in full and on time, you won’t go into arrears and your payments will be more manageable.
If you’re new to the CSA
Under CSA rules, the non-resident parent’s responsibility to pay starts as soon as the case is set up. But it may be a few weeks before payments start to be collected and passed on.
Sometimes this may result in several payments being due at once.
You can avoid this by making payments directly to the parent with care, before the first collection date. In certain circumstances, these payments can be counted towards your CSA child maintenance payments.
For example, if the payment was made to:
• pay a mortgage or loan which is taken out to buy or pay for essential repairs or improvement to the home where the child lives, and which is secured on that home
• pay rent or council tax for the home where the child lives
• pay gas, water or electricity charges for the home where the child lives, or
• make essential repairs to the heating system or fabric of the home where the child lives.
Making these early payments will also mean your children won’t miss out while your regular payments are being set up.
If your circumstances have changed
If your personal circumstances change, the first and most important thing you need to do is contact the CSA.
For example if you lose or change your job, you start living with someone new or you have another child - contact the CSAstraight away.
The CSA will look at your case and see if your child maintenance payments will change because of your change in circumstances.
Think you’re paying too much maintenance?
Again, contact the CSA and check that they have the correct information about your circumstances.
You can get a rough idea of what your payments should be using the child maintenance calculator
Ask for help
For more advice on dealing with money worries, read our article on budgeting.
You’ll also find that on the forum we have a dedicated team of counsellors from the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS), a free independent debt advice charity. They are ready and waiting to help.