Child Maintenance in the United Kingdom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Setting out the child maintenance obligations for separated families has been both a contentious and highly dynamic policy area in the UK. Since 1991 policy has been continually amended by three successive governments who have all searched for a solution to the problem of ensuring that non-resident parents make regular cash payments of child maintenance to support their children (where they can afford to do so). Th e UK serves as a very interesting case study in its own right as it provides a considerable amount of evidence as well as important policy lessons for other countries which might want to embark on radical change (such as Th e Netherlands – see Curry-Sumner this volume). Simultaneously, it is a unique policy within the UK as it is, arguably, situated awkwardly on the fringes of both the family law system and the social security system. Th erein lies the tension: the boundary between public and private responsibility. Successive governments have attempted to rebalance these private and public responsibilities for supporting children in separated/lone parent families. Currently, in the latest policy formulation, the UK appears to have decoupled the private obligations of child maintenance from the public social security system (which provides means-tested social assistance benefi ts). Th is paper discusses these developments and provides new research evidence on the amounts of maintenance expected under the latest policy proposals via the use of vignette techniques.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-252
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Security
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • child maintenance
  • child support agency
  • family-based agreements
  • non-compliance
  • non-resident parent

Cite this