It is generally estimated that 240,000 children in the UK experience their parents separating every year. One aspect of adjusting to and dealing with the challenges presented by a family breakdown is the issue of child maintenance.
The Government set up the Child Support Agency in April 1993 to deal with the difficult task of assessing a non-resident parent’s liability for child maintenance and ensuring that the correct amounts are paid. Unfortunately, the CSA was beset by IT and administrative problems, which made using the service challenging and frustrating for many parents.
The Child Support Agency
The Child Support Agency has now metamorphosed into the Child Maintenance Service. As well as a new title, there is a new scheme for calculating child maintenance and collecting it. However, the Government would much prefer parents not to use the service at all and encourages newly separated parents to enter into a voluntary Family-Based Arrangement.
If it is not possible to reach a voluntary agreement regarding child maintenance, either parent can make an application to the Child Maintenance Service. At present, there is no application fee but a decision is expected in Spring 2014 regarding the implementation of charges for both application and payment services. This could mean that the paying parent will have to pay an additional 20% of their child maintenance liability in the form of a fee to the CMS. The parent receiving the payment may have to pay as much as 4% of the amount paid to them back to the CMS as a fee. This is a highly contentious issue and groups such as Gingerbread are currently campaigning to try to prevent the implementation of such fees.
One of the principal changes under the new Scheme is that the paying parent’s child maintenance liability is calculated on the basis of their gross income, rather than their net income. There are also a wide range of enforcement powers available to the CMS including deduction from earnings, the forced sale of property and imprisonment.
If you would like advice in relation to child maintenance or any associated issues, please contact our Family Department.
Elaine Webb, Partner
Family Department | Kerseys
6 January 2014