Changes to child support

Most people have heard of the Child Support Agency (CSA) and are aware of the bad press it attracted. As a result of the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008, the organisation was re-named and the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) came into being. Shortly, the name will be changed yet again and the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will be born.

Child maintenance assessments will soon be based on gross rather than net income and parents who use the CMS for assessment, collection and/or enforcement will be charged for doing so. There will be a modest application fee payable by both parties when applying to the CMS, however, parents aged 18 or under and victims of domestic violence will be exempt. There are stringent rules on how and to whom and how recently the violence has been reported.

Once an assessment has been made by the CMS, parents will be expected and encouraged to make their own arrangements for direct payment. If there is a failure to pay and the CMS are asked to enforce payment then they will charge both parties a percentage of the amount that needs to be collected. The person who should be making the payment will be charged a fee equivalent to 20% of the amount that needs to be collected and the recipient will be charged a fee equivalent to 7% of the amount that needs to be collected. There are no exemptions from these charges and if further enforcement action is required, both parents will face further charges.

The idea behind these changes is to encourage parents to enter into their own private agreements instead of using the CMS and it is hoped by the Government, that a smaller caseload will enable the CMS to become more efficient than its predecessor. This is bound to renew the involvement of solicitors and mediators in advising parents on child support arrangements.

It is anticipated that the existing scheme will close within 3 years and the parents using the existing scheme will then have to either come to an arrangement or join the new scheme and pay the fees.

If you would like further information about child maintenance or other issues relating to children please contact one of our family law solicitors for further advice.