Child Maintenance Changes

Child maintenance can be a very complex area of family law. In recent years two separate schemes have been in operation to provide for a transition period.

As of 31 December this year, the older scheme, administered by the CSA (Child Support Agency) will come to an end and all child maintenance assessments will be dealt with under the terms of the newer scheme.

Will your child maintenance arrangement be affected?

If you applied to the CSA after 3 March 2003, and before 10 December 2012 then it is very likely that your arrangement will be affected.  As of 25 November 2013 all new child maintenance arrangement cases have been administered by the CMS (Child Maintenance Service). Cases on or before 3 March 2003 fall under a separate set of rules.

If your arrangement is affected, then you will receive a letter from the CSA. The paying parent  should continue to make payments as advised in the letter. You  will also need to consider making a new child maintenance arrangement with the CMS. You can do this by calling  0800 0835 130. You can also use the calculator on the CM Options website if you would like to know approximately how much the paying parent’s liability will be.

The main difference between the schemes is that an assessment under the newer scheme is made on the basis of the paying parent’s gross, rather than net  income. Another significant difference is the newer scheme’s greater focus on getting parents to agree child maintenance arrangements between themselves. Accordingly, under the newer scheme, the following options show how additional fees are charged to make parents think twice before applying for a child maintenance assessment:

  • Voluntary arrangement: no child maintenance assessment and no fees payable.
  • Direct payments between parents: One-off £20 application fee for a child maintenance assessment.
  • Collection (where the CMS is involved in collecting the child maintenance due from the paying parent): One-off £20  application fee and 20% collection fee per week from the paying parent as well as a  4% collection fee per week from the receiving parent.

Other financial support options if you have children

Child maintenance is just one form of financial support, and separating unmarried parents should also bear in mind that they can apply to the Family Court for orders under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 for the benefit of the children. The orders that can be made include:-

  • Lump sum payments;
  • Provision of a home; and
  • School fees payments.

In contrast, married parents have significant financial claims upon divorce, with the welfare of any children of the family under 18 being the court’s  first consideration.

It should also be borne in mind that except in very limited circumstances, child maintenance is administered outside of the court system.

At Slater Heelis we are focused entirely on achieving the best outcome for you—and our experience and level of commitment is second-to-none. Several of our family solicitors are ranked as leading individuals and recommended lawyers in the authoritative UK legal directories (Legal 500 and Chambers) and all of our family solicitors adhere to the Resolution Code of Practice, which means that they will work with you to resolve your case in a constructive and non-confrontational way. 

To get in touch, just call 0161 969 3131 or email a member of the team.