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Changes to child maintenance

In 2014, separated families throughout the UK will experience changes to their child maintenance arrangements according to new government legislation, from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

In place of the Child Support Agency (CSA), parents will pay and receive child maintenance through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) which will charge parents for use of the tool. In a statement regarding the forthcoming changes, a DWP spokeswoman said:

“In 2014, the government will introduce charging for parents using the new Child Maintenance Service to encourage parents to consider working together when creating their child maintenance arrangements. However, there are options available for parents to avoid the charges…parents will be able to have the necessary information and support to make these alternative choices.”

How much will parents be charged?

Separated couples have two options when deciding upon the best child maintenance arrangements for their family. If the parents are able to come to an arrangement between themselves voluntarily, a ‘family based arrangement’, they will not be charged as they will not require government assistance. However, those who are unable to make arrangements together and therefore are using statutory child maintenance will soon begin paying collection charges; this will be four per cent for the parent receiving payments and 20 per cent the paying parent.

The new measures are designed to encourage former spouses to work together, and for those who do need government advice there is the Child Maintenance Options service. When parents cannot make their own arrangements the government runs a statutory service that can organise child maintenance for you.

Using the Child Maintenance Options Service parents can:

  • Accurately work out how much they should be paying or receiving
  • Design a family-based child maintenance arrangement – this includes a form for families using a voluntary agreement to keep records
  • A discussion guide with useful information and advice when talking to a former partner

How will the new legislation work?

Parents paying statutory child maintenance will be handled by the CMS, who will calculate the amount the paying parent will be required to pay directly to the parent looking after the child each month. Should this payment fail to be made on time or in full, the amount will be taken by the CMS who will take it directly to the other parent; if this occurs collection fees will be charged.

If you are to be affected by the changes to child maintenance, you can expect to receive a letter six months before you are to make the transfer from the CSA to CMS. The CSA has predicted that it will take up to three years to contact every parent and complete closure of the service.

Speak to the family law team at Slater Heelis

If you concerned about how the changes to child maintenance could affect your family, contact the family lawyers at Slater Heelis. We will discuss your options going forward, provide mediation services for those who may require it and ensure that you are as comfortable as possible with your new arrangements.

Talk to a member of the Slater Heelis family law team for more information on 0161 969 3131.