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Child Maintenance - A New Regime for Child Maintenance Arrangements and Calculations
Jennifer Allen, a Specialist Family Lawyer at Hughes Paddison Solicitors situated in the centre of Cheltenham, explains the changes to legislation that have been made in the UK as outlined below in respect of the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 (CMOPA 2008).
The Government is seeking to encourage parents to enter into private agreements outside of the statutory system for child support issues. The changes encourage “Family Based Arrangements” (FBA’s). The conversion is intended to ensure that the person applying for child maintenance is aware of and has already considered other alternatives prior to making an application to the Child Support Agency (CSA). The parent seeking child maintenance ultimately has a choice whether or not to proceed to enter into an FBA or not. If they do wish to enter into an FBA, the other parent must be given information by the maintenance options service regarding the agreement. However, if the parent with care of the child decides that an FBA will not work and they wish to proceed with the application, they will have to pay an application fee to the CSA of £20. Once this fee has been paid the CSA will undertake child support calculations and contact the non-resident parent (the person who does not have full-time care of the child) to assess their maintenance liability.
The CSA will then progress the application in one of two ways. Firstly, (and the traditional function of the agency) is the “Collection Service” which is namely the calculation, collection and payment of child support payments to the parent with care of the child, together with the ability for enforcement action (if necessary). The second option is for an application to fall into the “Direct Pay Service”, whereby the CSA makes the calculation but the payments are made direct between parents without passing through the hands of the agency. It is for the parent who does not have full-time care of the child to select which service is to be used. The parent with care of the child does not have the power to make this decision.
If the Collection Service is selected by the liable parent, there will be charges for both parents who adopt the Collection Service. A 20% charge is added to the non-resident parent’s liability. A 7% charge is deducted out of the payment before it reaches the parent with care of the child. Therefore, there is a clear encouragement for parents to make payments direct between each other without passing through the hands of the agency, as there are financial disadvantages otherwise. The charges are payable regardless of whether the parents are in receipt of state benefits or not.
If the parent without residence of the child ops for the Direct Pay Service and then fails to pay directly to the parent with care then the case can, at the request of the parent with care, move into the Collection Service, following which the agency will collect and enforce in the usual way. However, the charges for both parents will, at this point, apply.
These changes will come into force in 2013. There will be a delay in the implementation of charging fees. However, these are in the pipeline and this new system is clearly designed to encourage parents to resolve their differences with regard to the payment of child maintenance directly with one another.
Calculation of Child Support
A new scheme for calculation of child support was due to come in to force initially in October 2012, then December 2012 and we are now awaiting hearing from the Department for Work and Pensions with a date for these new rules to come in to effect. The new calculation is based on the gross income of the parent paying child maintenance. Child support is calculated by reference to a set percentage, depending upon the number of children that child maintenance is payable in respect of. Currently, calculations are based upon net income as opposed to gross income. The intention of the changes is that parents should pay and receive roughly the same sums currently paid, it is a slight change to calculations.
Comparison between current and the new regime
|Number of qualifying children
|Current regime (based on NET weekly income)
|New regime to be introduced (based on GROSS weekly income)
|12% (for gross income between £200 and £800 per week)
|9% (for gross income between £800 and £3,000 per week)
|16% (for gross income between £200 and £800 per week)
|12% (for gross income between £800 and £3,000 per week)
|3 children (or more)
|19% (for gross income between £200 and £800 per week)
|15% (for gross income between £800 and £3,000 per week)
The CSA will not act where any of the following occurs:
- There is a Court Order made prior to 03rd March 2003 which remains in force and states that a non-resident parent must pay child maintenance. the maintenance referred to in the Court Order will be the amount that the parent must pay and neither parent has the ability to revert to CSA in this regard;
- Where there is a Court Order in place which was made after 03rd March 2003 but that Order has only been in place for a period of less than 12 months;
- Where there is a written maintenance agreement in place which predates 05th April 1993.
It would only be an application to Court that can vary or discharge the terms of such Orders.
The new system is hoped to be more efficient as it is hoped that the majority of parents will either agree maintenance arrangements between themselves by entering into a Family Based Arrangement. If a FBA or private arrangement cannot be agreed then the CSA can help in one of two ways. The emphasis is for direct payments to be made between parents, otherwise charges will be incurred. As this will encourage more parents to settle matters between one another, the system will become more efficient primarily because the case load will be significantly reduced, enabling it to concentrate on the more complicated cases.
Any arrears of Child Support will be unaffected by the changes from the existing scheme to the new scheme.
Below is a link to the Department for Work and Pensions in respect of child maintenance matters which provides details of the Government consultations published in this matter:
Changes and the implementation of the new calculation method will be announced on this website and the maintenance calculation can be used to assess if the correct level of child maintenance is being paid.
Below is the Child Maintenance Options link which will help understand choices for child maintenance in the UK together with access to a maintenance calculator which you can upload details to provide an indication as to what maintenance may be payable in your particular circumstances:
For any questions with regard to child maintenance matters please contact our specialist solicitors that deal with Children Act matters and can help you with family financial matters and the payment of maintenance for children.