K J Smith Solicitors

New Child Maintenance Service Comes into Effect

Published: 6 August 2013

The government have introduced a new Child Maintenance Service (CMS) which came into effect for applicants with two or more children on 29th July 2013. Eventually the CMS will replace the current service provided by the Child Support Agency (CSA) although it’s expected to be another 3 years or so before the CSA closes.

This new service will target the most difficult cases.  The first phase of the new CMS was first introduced at the start of the year to help families with four or more children. This current roll out applies to a larger number of families who have 2 or more children and then it will be rolled out to all applicants in the coming months.

Using wage data from HM Revenue and Customs, the new service can calculate payments more accurately and use enforcement fines so that parents have to pay exactly what they owe. To use the new service, there is an application charge of £20 and ongoing charges for failure to use 'Direct Pay'. Separated families are being encouraged to opt for Direct Pay as it allows parents to pay each other directly to ensure collaboration between both parties. If the payments stop or Direct Pay isn't used, the CMS can enforce payments and charge an additional 20% collection charge to non-resident parents and 4% charge on payments for parents with care of the child.

In the meantime, the existing Child Maintenance Options service is still available.  It offers a maintenance calculator and guidance on how to record a family based arrangement. 

The CSA has come in for heavy criticism in recent years so the government hope that this new and improved service will offer better support and guidance to families. It will help to correctly calculate and arrange financial support to help pay for everyday living costs of children whose parents have separated.

Following a survey by those who currently use the CSA, over 50% said that with the right help and support, they would prefer to come to their own financial arrangements. The government has responded by investing more than £20m into new services to help separated families, including online support, counselling, mediation and the new CMS service.

Separated families who currently receive support from the CSA will eligible for the new CMS service as the government hopes that by gradually closing all ongoing cases, this will give families a new start by offering them the help and support needed to come to a financial arrangement on their own. The CSA is to start closing down from next year with the plan to have all cases closed within the next 3 years.

For more information on the new Child Maintenance Service or to discuss your circumstances, please call our team on 01491 630000 (Henley-on-Thames), 0118 418 1000 (Reading) or 020 7070 0330 (Central London) to find out how we can help you.

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