Parents are told to agree to the new child maintenance arrangements or face additional fees

Published: 29th May 2014

The Department for Work and Pensions will be issuing letters to more than 50,000 parents across the UK who manage their child maintenance payments through the previous Child Support Agency (CSA) system - and are being told that if they use the new system and fail to reach an amicable solution then they will face additional fees.

If parents wish to use the new Child Maintenance Service, there is a £20 registration fee. If they choose to use the new service and can't come to an amicable resolution themselves (meaning that the government have to intervene and collect), then both parents risk additional costs added to their child maintenance, with 20% being applied to the parent paying child maintenance (which in most cases is the father) and a 4% fee for the parent who receives the child maintenance payments.

The new Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has come into force as the government tries to phase out the old CSA over the next 3 years, as it was seen as being too costly - costing £74 million per year in running costs and being described as being "totally inadequate and notoriously riddled with defects".

Thousands of CSA cases are still open and ongoing as many parents used this system to help sort out child maintenance payments, but the new CMS encourages parents to work together to come to an amicable resolution without the need of the government having to intervene. The old CSA has been described as a system that takes responsibility away from parents, encouraging hostility and conflict between them - at the expense of taxpayers.

Whilst the response to the new Child Maintenance System has been mostly positive, there are some that fear that it could make child maintenance agreements unstable.

Charity Gingerbread, who represents single-parents are one of those who are concerned by the changes to child maintenance agreements. "While many parents are able to agree private child maintenance arrangements, for many parents, this just isn't possible without government help", said Fiona Weir, Chief Executive of Gingerbread.

Fiona added, "We're very concerned that closing CSA cases and bringing in charges may deter some parents from making new child maintenance agreements or pressure single parents into unstable arrangements, and children will lose out on vital support."

We reported recently in a previous blog about a new online Child Maintenance tool kit that has been launched by the government to help parents and stakeholders to understand the changes to the child maintenance system and to help aid the transition between the old and new system. The tool kit also provides separated parents with useful information to help with a variety of subjects including managing finances and budgets, understanding legal rights and advice on family mediation.

If you and your partner have recently separated then K J Smith Solicitors are here to help. Our expert team of family law specialists can advise on all matters relating to separation and divorce. For more information and to arrange your free no-obligation 45 min consultation, call K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor) or 020 7070 0330 (Central London).

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