Child Maintenance: Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers to frequently asked Child Maintenance questions
Who are the Child Support Agency and Child Maintenance Service?
The Child Support Agency and the Child Maintenance Service are both government-run child maintenance schemes that work out, collect and pay out child maintenance to clients in England Wales and Scotland.
The Child Support Agency manages child maintenance cases set up on the 1993 and 2003 schemes.
The Child Maintenance Service manages the new child maintenance scheme, launched in 2012. It will eventually replace the Child Support Agency to leave one single child maintenance scheme.
What’s happening to the CSA?
The CSA will end all of its maintenance arrangements and let parents know their options so they can choose the right kind of arrangement for them.
Paying parents don’t need to do anything until they receive a letter from the CSA about ending their CSA arrangement, although you could start to think now about the types of arrangement you can make. The CSA will explain in more detail what both parents need to do next when they get in touch.
What happens to your existing CSA case?
Paying parents must continue to make payments until their CSA case is closed, as set out in the payment schedule. Also, parents can report any changes of circumstance as normal during this time.
The CSA will let both parents know what the final regular maintenance payment should be.
Paying parents remain responsible for paying any arrears owed and it is in their interest to clear them as soon as possible by paying what they owe to the CSA. Paying parents should continue to make any arrears payments as per their existing agreement until they are told otherwise.
What are the proposed fees and charges for using the Child Maintenance Service?
- It’s not law yet but the government plans to introduce fees and charges in March 2014 for Child Maintenance Service clients.
- There will be a one-off fee of £20 for making a new application to the Child Maintenance Service.
People who declare that they are a victim of domestic violence and have reported this to an appropriate person/organisation; or a person under 19 years of age do not have to pay the £20 application fee. But they still have to pay the collection fees for using Collect & Pay.
- For paying parents, a 20 per cent fee is added to each amount of child maintenance the Child Maintenance Service collects from them, if Collect & Pay is used.
- Paying parents are charged a fee even if they miss a payment.
- For receiving parents, a 4 per cent fee is taken away from each amount of child maintenance they are due to receive, if Collect & Pay is used.
- Receiving parents are only charged a fee when the Child Maintenance Service passes a payment on to them.
**There are no plans to apply charges and fees to cases managed by the Child Support Agency.**
How can I avoid Child Maintenance Service charges?
The best way to avoid the proposed fees and charges is to set up a family-based arrangement and not use the Child Maintenance Service at all.
A family-based arrangement is when both parents work together to sort out child maintenance between themselves, without involvement of the Child Maintenance Service.
However, if you and the other parent can’t agree an arrangement between yourselves and you apply to the Child Maintenance Service, you may still be able to avoid paying further charges.
There will be no collection fees for parents who pay and receive child maintenance using Direct Pay. Direct Pay is when the Child Maintenance Service works out the amount of child maintenance a paying parent must pay, but parents agree between themselves how and when payments are made.
If the Direct Pay arrangement breaks down, collection fees will apply if the case moves onto the Collect & Pay arrangement.
The best way to avoid enforcement charges is to pay child maintenance in full and on time.
Will there be an increase to the flat rate payments?
Under the Child Maintenance Service this would increase to £7
If I want to pay via Direct Pay can my ex force me to use the Collect and Pay Service ?
When charging is introduced, either parent can ask to use Direct Pay, but you may not be able to use your preferred option.
- If the paying parent asks for a Direct Pay arrangement but the receiving parent wants to use Collect & Pay, the Child Maintenance Service will look at whether it’s in the child or children’s best interests for Direct Pay to be used
- If the receiving parent asks for a Direct Pay arrangement, the Child Maintenance Service will always set up the case as Direct Pay
- If both parents ask for Collect & Pay to be used the Child Maintenance Service will set the case up as Collect & Pay
Without a good reason – such as proof of previous missed payments – the Child Maintenance Service cannot force the paying parent to use Collect & Pay and therefore incur collection fees
Direct pay and your past payment history in the CSA
The Child Maintenance Service will have information on whether a paying parent has missed CSA payments in the past, because this could affect whether they are able to use the Child Maintenance Service's Direct Pay service. With Direct Pay, there are no collection charges.
So it's important to pay child maintenance in full and on time as per the payment schedule.