The Child Maintenance Service

The Government’s aim is that improved help and support to parents will help more parents work out child maintenance themselves without needing to involve the state.  However, the Government recognises that separated parents cannot always work things out and there are some occasions when it is not appropriate for them to try.  This is why the Government wants to provide an effective statutory child maintenance service as a fall back.

 

What is the child maintenance service?

The Child Maintenance Service is the new statutory child maintenance service.  It works out how much, and when, child maintenance should be paid on behalf of some separated parents in England, Wales and Scotland.  It also has the capability, where necessary, to collect child maintenance from one parent and pay it out to the other (e.g. by deducting child maintenance at source from earnings or bank accounts).

It supports parents who can’t make a family-based arrangement.  The aim is to get more money to more children, by helping parents who live apart to contribute towards their children’s upkeep.

The CSA no longer takes on new cases and is being phased out completely

You cannot apply to the Child Maintenance Service until you have spoken to Child Maintenance Options, and is designed to be the last port of call if amicable arrangements cannot be made. 

What can the Child Maintenance Service do?

They can :

try to find the other parent if you don’t know where they live, to sort out child maintenance

sort out disagreements about parentage

work out how much child maintenance should be paid

arrange for the ‘paying’ parent to pay child maintenance - the parent who doesn’t have main day-to-day care of the child

pass payments on to the ‘receiving’ parent - the parent who has main day-to-day care of the child

look at the payments again when changes in parents’ circumstances are reported

review the payment amount every year

take action if payments aren’t made

Will they review payments once agreed?

Every year the Child Maintenance Service will review the paying parent’s income, benefit status and other circumstances.  This will help to work out if the amount of child maintenance they pay for the next 12 months should stay the same, or if it should go up or down.  This is called the Annual Review, and will be done automatically.  It will ensure that maintenance calculations remain fair and accurate.

Increased flat rate of child maintenance.

Parents who are on low incomes or on benefits pay a flat rate of child maintenance.  To reflect the increased costs of bringing up a child, this flat rate has been increased from £5 to £7 for parents using the Child Maintenance Service.

This increase in the flat rate will increase the amount of money flowing to children and reflects more closely the maintenance which non-resident parents in work, but not on flat rate, are required to pay. 

Shared care for the children.

Unlike in the Child Support Agency, parents who share the day-to-day care of their children exactly equally are not required to pay maintenance to each other if they have a Child Maintenance Service case.  Both parents are required to show evidence that the day-to-day care is shared exactly equally. 

An assumption of shared care equivalent to one night per week may be made where parents agree in principle that there is a shared care arrangement but cannot agree on the number of nights and neither parent is able to provide evidence supporting their claim.

What happens if Child Maintenance isn’t paid?

The Child Maintenance Service has a firm approach to non-payment.

If a paying parent does not pay the right amount of child maintenance on time, then the Child Maintenance Service can, and will, take appropriate action to get the money owed.  If a paying parent knows they’re going to be late making a payment or miss a payment, it’s important they tell the Child Maintenance Service straight away so that the situation can be discussed.

The Child Maintenance Service will contact a paying parent to seek continuing payments and so stop arrears building up.

If child maintenance continues not to be paid, there are three things the Child Maintenance Service can do to get unpaid child maintenance from a paying parent:

take the money direct from their earnings;

take the money from their bank or building society account;

or take action through the courts.

If the matter goes to the courts, there are several actions the Child Maintenance Service can take.

For example, it can ask the court to:

instruct bailiffs to recover the money;

sell a paying parent’s property;

or send a paying parent to prison.

If the Child Maintenance Service has to take action through the courts, then the paying parent may have to pay their own legal costs as well as the Child Maintenance Service’s legal costs.  This would be in addition to the child maintenance owed. 

Charging

There is a fee for applying to the Child Maintenance Service, you will be charged £20 for your application. You may be exempt from these charges if the following apply, you are a victim of domestic violence, if you are under 19years of age or if you live in Northern Ireland.

There are also collection fees if parents use the Child Maintenance Service to collect and pass on payments (a Collect & Pay arrangement).  Collection fees are payable by both parents, including those people who have become clients of the Child Maintenance Service before charging has been introduced.  The collection fee is 4% of child maintenance for the receiving parent and for paying parents it is 20%  of the agreed child maintenance that they will have to pay on top of the maintenance.

The Government intends that the fees will encourage parents to think about whether they can make a family-based arrangement rather than just default into the Child Maintenance Service or, if they are unable to do that, to consider a Direct Pay arrangement within the Child Maintenance Service. 

Changes to Direct Pay.

One of the key changes that has happened under the CMS is, it used to be the case that both parents had to agree to a Direct Pay arrangement (called Maintenance Direct within the Child Support Agency).  Now, either parent with a Child Maintenance Service arrangement can request Direct Pay.  Parents can avoid collection fees by opting for Direct Pay, but still have to pay the application fee.  If payments are not made, the case can be moved to the Collect & Pay service.

The Government has also worked with banks and building societies so that people can get an account that allows them to receive money from the paying parent securely and without having to disclose personal details (e.g. contact numbers or bank account details).

Case closures.

Child Support Agency case closures have started and they continue to be closed.  Parents whose cases are being closed have the opportunity of deciding whether to make a family-based arrangement or apply to the Child Maintenance Service.  Support will be provided by Child Maintenance Options to help them do this.

Parents will be given six months notice that their case is to close.

This process of case closures is expected to be completed in 2018.

The Government has committed to providing information and guidance to help organisations support people who turn to them for advice.

 

Updated: September 2017

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Hide comments (189)

Comments

  • Bob
    Bob Sunday, 07 June 2015

    Has this all been confirmed by parliament?

    Hi all,

    Is this information up to date?
    Can anyone tell me if this has all been approved by parliament as yet?

  • DAD.info Team 1
    DAD.info Team 1 Wednesday, 08 June 2016

    Hi Bob - if you check out the Child Maintenance website they will be able to confirm updated information:

    https://www2.dwp.gov.uk/contact-cmoptions/en/contact.asp

    Many thanks

    DAD.Info Team

  • Guest
    Angry Parent Tuesday, 08 March 2016

    Incorrect Information

    Please note as a parent with full time care who has been fighting the CMS in respect of non payment of sums, the information on your web page is incorrect. The non residential parent has five WORKING days to make payment before contact from CMS will be made not 72 hours and both parents DO NOT agree to how payment should be made, the parent making payment has the decision not the parent with care.

  • DAD.info Team 1
    DAD.info Team 1 Wednesday, 08 June 2016

    We are in the process of updating the information on this page, as things do change from time to time. We appreciate your comments and feedback very much.

    Kind regards

    DAD.Info Team

  • Bethany Parker
    Bethany Parker Friday, 18 March 2016

    Miss

    I am a single mother of 10 & 8 year old girls.
    I work and support them and we don't have any contact with their father.
    At present I get £5 per week through the CSA, but their services are due to stop in June.
    I've contacted you to see if you can help me get future maintenance payments for my daughters.

  • DAD.info Team 1
    DAD.info Team 1 Wednesday, 08 June 2016

    Hi Bethany - Thank you for your comment - did you manage to get this issue resolved?

    We are unable to help you directly but the Child Maintenance team might be able to give you some advice. Their contact page link is above under Bob's comment.

    Many thanks

    DAD.Info Team

  • Guest
    cb Thursday, 24 March 2016

    CB

    I just need a bit of advice really. Basically, i used to just pay my ex £200 cash each month for our 2 boys, an arrangement we made our selves and have been happy with for the last 2 years.
    for the last 6 months me and my new partner have been struggling to pay this amongst our household bills and a new baby, that we have managed to get into debt just to pay my ex! My partner has taken more hours at work and i work 60 hour weeks just for us to pay the bills each month and we literally have £6 left after rent, council tax, debts and maintenance etc is paid. (thats with my gfs mum pretty much buying everything we need for our current baby!)
    A few months ago, i approached my ex to speak about the issue as we are on reasonable terms (we have the kids every other weekend fri-sun and occasional wednesdays after school plus longer during school holidays)
    we agreed £150 a month from now on, as we had the baby and were struggling. (at this point i will also mention we do all the travelling to see the kids, its 120 mile round trip to collect them friday and the same again sunday to drop them back, costing around £40 in fuel each weekend we have them and about £20 on a wednesday)
    after 2 months of paying the £150, she approached me and said she has contacted the child maintenance agency and they told her she is entitled to £204 a month and they will be in contact soon.

    truth is i just cant afford this payment! i love my kids and love having them but honestly the reality is, if i have to pay this i cant afford the fuel to go and see them or have them over! or i dont pay my rent, so i have the fuel money, but then have no house for my current child and they cant come and stay anyway.

    this is even more enfuriating when i see my ex goes out every weekend drinking and days out with the kids! i would love to be able to treat them, but i just cant! she clearly doesnt need this extra money!

    help!

  • DAD.info Team 1
    DAD.info Team 1 Wednesday, 08 June 2016

    I'm sorry to hear about the problems that you have been having. If you are still struggling you may be able to get some help from the following two websites:

    http://www.stepchange.org/ this one relates to debt management

    http://www.cmoptions.org/ this one is for child maintenance

    We wish you all the best - if we can help any further please let us know.

    Kind regards

    DAD.Info Team

  • Guest
    diary of a job seeker Tuesday, 22 August 2017

    Debt advice or maintenance options?

    Hi, I have to say that your advice is absolutely terrible in this instance. Poster, please send this to CSA/ CMS in form of complaint. When they respond, send the exact same thing again. Keep sending it until you receive a deal that you can agree with. That simple. Do not take no for an ansswer and be there for all of your children. You can do it

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Daniel Wednesday, 13 September 2017

    Mr`

    I work for the child maintenance group and if you follow this advice and refuse to pay your assessment, it will not be reduced. Instead you will be deemed non compliant and be forced to incur the 20% additional colloection fees on top of your ongoing maintenance. It is also likely a deduction from earnings order would be set up to take the money from your wages, which you would have to be subject to for at least 6 months if set up, before CMG would even consider moving you to an unenforced collection method such as direct debit and another 6 months of compliance on that would be required before you could have the case service type changed to direct pay to avoid those 20% charges by paying the receiving parent directly. CMG staff will advise you to try seeking debt advice as the law (Child Maintenance Calculation Regulations 2012) does not allow CMG to take a paying parents expenses into account. You could complain about this policy which may help make politicians (who actually have to change the law) aware these policies are often unfair. However, please be prepared that there is NOTHING any CMG staff can do to change these rules or make exceptions.

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Guest Tuesday, 23 January 2018