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Child Maintenance Service

View profile for Beth Woodward
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If you have children by an ex-partner you are very likely to have a strong view on the Child Support Agency.  You may be pleased to hear that the Child Support Agency is no more: it has been replaced by the Child Maintenance Service.  The Child Support Agency will continue to handle its existing case load but it will be gradually phased out.  It is closed to new applications and its operations are likely to cease completely by 2017.

The new regime actively tries to discourage parents from using it by encouraging them to attempt to reach a private agreement in the first instance.  A further discouragement is the introduction of fees.  There is a £20 application fee; a 4% reduction fee for those parents with residence of their children (RPs); and a 20% handling fee for the paying parent (PP).  This means that in addition to the application fee for £100 payment the PP pays £120 and the RP receives £96.  There are additional charges for enforcement steps.

Those familiar with the CSA will know that there is a rigid formula that is applied based on the income of the PP and the number of nights that the children stay with the PP.  Previously the formula was calculated on the PP’s net earned income: now it is calculated on the PP’s gross income for the previous year as declared to the Inland Revenue.  As previously the contributions made towards pensions can be deducted from the PP’s gross income for the purposes of the calculations.

The percentages to be applied are

Number of children

First £800 per week

£800 - £3,000 per week

1

12%

9%

2

16%

12%

3+

19%

15%

A reduction of one-seventh is applied where children stay with the PP between one and two nights a week, two-sevenths if they stay two to three nights per week etc.

A further reduction is applied where the PP has other children for whom he is paying child maintenance or other children in his new family (whether his own or the children of his new partner).

Reviews are carried out annually based on the previous year’s declared income but there can only be a change to the amount paid in between the annual reviews where there is a 25% change in the PP’s income.

There are some limited circumstances in which the PP’s assessable income can be reduced or increased.

If you and your partner are able to reach a private agreement without involving the CMS it has the benefit of saving on the CMS charges and allowing greater flexibility.  We would recommend that an agreement reached about child maintenance be incorporated into a Consent Order within divorce proceedings or into a Cohabitation Agreement to make the agreement enforceable.  If you have any questions about your obligations to pay child maintenance following the breakdown of your relationship then please do contact myself Beth Woodward on 01908 304560 or beth.woodward@nevesllp.co.uk or one of our other family lawyers.

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