The Government has already introduced a £20 application fee for parents who need to use the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS) which has replaced the Child Support Agency and, from today, ongoing charges for both parents who need to use this collection service will come into force.
If the CMS has to collect child maintenance from a paying parent, they will apply an additional charge of 20% to that parent which the Government will keep. The CMS will then also deduct 4% from the child maintenance before passing the remaining money on to the receiving parent.
Some single parent family charities are unhappy about the changes and are claiming that the charges will take money from children. However, the only way that parents will find themselves in this situation and liable to ongoing charges will be if the paying parent is a bad payer or if he or she has failed to pay maintenance voluntarily.
The best way to avoid the above charges is for parents to try and make an arrangement between themselves, that is agreeing with the other parent about the amount and type of child maintenance that one will pay to the other. This sort of arrangement is now known as a family based agreement.
In order to avoid use of the CMS and fees, parents could and should also consider family mediation for which Legal Aid is available if parties are eligible.
Whilst some charities are suggesting that the new system is taking money from children, the flip side is that the changes are likely to dramatically reduce the number of applications that are now made and that more parents will attempt mediation in the first instance. The old CSA system was vastly overstretched due to the number of applications and the hope is that the new system will be much more effective and robust.
For further information, please visit the website www.cmoptions.org
*The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.