Proposed changes to the child maintenance system could introduce charges to both parents

The government is currently debating whether new plans to shake up the current child maintenance system should be put in place. The changes will close all Child Support Agency (CSA) cases, numbering around 1 million, over the next 3 years and will add additional fees for parents who need to use the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS). The government hopes that the new system will incentivise separated couples to come to their own private arrangements. Under the new system, the Department for Work & Pensions plans to introduce a £20 application fee to access the CMS and get a maintenance calculation. After making the application, parents will become liable to a 4% collection charge if the new service has to step in and collect outstanding maintenance from the other parent. If either parent fails to pay the maintenance fee, they will be charged an additional collection fee of 20% on top of their children’s maintenance, which the Government will keep. The Government expects to be collecting £145m per year in fees from both parents. Gingerbread, a charity that provides advice and support for single parents, has expressed concern that the case closure process, application fee and ongoing charges will discourage some parents from securing maintenance for their children. Gingerbread Chief Executive Fiona Weir said “The new service should have secured reliable maintenance for children at its core, but instead it will jeopardise existing arrangements and put financial pressure on struggling single parent families. “Parents will only be able to use the new collection service when their child’s other parent has repeatedly failed to pay child maintenance. It is wrong that single parents should have to lose part of their child’s maintenance because of the other parent’s unwillingness to pay,” she added. If the proposed changes get through parliament this week, then the charges are expected to be put in place in a few months time. The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Setfords Solicitors are a national full service law firm, with family law Solicitors in Guildford and across the country.