Welcome To Child Support 101

Child Maintenance Service and Child Support AgencyHere at Child Support 101, we will advise you on the correct procedure and agencies to use to get child support for your family.

Child maintenance is a responsibility that both parents have to undertake, whether or not they are together.  In case of a divorce, the parents have to agree on who takes the responsibility of the kids’ day-to-day welfare. The parent who does not live with the children will pay an agreed-upon amount periodically (weekly or monthly) to help with the expenses of raising the child or children. This periodic payment is referred to as child support or child maintenance.

Child Maintenance Service & Child Support Agency

Child Support AgencyThese agencies are now operating from the same offices as the original CSA. Therefore, the contact numbers for the CSA regional office are the same for the Child Maintenance Service.

If you have any query or would like assistance at any point in the application process, you can call the availed Child Support Agency number 0843 455 0030.

There are a few child maintenance options available to couples today. Depending on the prevailing circumstances, the couple can agree among themselves or involve the government. A local arrangement (often referred to as a family-based arrangement) is most encouraged. However, if both parties fail to agree on issues, there are other options one can explore.

There are several ways through which you can get child maintenance.

  • Family-based arrangement
  • Direct Pay
  • Collect and Pay
  • Court ordered arrangement

Let us have a brief look at each of these options.

Family Based Arrangement

In this arrangement, both partners agree on all the details about the welfare of the children. They agree on the living arrangements for the children as well as how much will be paid in child support.

In this arrangement, there is no need to involve the authorities. A third party can come in as a witness and help both parties agree on terms that work for both of them. The third party can also mediate change of terms should circumstances for either party change.

The best option for a family-based arrangement is for the paying parent to set up a standing order. This means that the specified amount will be automatically paid to the other parent on time so long as the account has money.

If you are having trouble deciding how much should be paid in child support when on a family-based agreement, check out the Family Mediation Council official website for more details.

It is the easiest, fastest and most affordable child maintenance option
Both parties can agree on the different aspects of childcare such as education costs as opposed to one blanket payment
It is flexible which allows quick adaptation in case there are changes in circumstances
It is a perfect arrangement where there are trust and goodwill – the paying parent discloses full income and pays accordingly
It is not legally binding. This means that if a paying parent decides not to honour the agreement, the court cannot enforce anything

You can make a legally binding family-based agreement by having a solicitor mediate the process, involving the Child Support Agency or by going to court.

Using Direct Pay

This is one of the two options offered by Child Maintenance Services (which is gradually replacing the Child Support Agency).

Direct Pay means that the department calculates how much should be paid depending on the income of the paying parent. The paying parent then makes arrangements on how the set amount will be paid.

CMS works out how much should be fairly paid for child support; you need not worry about it
The arrangement is enforceable by law. This means that the paying partner will have to abide by the agreement
The arrangement is enforced until the child is 16 years (or 20 and in proven full time A-level and equivalent education)
If previously in an amicable relationship, involving CMS may spoil the goodwill of both parties
There is a £20 application fee. This fee does not apply to applicants under 19 years, victims of domestic violence or if residing in Northern Ireland
When CMS comes in to enforce an agreement, there are charges involved

If you think that Child Maintenance Services is your only bet to getting the necessary child support, you can contact the Child Support Agency on 0843 455 0030.

Using Collect and Pay

This is the second of the two options offered by CMS. In this arrangement, the agency collects money from the paying parent and passes it over to the custodial parent. This is usually the arrangements most prefer if the Direct Pay option is not adhered to.

CMS works a sum that is fair for both parties so no one will be at a disadvantage
You do not have to worry about pushing a paying parent to honour the agreement; CMS does it on your behalf
CMS enforces agreements if the paying parent fails to make payments. This enforcement can be in the form of direct deductions from wages or force the sale of the property to cover the costs
There is a £20 application fee. This fee does not apply to applicants under 19 years, victims of domestic violence or Northern Ireland residents
Both parties pay charges for the transactions. The paying parent pays a 20% charge while the receiving parent pays 4% on the amount being transacted. These amounts could have been used to cover some childcare costs
CMS, at its sole discretion, decide which enforcement action to take; you do not have a say in what they do

Using the Courts

Apart from Child Maintenance Services and Child Support Agency, any parent can approach the court for assistance in getting child maintenance. The courts work well on specific circumstances. You can approach the court if:

  • The paying parents live abroad
  • To work out additional childcare costs in case of a disabled child, stepchild or when private school fees are needed
  • When a paying parent has a high income, and a top-up amount (over and above what CSA or CMS awarded) is needed

While the courts are effective in complicated situations, the processes also come with their costs.

Childcare costs are significantly high and can be quite overwhelming when one parent is left to handle it all alone. This is why the law ensures that both parents are adequately held responsible for the needs and costs of raising the children. Do you have any query or concern? Call Child Maintenance Services on 0843 455 0030, and you will get the assistance you need. Don’t forget you are entitled to the normal benefits like child tax credits & child benefit.