Child Maintenance Reforms

The 1 October 2012 was set as the date upon which significant reforms to the administration of Child Maintenance would come into force. Inevitably substantial delays have meant that as at the date of writing a new date for implementation has yet to be fixed. Changes are expected to occur in early 2013. Under the published Regulations a new Child Maintenance Service will replace the Child Support Agency for new applications with the intention that in due course all existing cases currently dealt with by the CSA will migrate to the new Service. The move has been prompted by longstanding complaints about the delays and lack of efficiency of the CSA, but will the new regime provide a better service to separating couples who cannot agree the financial arrangements for their children? 

A formula will be applied (as is currently the case) in calculating the level of child support referable to the number of children concerned. At present the formula refers to the net income of the potential paying parent: under the new regime the service will fix maintenance against the gross income of the payer. Outgoings and financial commitments will be irrelevant under the new system. The costs to be levied to administer the assessment will be ongoing and are expected to be a percentage of the total amount to be paid. The expectation is that parents will be encouraged to make private arrangements.

Other key features include:

  • An annual review
  • Improved arrears procedures
  • More information available online.

In the first instance new applicants can be sign posted by accessing the new Child Maintenance Options Service to obtain information on the new calculation and assistance as to how to proceed.

Whilst it is yet to be seen whether or not the new regime will be more effective than the old what is clear is that the issue of child maintenance continues to be complex for parents with a variety of options being available to them as to how to fix the appropriate level of child support for their children. 

For further information contact Karen Myles, Sheridan Ball or Alison Benson who will be pleased to help.

Posted on: 23/01/2013

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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