New Child Maintenance Service

December 2013

On 25th November 2013 the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has taken over from the Child Support Agency (CSA) for all new child maintenance cases. Furthermore a new and more complex formula has been introduced to calculate maintenance payable. However existing cases will still be dealt with under the scheme brought in in 1993 for very old cases and the scheme brought in 2003 for cases which have started over the last 10 years. Each of those schemes had their own separate and very different formula so that from now on we will be operating three separate child support schemes! Sadly the Courts still have no power to decide the amount of child maintenance even when a couple is divorcing and the Court is dealing with all other aspects of their finances.

Looking at the CMS literature on their website it is clear that the overriding aim will be to persuade parents to agree their own “family arrangement”. The experienced Family Lawyers at Brain Chase Coles need no reminding of the benefits to our clients of reaching an agreement. That always has to be our aim to help our clients continue to co-parent their children and make arrangements for them by agreement even after separation.

The CMS is planning to go one step further in encouraging parents to reach their own agreement by introducing fees from next April. These are subject to approval by Parliament and whilst they are likely to require only a modest application fee of £20, the sting will come if the CMS are asked to collect maintenance. The receiving parent will have to pay 4% out of their maintenance and the proposal to be put before Parliament is for the paying parent to pay a fee of 20% of the maintenance on top. This means that a father paying £500 per month through the CMS will actually have to pay another £100 to them for the privilege. Clearly the CMS are trying to avoid their responsibilities for collecting maintenance which has been one of the huge failures of the CSA. Their aim seems to be to avoid parents requiring a “pay and collect” service and where a family arrangement cannot be agreed, the hope is that parents will only ask the CMS to calculate the figure and then the parents will need to make their own arrangements for payment.

The four specialist Family Lawyers at Brain Chase Coles can help our clients calculate what child support should be payable under the new arrangement. “It is a complex six step process”, commented Partner Nick Massey-Chase. “Instead of calculating maintenance on the basis of net income we now have to work on gross income for the previous tax year, but subject to possible adjustments. The easily understood formula of paying 15% for one child, 20% for two children and 25% for three or more children, has gone out of the window and has been replaced by a range of different percentages based on the introduction of four income bands each one with a different formula. I know the government are trying to improve education standards but it is almost as if any separating parent needs an A’ Level Maths to be able to understand and work out the formula”.

The Brain Chase Coles Family Team have all been trained in working out maintenance based on the new formula and are ready and willing to help.

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