Child Maintenance Service
The Child Support Act provides the legal framework for child maintenance payments through the Government’s statutory Child Maintenance Service. Among other things, the Act authorises the statutory services to calculate and collect child maintenance. It also says that when a parent opens a case with them and a statutory child maintenance amount is calculated, the paying parent is legally required to pay it.
They were previously know as the Child Support Agency (CSA). They can only deal with children of the blood or adoption, so there is no jurisdiction to assess maintenance for a step-child. Also, all parties have to be resident within the UK. Where either of the parents or the child move out of the UK, the Courts may regain jurisdiction.The Child Maintenance Service can also apply for a declaration of paternity under section 27 of the Child Support Act 1991.
The government is very keen to encourage parents to work together to agree maintenance payments via a family-based arrangement. As such they provide a great deal of information on their website to try and help parents come to an amicable agreement without the use of a government funded service. Here’s how they can help parents agree child maintenance payments:
- They can help you determine the level of maintenance payment due using their online calculator and you can then use their family-based arrangement form to formally agree the payments with each other. However, this is not be a legally enforceable agreement.
- If there is disagreement about the level of payment, you can apply to the Child maintenance service to calculate a statutory child maintenance amount, for a fee of £20. To avoid any further charges, you could then agree for this payment to be made directly, called a “Direct Pay” agreement. As this amount is statutory, it is legally binding, so if payment is not made, you can apply to the child maintenance service to enforce it, for a charge.
- When there has been a history of non-payment or perhaps the receiving party does not trust the paying parent to pay regularly and on time, they can choose to use the “Collect and Pay” service which is managed by the child maintenance service. This means they collect the money from the paying parent and deliver it to the receiving parent. However, this service does come with fees. They are also able to enforce payments if they stop for some reason, with other charges being applicable.
How is Statutory Child Maintenance Calculated?
The Child Maintenance Service usually follow a 6 Step Approach to calculate the weekly amount of child maintenance. They will look at your income and the things that affect it, the number of children the paying parent has parental responsibility for, the child maintenance rate and finally it will make a deduction for shared care of the child. The weekly amount is reviewed every year or sooner if there is a change in circumstances.