Child Maintenance Solicitors
Blackheath, Bexleyheath and Petts Wood
The Department of Work and Pensions has been responsible for the child maintenance system since August 2012. The Department’s function is to promote the financial responsibility that parents have for their children and to provide help and guidance and effective enforcement through the Child Maintenance Group.
Child maintenance options
This is a free organisation that provides information and impartial advice to help couples in the act of separation to set up a family-based agreement.
This is where families reach an agreement between themselves about the type of financial support which will be provided by the absent/paying parent. Financial support need not just include payment of money but can include an agreement to, for example, purchase school uniforms, pay school fees etc.
Such agreements help couples work together for the benefit of the children. They are quicker and easier and allow the parties to tailor the support towards their own personal circumstances.
Child Support Agency/Child Maintenance Service
These organisations deal with statutory child maintenance arrangements. They can assist by assessing how much the absent parent should pay and they can either leave you to deal with the mechanics of making the payments yourselves, or they can help you collect the payment if you are the parent with care.
Either parent can make an application for an assessment.
If you have a court order dealing with child maintenance made before April 2003, you cannot set up a statutory arrangement. If you have a court order dealing with child maintenance made after April 2003 you cannot set up a statutory arrangement for 12 months from the date of the order.
There are currently several reforms being introduced by the government which are gradually being phased in.
The Child Support Agency has now closed its doors to all new applications which are dealt with through the Child Maintenance Service under the new scheme. Under the Child Support Agency scheme, maintenance is calculated, based on the net income of the absent parent, whereas the Child Maintenance Service uses gross income as the basis for the calculation.
Under the new scheme, there are controversial plans to introduce fees of £20 for each application and a charge of 4% of the fees collected to the receiving parent and 20% to the paying parent for any fees collected on behalf of the parent by the Child Maintenance Service.
The Child Support Agency relies on information provided by the paying parent, whereas the Child Maintenance Service uses information from HM Revenue, employers and others in addition to the information provided by the paying parent.
The Child Support Agency formula
The net income used under this formula is income after the deductions of Income Tax, National Insurance and pension contributions. The limit on income of the non-resident parent to be taken into consideration for the assessment is £2,000 per week, although, on an income above that, the parent with care may apply to the Court for a ‘top up’ payment under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.
One of four rates are applied
Basic rate – net weekly income is £200 or more.
- of the net income for 1 child
- 20% of the net income for 2 children
- 25% of the net income for 3 or more children
Reduced rate – net weekly income of over £100 but under £200.
- A standard payment of £5 is payable plus
- 25% of the net income over £100 for 1 child
- 35% of the net income over £100 for 2 children
- 45% of the net income over £100 for 3 or more children
Flat rate – weekly income is £5-£100 a week or they or their partner receive certain benefits
- A flat rate of £5
Nil rate – if income is less than £5 a week, they are students doing at least 12 hours’ tuition a week, 16 or under or 18 and under and in full-time education, 16 to 17 and in receipt of certain benefits, in prison or a care home and receives help with the fees.
No maintenance is payable
If the paying parent has other children living with them and they are paying the basic or reduced rate, then the amount payable will be reduced to make allowance for the fact that they will need to financially support those children.
If the child or children stay overnight with the non-resident parent for at least 52 nights a year then, a reduction in the amount payable will be made.
The Child Maintenance Service formula
For The Child Maintenance Service formula, gross income is income before Income Tax and National Insurance, but after pension contributions. The limit on income of the non-resident parent to be taken into consideration for the assessment is £3,000 per week, on an income above that, the parent with care may apply to the Court for a ‘top up’ payment under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.
One of four rates is applied
1. Basic – Where the paying parent’s gross income is between £200 – £800
Basic plus – where the paying parent’s gross income is between £800.01 – £3,000
For other children, the paying parent supports are taken into account by reducing the paying parent’s gross income by 11% if there is 1 child, by 14% if there are 2 children and 16% if there are 3 or more children.
The following rates are then payable as a percentage of the gross income
Basic – 1 child 12%, 2 children 16% and 3 or more children 19%
Basic plus – the first £800 – 1 child 12%, 2 children 16% and 3 or more 19%
for the remaining gross salary between £800 – £3,000 – 1 child 9%, 2 children 12% and 3 or more children 15%
2. Reduced – Where the paying party’s gross income is between £100.01 – £199.99.
The following rates are payable out of the gross income
- £5 for the first £100 of income and then 19% of the balance of the gross income if there is 1 child, 27% if there are 2 children and 33% if there are 3 or more children.
If there are other children the paying parent supports, a more complicated formula is applied to reduce the amount payable.
3. Flat – where the paying party’s income is below £100 or where they receive certain benefits.
- The flat rate is £5 but will change to £10 when the scheme is opened to all new applicants.
4. Nil – where the paying party’s income is below £5, they are under 16 or 16-19 and in full-time education up to ‘A’ levels.
Where the paying party has the child or children overnight for 52-103 nights a year there is a reduction of one-seventh, for 104 – 155 nights, by two sevenths and for 156 -174 nights, by three sevenths.
In the case of flat rate cases, no maintenance will be payable if the child or children stay overnight for 52 nights a year, except where the flat rate applies because the income is £100 or less, in which case shared care is not taken into account.
A paying parent can apply for a variation of either the Child Support assessment or Child Maintenance Service assessment where there are certain circumstances which are not taken into account under the standard calculation, such as ‘special expenses’ which are expenses incurred, for example, for the cost of travel or petrol incurred concerning contact with the child or children, or costs connected with a child they are supporting who has a disability, boarding school fees, payments made to a mortgage, loan or insurance policy in respect of the family home.
The receiving party can also ask the Child Support Agency or the Child Maintenance Service to take account of additional income to increase the paying parent’s gross income to include unearned income, such as rental income, diversion of income where the paying parent has control of the amount of income they receive.
Either parent may ask the Child Support Agency or the Child Maintenance Service to look at the case again if they believe that wrong information has been used to make the assessment.