Child support is an on-going obligation and is not linked to marital status, parental responsibility or contact with children.
The Child Support Act came in to force in April 1993 and created the Child Support Agency: since then, child support payments have been widely known as “CSA payments” and continue to do so by and large. In July 2008 the CSA was abolished and replaced by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, known as CMEC. In 2012 CMEC was also abolished and was replaced by the Child Maintenance Group, or CMG. In the meantime, we have worked with the original rules from 1993, amended rules in 2003 and further amendments to the rules in 2012 which were extended in 2013, the majority of which do not coincide precisely with the various changes in names. Because of these changes, the various provisions can be difficult to understand.
The CMG website, www.cmoptions.org has a calculator so that separating couples can calculate child maintenance. This encourages parents to enter into a Family-Based Arrangement, which will set out the provisions for maintenance. If the non-resident parent then stops paying maintenance, or if the parents have not been able to enter into a Family Based Arrangement, the parent with care may apply to the Statutory Child Maintenance Service which will charge both parents for its services. The parent with care pays a £20 application fee and 4% will be deducted from the maintenance and the non resident parent will pay an additional 20% collection charge.
The Family Based Arrangement itself is not enforceable and, if both parents are willing, an alternative would be for them to enter into a deed which would be enforceable – although enforcement would incur further legal costs.
Child support is often referred to in financial orders for divorcing couples and if it is, this precludes the involvement of the Statutory Child Maintenance Service for a year unless other provisions which specifically deal with continuing child support are made. Child support in such circumstances would be recovered by the issue of proceedings.
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