Child support – where next?

Year Published: 2012

The government has recently attempted to bring in changes to the Child Support System whereby parents would have to pay a fee to use the services of the Child Support Agency (CSA) to recover maintenance outstanding for children.

Until now, this has been free but it has to be said that the CSA has had very mixed results since it was established in 1993. The Government proposed to introduce charges of either £100 or £50 for those in receipt of benefits to use the agency to collect information and pursue a financial settlement. These may not be overly huge fees to some, but the people chasing the maintenance are already often financially strained and £50 for those on benefits is almost certainly impossible. There would also be further collection charges, a percentage of the maintenance, which would reduce the income further that the parent with the child would receive. These would all be payable by the recipient and there would also be charges for the non-payer.

The House of Lords defeated the government by a large majority, but they will soon attempt to overturn this as they are intent on introducing the charges, despite widespread condemnation of the present plans. It is the 6th defeat of the coalition Governments’ welfare reform legislation.

There are alternatives to using the CSA if talks between parents have broken down. It is vital when you separate and/or divorce to ensure that the arrangements for the children are sorted out quickly, for the children’s wellbeing and for both parents’ finances.

In some circumstances, obtaining a court order will confirm the payments to be made and the court will make the decision regarding access arrangements. This can alleviate the need to use the CSA at all.

There are conflicting levels of service reported by those who have used the CSA and even the use of the CSA has been known to inflame the situation when a relationship breaks down, but with the use of expert and sensible family law solicitors, an agreement can almost always be reached on an amicable basis.

For more information on this and all other family or separation matters, please contact a member of our Family team on 01625 442100.

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