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Child Maintenance Service to be given more powers to crack down on parents who refuse to pay

View profile for Ellen Nicholas
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The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) replaced the already existing Child Support Act 1991 in 2012. CMS calculates how much child maintenance a parent is entitled to when the one parent does not live with the child if it cannot be agreed between the parents, as well as arranging the payments and taking action when a parent does not pay.

Last week, the Government published their response to a consultation to give the CMS more powers to act against parents who repeatedly fail to pay maintenance for their children. Within their response, the Government confirmed that various changes will soon come into force.

  • Enforcement times will be cut from 6 months to 6 weeks for parents who refuse to pay to ensure action is taken sooner.
  • CMS will be able to use an administrative liability order to recover unpaid child maintenance as opposed to having to apply to the courts, so action can be taken much sooner.
  • The CMS will also have the power to write off debt worth less than £7 so focus can be on those individuals who owe larger amounts.

It is anticipated that legislation for these changes will come about in the Spring, making for a fairer system and making it more likely that children get the support they deserve.

It was announced in October 2023 that the Government would remove the £20 fee for use of the CMS service and all applications would be free – it has been confirmed that this will come into force from 26 February 2024, to ensure the CMS service is more accessible for all.

How is child maintenance calculated? 
The amount of CMS payable is dependent on the paying parent’s gross income and how many children live with them, including the children of a new partner. If the paying parent has one child living with them, their gross income is reduced by 11%.

The reductions are 14% for two children and 16% for three or more children. The amount of maintenance due is then calculated as a percentage of the gross income remaining, based on the first £800 received and then the remaining income past this initial £800. The maintenance due based on the first £800 is 12% of the salary if one child is applied for, 16% if two children are applied for and 19% if three or more children are applied for.

The maintenance due based on any salary over the initial £800 is calculated at 9% of the salary if one child is applied for, 12% if two children are applied for and 15% if three or more children are applied for.

How long do I need to pay child maintenance for?
Child maintenance payments should be made until the child turns 16, unless they are in full time education or training, in which case the payments will be made until the child turns 20 years old.