Child Support Agency - FACTS

Friday Jan 20, 2017 Children

Many queries received by family lawyers will often be from fathers requesting to know how much they ‘owe’ the permanent carer of their children, which more often than not, will be the mother of their child. “Is it cheaper to go through the CSA?” “Should I have my own private arrangement?” “If I give her money, can I get the contact that I want?” In the same breath, it was reported in February 2016 that single mothers were owed more than £43million by absent fathers. This figure was calculated by the Child Maintenance System which had been developed by the conservative government in 2013 when it replaced the highly criticised Child Support Agency which at the same had failed to collect up to £3 billion in payments for single mothers.

Just like in any other circumstance in life, it is always going to be a more effective, proactive and less contentious if you and your former partner can mutually agree on an amount. This may inadvertently be less than the CMS would calculate as your ex will be willing to take into account other life commitments you may have, or you may be willing to pay privately for holidays for the children that CMS would not expect you to pay for. Regardless, if you’re in a situation where this is possible, you should be endorsing it. The website http://www.cmoptions.org is a government recommended starting place for parents to visit and formulate a family agreement on such payments.  If you or your ex feel like you need the agreement formalised there are even options on how to make the agreement legally binding. If however you would prefer to keep the matter open to revision dependent on fluctuation of income it would be suggested that a court order may not be necessary.

In the event that a family agreement cannot be reached than either parent can make contact with the Child Maintenance Service who can then assist with any of the following:

  • Attempt to locate the other parent in the event that you do not know where they are residing in order to arrange payment.
  • Assist in sorting through disagreements relating to parentage
  • Calculate how much maintenance should be paid
  • Make arrangements for payment to be made
  • Review and recalculate payments when the paying parents circumstances reportedly change
  • Take action if payment is not made.

The basis of payments are calculated that if the parent who does not reside with the child earns £200 or more a week then the CSA shall calculate the amount of maintenance they should pay as a percentage of their net weekly income. For one child, this is 15%, for two children this is 20% and for three or more children it is 25%. This is known as the ‘basic’ rate for payment.

Dependent on one’s financial circumstance you then have the ‘nil’ rate, ‘flat’ rate and ‘reduced’ rate.

The nil rate purports to those in the following circumstance:

  • Students
  • 16 years or under, [and or receiving certain benefits] or 18 if in full time education not higher than A Level.
  • Receiving an allowance for work based training
  • Living in a care home or independent hospital

The flat rate is used if the parents are receiving a weekly income between £5 - £100 and they do not quality under the nil rate. This will then consist of £5 a week regardless of how many children there are. The rate will almost be used if the parent receives certain benefits which include but are not limited to:

  • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • State Pension
  • Training Allowance
  • War Disablement Pension
  • Universal Credit

If the paying parent lives with a partner, the flat rate will be used if the partner gets:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit

Finally the reduced rate will be used if the paying parent’s net weekly income is more than £100 but less than £200. They pay the flat rate of £5 plus a percentage of their net weekly income.