Child maintenance: Parents 'must agree or face fee'

generic picture of arguing parents The changes to child maintenance are set to be introduced later in the year

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Thousands of letters are to be sent to single parents in Britain informing them of changes to their child maintenance arrangements.

The government wants parents to agree their child maintenance agreements "amicably" or face a charge.

It said the changes were necessary as the old set-up was costly for taxpayers.

But a charity said the changes could force some parents into "unstable" arrangements.

parents with a child More than 50,000 letters have been sent out to single parents

Child maintenance is financial support that helps towards a child's living costs when its parents have separated.

If parents split, maintenance should be paid to the person who takes care of the child on a day-to-day basis.

Under the old system many single parents used the Child Support Agency (CSA) to sort out maintenance payments, but ministers announced last year the CSA would be abolished.

A government spokesman said the old CSA was using an IT system that was "totally inadequate and notoriously riddled with defects", and as such it was costing £74 million per annum to run in operating costs alone.

The Child Support Agency (CSA)

  • The CSA was set up in the early 1990s to calculate and enforce maintenance payments from parents who do not have sole care of their children
  • For the agency to be involved, one of the parents must have requested it
  • The rollout of the new Child Maintenance Service officially began in December 2012
  • The government says new Child Maintenance Service will use HM Revenue & Customs data to process applications and make payments more quickly than the old CSA service, thus preventing the build-up of arrears.
  • The new service will review the financial circumstances of the parent paying maintenance annually to ensure levels of payment are fair, accurate and up-to-date

Source: Department for Work and Pensions

The spokesman added that the old maintenance system "took responsibility away from parents, encouraging conflict and hostility at huge expense to the taxpayer".

In an effort to improve the situation the new replacement "Child Maintenance Service" has been gradually rolled out, which the government said is designed to act as a backstop for parents having trouble.

'20% fee added'

This week more than 50,000 letters are being sent out by the Department for Work and Pensions to parents in England, Scotland and Wales who currently pay and receive child maintenance through the old CSA.

Ministers want to encourage people to come to voluntary arrangements but if that is not possible - and the new statutory service is used - then both parties will be charged.

Under the new rules if an amicable arrangement cannot be reached the paying parent - usually the father - will have a 20% fee added to the maintenance payment, while the receiving parent will pay 4% to get the money.

The charges will be introduced later this year, and all single parents will be charged an upfront fee of £20 for registering with the new service.

However, the chief executive of the single-parent charity Gingerbread, Fiona Weir, said she was "concerned" by the reforms.

She said: "While many parents are able to agree private child maintenance arrangements, for many other parents, this just isn't possible without government help.

"We're very concerned that closing CSA cases and bringing in charges may deter some parents from making new child maintenance agreements or pressure single parents into unstable arrangements, and children will lose out on vital support."

For further help and assistance with child maintenance parents can visit


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  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    Hmm How exactly are they going to come up with a fair formula. I am interested to see the guidance on this what formula are they going to use to access how much a Father needs to pay when coming to any arrangement ? what if the Father falls ill or is jobless ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    Will this new system ensure the money we hand over is actually been spent on our kids? A friend has recently caught out his ex spending the maintenance money on clothing FOR HER! They worked out all the money between themselves on their current life then all of a sudden she cuts after school clubs (saves money) the quality of food (saves more) etc and spends whats left on herself! Disgusting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    My father was screwed over by the CSA. To the point where he was paying out so much he couldn't afford to make the 180 mile trip to visit me!
    As a result, we're closer than ever. I've had my first child and he's funding my move to be nearer him - so he can have the family he was conned out of.
    Good fathers are spat on from a great height just because of the idea that all mothers are better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Too many people, who formerly seemed quite sensible, seem to turn into complete unreasonable idiots when they get divorced. Women seem worse, (I'm a woman)

    One friend even went as far as insisting on using the CSA because she didn't like seeing the ex's signature on a cheque!

    So in a way I agree, I don't see why I should pay for others nutty behaviour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I am a single parent who does not receive maintenance by the children's father -- in spite of a CSA order to do so. This is a ridiculous change -- if someone is already not honoring his or her responsibility, then adding 20% to payments is hardly going to encourage him or her to miraculously begin to act responsibly towards his or her children. Yet another mindless gimmick from the Tories.


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