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Prepare for child maintenance changes, expert warns

The Child Maintenance Service is replacing the old Child Support Agency (CSA), which is being phased out over the next three years.

Helen Lucking, partner in the Family team at Napthens solicitors, reveals that from July 2014 new charges were introduced which mean parents who use the service to manage payments will face a fee of £20.

However, parents who use the service to calculate and obtain maintenance from the other parent face fees of 20 per cent being deducted from the non-resident parents’ contribution.

Helen reveals that this decision has been taken to encourage parents to work together, freeing up the Child Maintenance Service to focus on urgent cases.

However, there are fears that parents will face pressure to agree to unsuitable arrangements.

Helen said: “Under the new rules which came into force earlier this month, parents will face this new system of fees for using the service, and will be encouraged instead to come to their own agreements and use a direct pay service.

“There is no doubt the old CSA system needed overhauling. Critics had complained for some time that it was far too inefficient and costly.

“Facing a fee could well mean that some parents agree to child maintenance payment arrangements that are not ideal for their circumstances, simply to avoid the new payment.

“Parents who may be affected by the change in rules should consider carefully what they will mean for them, and seek the proper professional advice if they are concerned.”