HELP!?!? I'm going round in circles with Child Maintenance Service!
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
The above titled quote, I hear repeatedly from parents, having problems with the maintenance service, ‘CMS’, whether the parent in receipt of payment, or the parent making the payment.
I very much fell into this line of work, before my time with Court Help Limited ‘CHL’, helping numerous parents trying to navigate their way through the CMS system.
Since joining CHL, I have been somewhat inundated with parents seeking help and feeling like they are ‘hitting a brick wall’, trying to resolve the issues they are facing, whether it is a parent feeling they are receiving less than what they believe, or a parent feeling they are paying more than what they believe.
So…what is Child Maintenance?
A child has a legal right to be supported financially by both their parents and it is vital for separated families and the well-being of children.
Child maintenance is an arrangement between parents, and its purpose is to support the child(ren), with regards to living costs for when one of the parents no longer lives with them.
It’s made when parents have separated (or if the parents have never been in a relationship).
Child maintenance arrangements can take different forms:
Arrangements can be made between separated parents, privately; or
Through the Government-run Child Maintenance Service.
What is the Child Maintenance Service?
The Child Maintenance Service is for separated parents that have not been able to make an agreement, between them privately, as to how their child(ren’s) living costs will be paid.
The CMS has a standard way to calculate child maintenance. It is based on:
How much your child’s other parent earns
How many children they pay child maintenance for
Whether your child stays overnight with their other parent
If there are any other children living with your child’s other parent
Challenging the amount, you receive?
You may want to challenge the amount because:
You believe the CMS has used the wrong information to calculate the child maintenance correctly
Either your or your child’s other parent’s circumstances have changed since the amount was calculated
You want other information about the other parent’s income or circumstances taken into account.
Whatever, the reason, you can challenge the decision about the payment amounts received.
From experience, calling the service, does very little to progress matters. The CMS will only be able to provide limited amount of information about the child’s other parent’s income.
If it Is believed think the figures are wrong, there are steps by contacting CMS in writing to ask for the decision to be varied and looked at again.
There are 4 methods that can be used to challenge the amount:
When to use it: the amount was calculated using the wrong information.
A revision is required, if it is believed that the child(rens') other parent has failed to disclose all of their earnings and in some cases, if it is believed the child’s other parent has income other than wages or self-employed earnings, or unearned income from capital worth over £2,500 a year.
A revision is also required in circumstances when:
- A mistake about the number of children the other parents pay maintenance for
- Used incorrect figures
- Not included all the days each parent cares for the child(ren)
When to use it: there has been a change in circumstances and a new calculation is needed.
It may be the case, that there has been a change in circumstances and as a result the amount needs to be changed, this may be the case when the contact arrangements for the child(ren) have changed: E.g. if the number of nights the child(ren) stays with their other parents has changed.
When to use it: you want other information or circumstances to be taken into account
A variation is required, if it is believed that the other parent’s income has not been included in the original calculation. When this request is made CMS, can be requested to take other income into account or circumstances that it has not already considered.
This method is particularly useful if it is believed that the child(ren’s) other, parent’s income is higher than they have declared to the CMS. For example, it may be suspected that the child(ren’s) other parent is using self-employment or payment by dividend to make their salary income look artificially low.
Warning: It can be hard to successfully apply for a variation because the CMS will expect you to prove the facts. The CMS will not usually carry out a detailed investigation itself.
What can I do if a variation isn’t successful?
If your application for a variation is rejected or not to your satisfaction, the next step is to request a mandatory reconsideration.
A Mandatory Reconsideration Notice will be sent. You can then proceed to appeal to an independent tribunal within one month of the date of the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.
When to use it: you want to challenge the decision made by the CMS
Most decisions made by the CMS can be challenged by an appeal.
Appeals are decided by an independent tribunal, which has the power to get much more detailed information from the other parent and from the CMS.
If you’re the other parent has complicated finances a request can be made that a finance professional sits on the tribunal panel. This is usually an accountant who can unpick all the finances in detail.
There can be two stages to the tribunal process. The first stage tribunal considers your appeal and makes a decision. Usually, this is the end of the matter. You can only appeal to the second stage of the tribunal process if the tribunal has made a legal mistake, such as misinterpreting the law.
This blog article should not be taken as Legal Advice.
If you need help with Family Law Matters / Children Act Matters, please feel free to contact us on our website at; Help@inCourt.co.uk or call us on; 07375757510