England 12/08/2013 – The next stage of the Child Maintenance Service has begun with new claimants, who have two children being able to access the system.
It is the second phase of the government’s plans to replace the Child Support Agency with a new agency. From 10 December 2012, couples who could not come to a private agreement about child support began to be referred to the CMS rather than the CSA.
The approach of this new agency is significantly different from that of the CSA. Initially, couples will be encouraged to try once again to make a private agreement about child-support payments. Much of the agency’s funds will be spent on providing separating couples with the tools and advice they need to reach agreement.
However, the agency accepts that some couples will not be able to come to an agreement. In this situation, they will act very much like the old child support agency assessing the income of each parent and coming up with a figure of how much support needs to be paid for each child. The agency uses gross income rather than net income to ascertain how much each parent should contribute. Importantly, the agency has access to HMRC figures, which many believe will enable them to better assess each parent’s financial circumstances and therefore, come up with better solutions.
Many have welcomed the changes. However, there is some concern about the fact that eventually the agency will charge for its services. Some believe that single parents will simply feel that they cannot afford to lose some of their child-support cash to the agency. It is felt by many that some parents will simply choose to try to manage as they are rather than be forced to enter into negotiations with an abusive ex partner.
The old system runs alongside
Currently, legal firms like Direct Access Family Law are dealing with both kinds of cases. They are guiding new clients with one or two children through the CMS system, while at the same time dealing with existing clients who are already in the CSA system. This is giving them the chance to compare the two systems side-by-side, however as yet few legal firms have commented on which system is the best. Therefore, how successful the CMS will be remains to be seen.
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