Child Maintenance Service writes to parents

A 3 year process of closing all existing Child Support Agency (CSA) cases is now under way.

The CSA has already stopped taking on new cases, with newly separated parents encouraged to make their own family-based arrangements or use the new Child Maintenance Service instead.

Initially the Department of Work and Pensions are writing to around 150,000 parents with details of when their case is due to close and advice about the next steps they should take. Although there is no need for anyone to act until they receive a letter, once parents receive notification of their closure date they are urged to consider their options. The roll out could affect 800,000 CSA cases that are reported to remain active.

The case closure programme is beginning with so-called “nil-assessed” cases – those in which, because of the circumstances of the non-resident parent, no maintenance has been due. Because of this, some parents may feel there is no point in responding to the letter they receive.

However, because the parents’ circumstances may have changed since the initial assessment was made – plus the new statutory child maintenance system, says the DWP, is much more robust, using data from the tax authorities – it may be that maintenance becomes payable once a new assessment is carried out. Therefore, all parents are encouraged to act.

There has however been much debate on the new statutory system as the Government introduced application fees, collection fees and enforcement charges in August 2014.

For parents who wish to agree maintenance you can use the child maintenance calculator to work out what the statutory maintenance payments might be. The service encourages a private agreement first and gives an example but it is explicitly stated to be not legally binding.

If parents or carers of children want to enter into a binding agreement then we would recommend that you contact our Family Law team.

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