Child Support Frequently Asked Questions
CSA legislation is complex and many decisions made are not in accordance with the Child Support Act. We have listed below some of the more common complaints against Child Support Agency/Child Maintenance Service, but for more case specific advice, please take advantage of our one month subscription service.
- I cannot afford the CSA demands, what can I do?
- What if my Circumstances Change?
- I have applied to the CSA, but still receive no money.
- The NRP was assessed, but I don’t receive any money.
- The CSA told me enforcement cannot be taken against the NRP.
- When will existing cases transfer to the New Gross Income Scheme?
- The CSA have contacted me, what should I do?
- I am unsure what system my case is assessed under.
- What is the difference between the three systems?
- When does the CSA end?
- Do the CSA have to be involved?
- Does my partner have to provide details?
- Are my step-children taken into account?
- Does the CSA take into account my tax credits?
- What is Exempt Income?
- What is the Protected Income?
- How can I move my case to a different system?
- What is Phasing?
- How will Phasing affect me?
- I have new financial commitments, will the CSA take them into account?
- I have received my assessment. How do I pay?
- I am an NRP and my child stays with me overnight. Would this affect my assessment?
- I am an NRP and waiting for my assessment to be calculated. Should I continue to make voluntary payments to my ex partner?
- I am considering becoming Bankrupt, will this stop enforcement?
You must always check your assessments for accuracy, paying particular attention to the income recorded, and for old rules cases, the level of housing costs that have been allowed. Be sure to check that any pensions that you pay are also considered within the calculation. If there is information that you believe is incorrect you should raise this to CSA immediately, or ask for a Mandatory Reconsideration prior to submiting an application for appeal. NACSA offer an assessment checking service if you require help in checking the calculations. If the assessment is correct, you are legally bound to pay that amount until such a time as your circumstances change.
CSA has a very intense debt recovery drive, and negotiations are almost non existent. Failure to pay at the levels demanded will almost certainly result in enforcement action being taken. As such, it is essential that any alleged debt is verified as being correct. Liability orders are now a regular occurrence, but may not always be justified. Courts are not empowered to intervene in the calculation of maintenance but do have a legal obligation to ensure that there is no miscarriage of justice by granting an order against debt that is not accurate.
Subscribers to NACSA will gain the appropriate support to work through the various assessments and verify the alleged debt total being pursued in court, and help prepare sufficient defence against the order being granted.
What if my Circumstances Change?
The PWC/Receiving Parent has a number of changes that must be reported immediately, most of which reflect a situation where a child is no longer eligible for child support.
Under CS1 and CS2 cases, where an NRP/Paying Parent is subject to a Deduction from Earnings Order (DEO) any change of employment status must be reported. A change of address is also a mandatory change to be reported.
Under CS3, Paying Parent’s whose maintenance is based on “current income” will be legally obliged to report an upward increase in their earnings, or changes to their work pattern that would create a pay increase.
Changes to an assessment can only be considered from the date that the request for a review is made, and appropriate evidence sent. Assessments cannot be backdated unless the calculation is based on an official error. A change of circumstances must be reported by the NRP/PWC directly or an authorized representative. Many Paying Parents believe an end to employment reported by an employer constitutes a reported change of circumstance, but this is not the case. The onus is on the parent, not the employer.
Some assessments will only change if the overall liability alters by a set amount, known as the Tolerance Level. The Tolerance Level differs for CS1, CS2 and CS3. Not all reviews of maintenance are subject to the Tolerance Level.
In many instance, the computer system is unable to cope with the demanding workload and cases are often lost, become ‘stuck’ or simply forgotten.It is important that the Receiving Parent keeps in regular contact with CSA/CMS to monitor the progress of the application, relying on the Complaints Procedure if necessary.
If possible, talk to your ex partner, as our experience often shows that delayed payments are a result of CSA/CMS administration. Under CS3, the default method of payment will be Direct Pay thus reducing the opportunity for CMS to delay transferring of payments.
If an award for maintenance has been made, but payments not forthcomming, Receiving Parents on CS1 and CS2 cases will need to maintain pressure on CSA/CMS to pursue enforcement action. Receiving Parents on CS3 will need to report a lack of payment to CMS who promise to contact the Paying Parent within 72 hours and if necessary transfer the case to the Collect and Pay Scheme.
Even though CSA have extensive powers of debt recovery, from experience a truly errant Paying Parent will often be left to one side. Pursuing a non compliant Paying Parent can be time consuming, and resources are often deployed to securing maintenance from the more compliant. Debt recovery will become a lower priority for those cases where regular maintenance is no longer payable, and only arrears remain.
To limit the creation of arrears, it is important that the Receiving Parent takes control of his/her own case, and if necessary pressure the caseworker to refer the case for enforcement. CSA has many powers including the ability to remove funds from salary and from bank accounts without having to apply to the court first. Receiving Parent’s should not accept continual excuses for no payment.
If necessary, the Receiving parent should consider applying for compensation or advance payment for the shortfall in maintenance from the date of application to the date the assessment became effective. However in recent times, the ability to secure advance payments or compensation has become increasingly more difficult.
There are enforcement measures applicable to all circumstances so do not accept this statement. Ask to speak to a debt officer, or if necessary raise a complaint through the complaints procedure. Involve your MP to help with the complaint.
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When will existing cases transfer to the New Gross Income Scheme?
All existing CS1 and CS2 cases will be closed during the period 2014 – 2018. Parents will be notified of their case closure date, along with guidelines of what action they will need to take to safeguard future maintenance payments. Visit our webpage for more information about maintenance case closures
Regular updates on the case closure progress will be posted on our Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/CSAhelp
Before the case closure program begins, a case can move from CS1/CS2 if the Paying Parent is linked to a new application, or if the partner of the Paying Parent, is also a Paying Parent and either parent is in receipt of certain benefits. This is known as Reactive Transition. Once the case closure program commences, Reactive Transition will no longer apply.
Delaying the forms will not make the situation disappear. Burying your head in the sand can be costly.
CS1/CS2 you must complete the forms and provide information as requested – you are legally required to supply information about yourself. Under CS3, information will initially be secured from HMRC directly, but if this information is not available, CMS will contact the Paying Parent and/or employer directly for information.
From October 27th 2008 all cases, including those where the PWC is in receipt of benefit, has the right to make a private arrangement for child support payments. From April 2010 PWCs in receipt of benefit are entitled to keep all of the maintenance paid without it affecting their benefits, including housing benefits or tax credits. The CS3 scheme encourages a private arrangement where possible. If you believe a private arrangement is possible, speak to your ex partner.
If an application to the Statutory Scheme is necessary, a subscription to NACSA will enable us to provide you with guidance on completing the forms and the information you are required to provide, along with any possible issues that may develop through application for Departure or Variation.
If CSA was involved in your case prior to 3rd March 2003, your case will be assessed under CS1 scheme. Note: Under old rules, an MEF returned within 28 days would qualify for 8 ‘free’ weeks. As such if an application was made after 6 January 2003, and returned within 28 days, your effective date would be after 3 March 2003 and so would be calculated under CS2 rules.
If CSA was involved in your case after 3rd March 2003, your case will be assessed under CS2 scheme.
If your case was originally calculated on CS1 system, but you were then linked to an application made after 3rd March 03, your CS1 case will migrate to the CS2 system, although a program of phasing will be applicable. Phasing lasts for a maximum of 5 years.
If your application was made between 10th December 2012 and 25th November 2013 you may be assessed on CS2 or CS3 depending on your circumstances. Please contact NACSA if you need further guidance in this respect. Any new application made after 25th November 2013 will be assessed under CS3. For more details please visit our webpage about how CS3 scheme works,
The old system, CS1 is a complex formula taking into consideration a variety of information from both Receiving Parent and Paying Parent. The calculation has three sections, the lower of which will provide the maintenance award.
The new system, CS2 is less complicated and applies a basic % to the net income of the Paying Parent according to the number of children in question. The income of the Receiving Parent is disregarded entirely.
The Gross Income Scheme, CS3 has a similar calculation process to CS2, but will be based on gross income and not net income. To compensate for use of gross income, the percentage rates applied will be slightly lower than those used for CS2. Income information will be sourced directly from HMRC wherever possible, and maintenance will be calculated on historical income unless current income is deemed to be different by more than 25%
A child remains a qualifying child until he/she leaves full time non-advanced education, OR until he/she has their 20th birthday. A child attending University is NOT considered a qualifying child.A termination date is set in accordance with the date that the child leaves education. The termination date can be a few weeks after the child has left school. For example a child leaving school in June/July is eligible for child support until the following September (rules differ in Scotland)
From October 27th 2008 there is no longer a requirement to involve CSA in the matter of child support. A couple is entitled to make their own arrangements and all money paid can be retained in full without the Receiving Paren’s benefit being affected.
CS3 encourages a private arrangement between couples, including a Direct Pay arrangement for money to be paid directly to the Receiving Parent.
Under CS1, CSA may ask for the details of the Paying Parent’s partner, but he/she is under no legal obligation to supply details about him/herself. In majority of cases the partner details will not affect the assessment. However, it is not always in the best interests to withhold details and we would encourage you to seek further guidance from NACSA, or use our assessment checking service for clarity.
Under CS2 and CS3, maintenance is based on the Paying Parent’s income only. No details about the partner should be requested.
Under CS1 step-children are considered in the Protected Income section. The Protected Income Section is just one part of the calculation process, and does not feature in many final maintenance awards.
Under CS2 and CS3 as the calculation process is less complex, all children in the current family are considered within the calculation.
Under CS1: Working tax credit (WTC) is considered as income of the highest wage earner. If the Paying Parent and their partner earn equal amounts only 50% of the tax credits are considered as income of the Paying Parent. If the Paying Parent Partner earns more than the Paying Parent, WTC is NOT included as income and is not included in the assessment. Child/Childcare Tax Credit (CTC) is included as income under the protected income section only. It is disregarded in full in the Exempt Income Section.
Under CS2: Working tax credit is calculated the same as CS1 cases. Child/Childcare tax credits are included in full as the income of the Paying Parent, irrespective of who actually receives this credit
Under CS3: No tax credits are considered income of the Paying Parent.
Exempt Income is relevant only in CS1 cases, and is a combination of allowances that are based on income support rates which change each year. The exempt income, as it’s name suggests, is the amount of money that is disregarded from the net income used within the calculation of maintenance. Exempt income in general includes personal allowance, child allowances if applicable, housing costs, travel to work cost if applicable. Further allowances may be added under certain circumstances.
Protected Income is relevant only in CS1 cases, and is a combination of allowances given to ensure an Paying Parent has sufficient income to support any second family he/she may have. This section often applies in cases where the Paying Parent partner is at home looking after children of the family.
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How can I move my case to a different system?
A Receiving Parent is able to move an existing CS1/CS2 case to the CS3 system by voluntarily closing the existing case and reapplying after 13 weeks. This will result in no maintenance being paid for the 13 week period, but some Receiving Parents readily accept this penalty for the benefit of moving to a different, and potentially financially better system of child maintenance.
A Paying Parent is unable to voluntarily transfer to a different scheme. Early migration from CS1 to CS2 may have occurred if a new application is made against the Paying Parent or if the Receiving Parent made a new application against another Paying Parent. A case that migrates because of a new application will be subject to a phasing program, so maintenance will not necessarily change immediately.
A similar program will apply for a short period of time from 25th November 2013 for CS3 cases. This will happen where a Paying Parent is named in a new CS3 application. It will not be affected by any new application made by a Receiving Parent against a different Paying Parent.
Phasing is the program applicable for cases that migrate from CS1 to CS2 and allows both the Paying Parent and the PWC to adjust to their new liabilities. The Phasing program is over a maximum period of five years. Phasing will not be applicable to cases migrating to CS3
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How will Phasing affect me?
If the Paying Parent earns below £400 per week the amount of child support will increase or decrease in stages of £5 per week per year until either the new liability is met or the 5 years have expired.
If the Paying Parent earns above £400 per week, the amount of child support will increase or decrease in stages of £10 per week per year until either the new liability is met or the 5 years have expired.
Not necessarily. There are a few exceptional expenses that may be allowed under the Departure Scheme (or Variations on CS2), but these are limited. For further information please email email@example.com
Under CS1/CS2 CSA are trying to phase out all methods of payments other than Direct Debit or Deduction from Earnings Order (DEO). Many parents fear the use of Direct Debit in the belief that the Agency may take unauthorised amounts of money, however we are assured that the bank provides a Direct Debit Guarantee which will protect against such deductions. It is crucial that any mandate has CHILD SUPPORT stated as the reference and includes your NINO to ensure correct allocation of payment. .
You also have the option of paying “Maintenance Direct”, which allows parents to make their own arrangements for payment even though CSA are still involved. Maintenance liability is calculated by CSA, but parents are then free to make their own arrangements for the regularity, method and even amount of payment made. Maintenance Direct arrangements currently require consent of both parties before it can be registered properly on the system. If Maintenance Direct is registered, CSA should not enforce any shortfall or overpayment made during that period. It is important that you gain receipts for these payments, either by signed receipt, or marked standing order mandates. It is important to prove that the PWC was accepting money for maintenance, not just to prove that you were paying it as maintenance.
Under CS3, the preferred method of payment will be Direct Pay. This will work in the same way as Maintenance Direct but it does not require the consent of the Receiving Parent to register the arrangement. Direct Pay will allow parents to avoid charges that will be payable (from 2014) should the Statutory Scheme be required to collect and pay out maintenance.
Under CS1, your child must stay with you, at the same address, for 104 nights or more throughout a year for any allowances to be given.
Under CS2, your child must stay with you, at the same address, for 52 nights or more throughout a year for any allowances to be given.
Under CS3, your child must stay with you at the same address, for 52 nights or more throughout the year for any allowances to be given. In cases where parents dispute the number of nights involved, the Paying Parent will automatically receive an assumption of 1 night per week shared care.
Legislaton also indicates that where there is absolute equal shared care between parents, neither parent will be entitled to apply for maintenance. We have concerns over the application of this regulation, as one parent will always have one night per year more than the other and this may create the same difficulties that we witness in existing schemes.
Any payments made during the period of processing the application will ultimately limit any arrears accruing on your account. However, if you continue to make voluntary payments, it is vital to secure appropriate receipts. You must be able to prove that your payment was made and received as child support.
As and when your assessment is finalised you will need to provide evidence of any voluntary payments made for child support. CSA will always check this with the Receiving Parent, but if you have sufficient proof, you should have these payments offset against any debt that has accrued.
New offsetting rules will also allow certain paid utility bills to count as Voluntary Payments.
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I am thinking of going Bankrupt, will this stop enforcement?
In England and Wales child support arrears are not covered by bankruptcy, and as such will not be removed following any discharge. The Agency may continue to take action to secure a Liability Order to enforce the outstanding child support debt, although they may decide not to do so on the basis that the action may not be successful. Any asset owned by the Debtor will be sold by the administrators of the bankruptcy and paid to the creditors, and as CSA do not register as a Creditor they will not receive any dividend from the estate. With no assets available the CSA may find it difficult to recover the arrears owed to them, but they are still entitled to apply a Deduction Order, or a Deduction from Earnings Order, or may even proceed with Committal Proceedings.
Under Scottish law, any arrears accrued upto the date that the Bankruptcy – or Sequestration as it is known in Scotland, is submitted are no longer enforceable by the CSA directly. The Agency may register as a Creditor and receive any dividends payable from the estate. However, any outstanding arrears are deemed uncollectible following the discharge of Sequestration. Furthermore, CSA must remove any Deduction from Earnings Order, or Deduction Order and replace it with an order to collect regular maintenance only. CSA may pursue any arrears that accrued after the Sequestration was submitted.
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