Director David James discusses the impact of child maintenance system
A three-year process of closing all existing Child Support Agency (CSA) cases is now underway.
The CSA have already stopped taking on new cases. Newly separated parents have been encouraged to make their own family-based arrangements, or to use the new Child Maintenance Service instead.
As a result, single and separated parents who have previously never received maintenance payments from their former partner could start to do so for the first time, as reform of the system begins to affect existing cases.
Initially, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is 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.
There is no need for anyone to act until they receive a letter – although once parents receive notification of their closure date they are urged to consider their options.
The case closure programme is beginning with so-called “nil-assessed” cases (those cases where no maintenance has been due because of the circumstances of the non-resident parent). Because of this, some parents who receive letters may feel there is no point in responding.
However, as parents’ circumstances may have changed since the initial assessment was made – and as a result of the fact that the DWP have stated that the new statutory child maintenance system will be much more robust (using data from the tax authorities) – it may be that maintenance becomes payable once a new assessment is carried out, even if none was originally ordered. Therefore, all parents are encouraged to act.
To raise awareness of what’s happening amongst parents currently using the CSA, the DWP has launched an advertising campaign across newspapers, radio and the Internet.
The campaign, which uses the slogan “We’ll keep you in the loop”, informs parents that they will be written to ahead of their case being closed and that they need not take any action until they receive a letter, but that support will be available to help them decide on their next steps when the time comes.
Whichever route they choose, advice and support is available online or on the phone from the new Child Maintenance Options service – call (0800) 988 0988 or visit www.cmoptions.org.uk to find out more.
Separately, information has also been placed online at www.gov.uk/csachanges.
If you are affected by any of the issues in this article, or if you are having difficulties with a former partner not paying maintenance, we can assist. Call us on (029) 2034 2233 or visit www.wendyhopkins.co.uk/contact/ to make an appointment.
David James is a director with Cardiff-based Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice