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DWP warns of fees

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has begun writing to parents who still pay and receive money via the Child Support Agency to highlight the imminent introduction of fees.

The Department expects to send more than 50,000 letters, to parents across England, Scotland and Wales, detailing changes to be introduced later this year. Parents who are unable to reach child maintenance agreements between themselves will be charged fees for the use of CSA successor the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) – 20 per cent of the money due for the paying parent and four per cent for the receiving parent. A £20 registration fee will also be payable, except by victims of domestic violence.

In 2012 the government announced plans to wind up the much criticised CSA. It began to phase in the CMS from the end of that year.

A government spokesman told the BBC that the CSA had used a computer system which was “totally inadequate and notoriously riddled with defects”, contributing to annual running costs of £74 million. In addition, the old CSA system had, they claimed, taken “responsibility away from parents, encouraging conflict and hostility at huge expense to the taxpayer”.

By contrast, the CMS will use data from HM Revenue and Customs and will review the circumstances of the paying parent on an annual basis.

But single parent charity Gingerbread said the introduction of fees was “wrong in principal”, claiming that most single parents only turned to the CSA when they had no other choice.

According to the charity’s chief executive Fiona Weir:

“While many parents are able to agree private child maintenance arrangements, for many other parents, this just isn’t possible without government help. We’re very concerned that closing CSA cases and bringing in charges may deter some parents from making new child maintenance agreements or pressure single parents into unstable arrangements, and children will lose out on vital support.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Joanne says:

    Do you know who actually said the old CSA was using an IT system that was “totally inadequate and notoriously riddled with defects” ?? My friend would like to contact them as he has been told by the CSA that as there are no records on their inadequate computer system of him having paid any maintenance between 2003 and 2007 (which he did) then he didn’t pay which has resulted in apparent £43,000 arrears !! They are now taking this directly out of his wages …… he needs help to sort this one out and doesn’t know where to turn

  2. David Burnard says:

    Most sites have concentrated on the charges that are being introduced, however these reforms will also put all CSA cases on an equal footing, this is actually a far more important and relevant point. This reform cannot happen fast enough, I am still on CSA scheme 1, paying 26% of my net take home pay for one child, ( and I spend at least another £100 per month on her every month, on the weekends and holidays when she is with me). I would be paying 12% gross less 1/7th, so 10% gross (12.5% net) under the CMS gross income scheme. I would like to spend more of MY money on MY daughter instead of being forced to hand MY money over to my ex (to spend on herself). I am not trying to avoid paying maintenance, I just want to be treated fairly and pay the same amount as other dads in the same circumstances. Please remember many of us dads did NOT choose to be separated from our children and do everything we can for them. Lets hope that this new system ensures everyone is treated equally and that it is implemented as fast as is humanly possible. These first 52K cases are presumably nil assessed , lets hope they move on to closing (effectively transferring) real cases soon !

    • David Burnard says:

      868000 cases in the queue for closure/transfer before assessed cases that are paying – ridiculously unfair !!!

  3. JamesB says:

    Re : the old CSA system… encouraging conflict and hostility at huge expense to the taxpayer.
    By contrast, the CMS will use data from HM Revenue and Customs and will review the circumstances of the paying parent on an annual basis.

    That is ridiculous and written by the Government. How can the Government say that the introduction of a new tax will be popular? That is absolutely ridiculous.

    I have read the two initial posts and have sympathy with both of them.

    The answer is to have pre-nups and make child maintenance the remit of the court again.

    With re to the problem of that being what to do with single mums who didn’t marry, well there is your welfare state debate, don’t just charge the Dads, that sucks and is immoral and unjust.

    Personally I have the CSA, CMEC, CMS, and all it stands for (basically women charging men for being men and a man tax for man bashing feminists). I am surprised and disappointed that the government go along with this sentiment. It isn’t good for the country. In most countries you need to be married to get child maintenance on separation and that is how it should be (with pre-nups).

    Where people get pregnant perhaps the woman should have been on the pill or got a signature from the chap that he wanted a child to begin with, rather than this nonsense as this is hurting very deeply society and many people with the immorality of charging men massive sums for the situation. Going down this route further disenfrancises the people concerned from the politicians and society and undermines society.

    Yes, society should pay out of general taxation, if not child maintenance by court direction in divorce. That way there would be pressure to reduce single parenthood. Going for the easy target (‘absentee men’) even when it is not their choice to be absent is making a bad problem much much worse.

    The best thing the government could do right now would be to scrap the CMS and say all new child maintenance applications to be dealt with by the courts.

    With re to funding for the single parents, as I said, there is your welfare state debate again. My children would have a good father now if my ex didn’t have the state to look after her instead.

    • Sophie Dawson says:

      Its men like you that produce offspring and then leave it to woman to do it all herself. IT TAKES TWO TO MAKE A BABY AND BOTH SHOULD PAY FOR ITS UPBRINGING. It does not matter how much csa a woman gets the cost of a child is 3 times more than the annual csa pay.
      (NOTE. This comment has been edited)

      • JamesB says:

        It doesn’t take two to make a baby, it takes a woman with a womb which is being sold to the government. The amount given and received should be dependent on a number of factors, not only a formula and the number of children. One factor which should be included, which the CSA do not is if the couple were married when the child is born.

      • JamesB says:

        Also, your point that no matter how much money the csa collect the woman will always want three times more is a good example of the type of attitude the agency was created with, i.e. part of a feminist agenda to attack the idea of families and fatherhood.

        The amount they take is too much. For couples un-married at birth it should be nothing due. For couples married at the birth and separating, it should be the amount as per the pre-nup.

        All this government nosing into this is making things and society worse and bad. It isn’t men or women that are the problem, it is government intervention with draconian broad brush formula rather than a judge on each case on its merits as should be the case.

        As I said, it is really a welfare state type debate and the csa is the welfare state at its worse, and coming from the conservative party makes a nonsense of them being any different from labour on issues of any substance, in this instance the family.

        The tories made a big thing about stopping the couples penalty and keeping families together and not penalising fathers and enforcing contact, and being fairer to all types of families who try to do the right thing, before the last general election. They have not come through and have failed on each of these points and have arrived back at the cop out solution of blaming the man, that stinks. Not even close to a proper solution addressing the roots of the issue (really dodgy establishment and family law- which needs addressing and they blatantly fair to do).

        If you can’t make a man marry you then perhaps you should not be having his child, if you are not married you should not expect him to pay for him or her massive amounts of child maintenance (as per this dodgy law) if you split up.

      • David Burnard says:

        Thank you Sophie for pointing out it takes two to make a child, Should it not also take two to raise a child, 50/50 parenting should be the expectation and the norm. Until this comes about about and 95% of women no longer get almost total custody of the children, this mess regarding maintenance will persist.

        PS. what are the EXTRA costs of raising a child? over and above what the resident parent would need for themselves anyway.

  4. JamesB says:

    To summarise, the csa / cmec / cms is a ridiculous (broad brush) system built on a ridiculous assumption that all men are bad and all women are good and should be scrapped and back to how things were before as is making the matter much worse than if it had never been introduced in the first place.

  5. Llewellyn says:

    If a man/woman wants to agree CM amount but the Ex refuses this and it’s considered fair by the CMS why should the paying parent pay the additional 20% fee for the collect & pay service! Some woman or males would do this just out of spite so it means more money taken from the paying party.

    • JamesB says:

      As much as I hate the CSA / CMEC / CMS, the scenario you mention the 20 percent wouldn’t be payable if the nrp (non resident / ‘absent’ / chucked-out parent) pays and is compliant.

      That is aside from the complete unfairness of the broad-brush approach system.

      I hope they scrap the CSA and the CMEC and the CMS and put it back to the courts where is belongs. With pre-nups please.

      Paying CM for over 22 years (as I am scheduled to and I do) is a much longer sentence than I would serve for murder (serve 12 years). It is bad.

  6. JamesB says:

    If the csa / cmec / cms ‘succeed’ in an efficient system, they will have undermined marriage by creating a marriage lite.

    I don’t think politicians understand the law of unforseen circumstances, that makes them not very good or clever.

  7. JamesB says:

    At all.

  8. Yvie says:

    Interestingly the information on the Families Need Fathers website identifies a Family Based option, which need not necessarily be in the form of a fixed sum of money, but rather payment for things like school uniforms and other items agreed between the parents. This is exactly the arrangement my son thought he had with his ex. whereby they both shared the care of the children (but not exactly 50/50), shared the cost of school uniforms, shared the cost of extra school trips and holidays, and in addition, I did child care two days for my son and three days for my ex. daughter in law, thus saving both of them the cost of child care. It worked well for about two years until my ex. dil no longer required the child care and she decided she would prefer to receive money. Fair enough, but unfortunately for my son she re-activated her CSA case and my son received an arrears bill for nearly £6,000. It may have been within the old CSA rules, but the whole thing was done in an under-handed way and definitely soured the relationship between them. Hopefully the new rules will prevent this back dating and accruing of arrears.

    It does take two to make a baby and it is therefore right that both should pay. However, I would take that a step further and say that on the breakdown of a marriage, the care of the children should be on a 50/50 arrangement by default and the child benefit and working tax credits should be shared proportionally between the parents to allow them to do it. As I understand it, this system works perfectly well in other countries, Australia and Norway, and possibly others.

    The bitterness and conflict this Agency has caused in numerous cases, to both the paying parents and the receiving parents in its inflexible approach to people trying to re-build their lives following divorce, seems only to fan the flames by its interference.

  9. Llewellyn says:

    I don’t mind I find it my duty to pay Csa infact it wasn’t the mother who called the CSa it was me because I knew if I didn’t she would only call sometime and I would have arrears to pay. My point is when a mother makes sure that she alienates the children so I can’t see them and make then makes out it all my fault why should I pay the mother for stopping me seeing my child why can’t I pay direct into the child’s bank account? PWC should also show you what they are spending the money on aswell?

  10. Yvie says:

    And can I just add, that although there are generally two sides to every story, the CSA historically tend to believe whatever they are told by the mother. Proof from the father is very often discarded, and proof from the member is not required.

  11. Yvie says:

    Sorry – I should read my posts better – I meant to write ‘proof from the mother is not required’.

  12. Pete says:

    When my ex went to the csa they told me she would give me her bank details so I could set up a standing order, the ex didn’t so I paid by cheque for over 12 months with no problems . I then received a letter saying they (the csa) had reviewed my case and that I should now pay them by direct debit , when I phoned them they said it was my ex they wanted then to collect the payment . I then went into arrears because it took them so long to set up, when I said about going back to paying on time by cheque they said if I did that they would take the payments direct from my employer.
    Are the new turkeys not just the old tin pot dictators in new hats ?
    IF the payments are meant for the child why is it that if my daughter should go to university am I not allowed to give the payments to her, instead I still have to give to my ex.
    I have no problems with paying for my daughter or helping her in any way I can but what I do object to is the biased system that cant do enough for the ex yet treats me worse then a criminal and now I could have to pay an extra 20% for that privilege.

  13. JamesB says:

    The amounts in the csa / cmec / cms formula are too high to be able to afford to pay also, punitively high and they shouldn’t be, they should be about half of what they are if you are going to take conduct out of the equation. That and if you want more you should have got married before you split. Sticking the bloke with massive bill for massive time is too harsh, to the extent of being anti male and discriminatory against non resident parents in general, for no good reason and making things very much worst then they would otherwise have been.

    This issue could and should be dealt with a lot better than it is or has been. I have given some pointers above and they were better before the csa was started also. I am not a woman hater, I just need to live also please and these (csa/cmec/cms) government interventions are killing me.

  14. JamesB says:

    Yvie says a 50:50 split and no cm is the way to go. It certainly has more logic then just picking a winner and loser based on who has the child benefit being the winner which the current system.

    Personally, I think the csa / cmec / cms should be scrapped and government concentrate on things like the economy and defence instead. That would be an improvement. Anything would be an improvement on the messed up government intervention in this area, indeed going back to how things were before on this subject, i.e. with judges responsible for sorting out would be an improvement. Failing that, or in answer to any other issues, just scrap the csa / cmec / cms and realise that we would be better off as a society without it.

  15. JamesB says:

    Just scrap the csa / cmec / cms and realise that we would be much better off as a society without it.

    Society needs to take responsibility for its failures rather than blaming non resident parents as a rule when it is not their fault. As others have said, they are usually only absent because if they were present the government would arrest them for harassment or some other such nonsense even though they want to be there for their families.

  16. Llewellyn says:

    Spot on everything you say James. Other things in life should be taken into account when asessing CSA payment. My ex left me with all marital Debt 20k so I’m paying it back while she gets my CSA and all other beneifits she is entitled which is more than my monthly wage. No wonder she only opens her shop 3 days a week claiming she earns nothing in it. But she forgets she had it 7 years before we split so I know how much she really gets only now I realised she never paid tax in all that time, but that’s a different story. I’ll just continue to struggle and pay for children I can never see. She’s lucky because I won’t stop CSA payments I know it my duty. The whole system is corrupt from top to bottom and people know how to play it well.

  17. John says:

    Important matters involving children belong in the courts with Professional, Qualified personnel.

    Expecting either parent to put up with a system that is flawed in principle and in execution, is not fair to them or the child/children.

    Both parents should be held accountable regarding maintenance and contact issues ( yes! I believe that it should be linked as long it is not detrimental to the child/children). I obtained a contact order that was repeatedly flouted by the childrens’ mother. The courts did absolutely nothing, to deal with her. A disgrace.

    It cannot be right that there bias in favour of one parent or the other. Therefore there is a need to have a balanced approach, and in my opinion this is only achievable through mediation, and where necessary enforcement.

    Having been cleaned out in divorce, and treated like scum by incompetent, bonus seeking staff at the CSA ( and yes, I was paying what they asked of me), I think that I am qualified to give my opinion.

    At least if mediation services or courts where used parents voices would be heard.

    As it stands the previous system and the current system is shambolic. Created by those who have no inkling of what parents are having to deal with.

  18. Charity calls new child maintenance charges ‘wrong in principle’ - Marilyn Stowe Blog says:

    […] today, new applicants to CSA successor the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will need to pay an application fee of £20. Only victims of domestic violence will be exempt […]

  19. The stigma of relationship breakdown by John Bolch - Marilyn Stowe Blog says:

    […] Monday anyone using the Child Maintenance Service must pay a fee for the privilege. This is just the latest example of the government penalising […]

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