Get Along or Get Charged: What Are Your Views?

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Don't fancy confronting your ex about maintenance after a bad break up? Bad news then, as the government are planning to charge parents who can not agree on maintenance payments. Get along or get charged – that's the rule from now on.



Can You Afford to Use the New System?


Controversial new child maintenance laws are being rolled out to parents who used the child maintenance service (previously known as the child support agency, or CSA).

It's not uncommon to hear of child maintenance arrangements breaking down. For whatever reason, many parents who split seem to struggle to agree on how much, and how often, they should be giving financial support to their child. Some fear that the money isn't even being spent on the child while others are "missing in action" and can't be found to even set up a payment plan!

Either way, the government is trying to change that. But at who's expense?

Under the new Child Maintenance Service system (CMS), all single parents are charged a £20 registration fee to use it. On top of that, the paying parent will have 20%; added to their payment and the receiving parent will pay 4%; to receive the money they are being paid. Can you afford this new arrangement when the maintenance you are already seeing is minimal at best?

Single Parents Feeling the Pinch


According to Bob McAra, a family lawyer and partner of Simpson Millar LLP, it will be single mothers that feel the pinch the most. With the rising cost of living and childcare costs, young single parent families are being crushed by brash government decisions. It's difficult enough raising children on your own but doing so in front of a back drop of poverty has already proven to have desperate results.

The government patently gave the impression that the courts didn't know what they were doing when it came to putting in place child maintenance agreements. They set up the old CSA system to compensate. This turned out to be an ineffective replacement with parents fighting over CSA, some going into hiding, and some filing fake income statements so they wouldn't have to pay up.

In comparison, the new system doesn't seem to be a fit substitute either, charging parents for using it when they're already in a difficult situation. No one wants to ask for money after a potentially bitter break up, but this is what you'll have to do if you choose not use the CMS system.

Solutions to Unpaid Maintenance


Any if they still don't pay up? There are some solutions. There are only 3 debts in this country that you can go to prison for – child maintenance is one of them. However, the amount of people that actually go to jail because of this is so small the numbers are unrecognisable. "If they knew there was a possibility of going to prison or that you were going to get your car impounded it would produce money for the child."

Bob has pretty strong views on this topic due to his many years of experience working with families in and around Leeds. Do you agree with him? Would more stringent enforcement work? The only real way to find out is if the government start enforcing this law.

As much of a pain as it is, the CMS is here to stay, at least for now. For those that can get along without using it, it doesn't really affect you. But, for those that may have to use it, you do have a choice in the matter. You can still use the court to sort out and finalise your child maintenance arrangements. This is an option that has always been open to you, although played down by the government. You can use the Child Maintenance Options calculator to see how much roughly you should be giving or receiving or the government's calculator, then you can use this as a base for your agreement.


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