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Law Articles

Child Maintenance - The New System 25/10/2013

We now have three systems running side by side:
  • 1993 – CSA 1
  • 2003 – CSA 2
  • 2012 – CSA 3 (the new formula)


The 1993 scheme CSA 1
The 2003 scheme CSA 2
The 2012 scheme CSA 3 - Implemented 10 December 2012
Child Support Agency or CMEC Is now to be known as the Child Maintenance Service - “CMS”
“Qualifying Child” For child maintenance purposes this is someone who is either under 16, or under 19 and in full time education doing a course that is not higher than an A-Level or an equivalent standard (now 20 under CSA 3).
“Relevant Other Child” Is any child who lives with a non-resident parent and for whom the non-resident parent or their partner receives child benefit?
“Non-Resident Parent” This is a parent who is not the main day-to-day carer of their child and who the child does not normally live with. Under CSA 3 will be called the “Parent Who Pays”
“Parent With Care” This is a parent who has the main day to day care of their child and who the child normally lives with. Under CSA 3 will become the “Parent Who Receives Child Maintenance”
The “Gateway Conversation” The conversation informing a potential applicant of the assistance available to them (CSA 3)

What can the CSA do?

  • Find the other parent if you don’t know where they live
  • Sort out disagreement about paternity
  • Calculate child maintenance
  • Arrange for payment
  • Pass payments to the receiving parent
  • Look at payments when circumstances change
  • Take enforcement action


  • There is a presumption of paternity:
  • where the NRP was married to the mother at some point between conception and birth; or
  • The NRP is registered as the father on the birth certificate; or
  • DNA testing shows that they are the father of the child; or
  • The other party refuses to undertake DNA testing.

Who can use the CSA?

  • Parent the child lives with (the PWC).
  • Parent the child doesn’t live with (the NRP).
  • A grandparent or other guardian of the child.
  • A child living in Scotland.

Who cannot use the CSA?

  • You cannot use the CSA if the receiving parent or the child live outside the UK.
  • If the paying parent lives abroad, the CSA can only help if they are:
  • a civil servant
  • working in Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service
  • a member of the Armed Forces
  • working for a company that is based and registered in the UK
  • working on secondment for a ‘prescribed body’, like a regional health authority or local authority

Other rules to note

The CSA has jurisdiction unless there is an agreement in financial remedy proceedings (divorce). If such an order was made after 3 March 2003, the child maintenance is only guaranteed to last for 12 months, and even then not so if a child support application has been made prior to the making of such order.

Education expenses do not include nursery fees.

Disability costs are outside the remit of the CSA.

The 1993 scheme

The Child Support Act came into force in April 1993. The scheme was complicated and required a large amount of information and the amount of maintenance payable depended on the circumstances of both parties.

The 2003 scheme

Nil Rate - This applies to prisoners, students and parents who are children themselves.

Flat Rate - The flat rate is £5 per week where the NRP’s net income is £100 per week or less, or if they are in receipt of certain benefits.

Reduced Rate - This is a sliding scale between £100 - £200 per week net.

The Basic Rate - One child – 15%; Two children – 20%; Three or more children – 25%.

The percentage approach applies unless there are other relevant children living in the NRP’s household. If the NRP has other relevant children living in his household then, before the basic rate is worked out, the NRP’s income is first of all reduced by 15% for one relevant child, 20% for two, and 25% for three or more. The remaining amount after deduction is then subject to basic rate calculation, e.g. the NRP has two children living with him. From his £400 per week we deduct 20%, which is £80, which means that his net income for child support purposes is £320.

There is a maintenance cap which is £104,000 pa net or £2,000 pw which means the maximum amount payable is

  • £300 pw – one child
  • £400 pw – two children
  • £500 pw – three or more children

Net income for employees is calculated as gross pay, including bonuses and overtime but excluding benefits in kind and miscellaneous income (tips/expenses, etc), less income tax, NI contributions and full pension contributions.

Where the NRP has staying contact maintenance is reduced as follows:
52 nights – 103 nights – 1/7th
104 nights – 155 nights – 2/7ths
156 nights – 174 nights – 3/7ths
175 nights or more – 50% + £7 further reduction for each child.

If different qualifying children stay different amounts of time the fractions are averaged out pro rata.

The 2012 Scheme
The new system came into force on 10 December 2012. Eligibility for the 2012 scheme is based on the number of children qualifying for child maintenance named in the application. There must be at least 4 children with the same 2 parents named in the application, and the parents must have no existing child support case in respect of those children for that application to be administered under the scheme otherwise it will be handled according to the 2003 scheme rules.

Because we are now in the 2012 scheme the definitions change and the NRP now becomes the “Parent Who Pays” (PWP) and the PWC becomes the “Parent Who Receives Child Maintenance” (PWRCM) and the CSA or CMEC become the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

Going forward you will only access the CMS system if there is domestic violence or you can convince the CMS that their input is required. To establish domestic violence there must have been a report to one of the following: the Police; a court; a medical professional; Social Services; MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference); a specialist domestic violence organisation; an employer; Educational Services.

Going forward we are looking at family-based arrangements, and before a PWRCM can pursue child support they have to pass through a “gateway”, meaning that the PWRCM has to liaise with the Child Maintenance Options Service, so that they are aware of all the options relating to child support.

From 10 December 2012 we move from “net” to “gross” income. No longer will it be 15% - one child; 20% - two children; 25% - three children. Once the new system is established the earlier systems will close down and we will have a period of phasing in.

We will now have a 2 stage process. Income under £800 per week gross is calculated as to –

  • 12% - one child 
  • 16% - two children 
  • 19% three or more children

Income over £800 per week gross is –

  • 9% - one child
  • 12% - two children
  • 15% - three or more children

Flat rate payments will increase from £5 to £10 per week in due course.

Under the new scheme there will be no child support paid to the other parent if truly equal.

Annual review under the CMS is a recalculation of the child support payable by reference to the current years’ tax return.

Under the new scheme the upper age limit will now be 20, not 19.

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