Child Support Agency in Meltdown?

Article

10 January, 2007

This and phrases of a similar nature have become synonymous with the Child Support Agency. Much has been reported of the difficulties often encountered by parents involved with the Child Support Agency from the parent with care unable to secure regular maintenance payments and enforce arrears, to the non resident parent who feels continually bombarded by assessments by the Agency. It seems few feel the CSA is working well.

The Government recently commissioned and received a report entitled "Recovering Child Support, Routes to Responsibility". The report made a number of recommendations which are largely accepted by the Government and those recommendations include:-

  1. Allowing parents on benefits to keep more of the maintenance (instead of their benefits being reduced by the amount of maintenance received).
  2. Allowing parents who agree maintenance in divorce to effectively exclude the jurisdiction of the CSA and keep it within the Court arena (this remains the subject of debate).
  3. A separate body with greater enforcement powers but the price may be having to wipe the slate clean in respect of old arrears or certainly have a time limited period in which to try and re-claim those arrears.
  4. A completely new, simplified system where all parents who care will have to re-apply under the new system.

There continues to be concern expressed by some professional bodies that the proposed recommendations do not go far enough and address what are existing and known problems. What is clear is that the recommendations, however they are to be implemented, will not take effect until 2008/2009 and so in the meantime, the 3.5 billion arrears remain as will the dissatisfaction of the parents. Until the changes are made, the same assessments whereby the non resident parent pays 15% of their net pay for one child, 20% for two children and 25% for three or more children will continue subject to the deductions for overnight stays.

Long live the disparaged Child Support Agency!

Helen Shirbon

Tel 01257 260600, email Helen Shirbon

Forbes family law team is made up of specialist family / divorce solicitors who offer advice on all areas of family law, including divorce, division of assets following marriage breakdown, cohabitee issues, ancillary relief, civil partnerships, children matters and change of name deeds. For further information on family / divorce issues please contact any member of our family law team.

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