Upon relationship breakdown and divorce the care arrangements for children have to be considered and child maintenance is generally speaking payable by the parent with whom the children do not live (frequently referred to as the non-resident parent).

The Guardian has recently commented upon the Government proposals to reform the current child maintenance system and replace the Child Support Agency (CSA) with the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). The Department for Work and Pensions suggests that they want to encourage parents to fulfil responsibilities as parents and make “family based arrangements” rather than having recourse to government services.

The proposed new system would involve an application being made and there would be an application fee for both parents. The application fee is proposed to be £20 but it is suggested that the fee will not apply for people who have declared that they are victims of domestic violence, or for applicants aged 18 or under. A calculation of maintenance will then be sent to both parents. There will be an option for payment to be made directly to the parent with care of the child/children referred to as “direct pay” and this is being encouraged. If payment is not made this way it would be collected and then enforced and there would be enforcement fees for both parents but these are suggested to be higher for the parent who is meant to be paying the maintenance. The suggestion that there should be charges levied for a historically free service has received criticism. The Government is seeking views on the proposals to reform the child maintenance system and the consultation ends on 26th October.