We wrote recently about the changes to the way child maintenance is being calculated under the new scheme, which came into force in 2012. The most significant changes are that the new calculation is based on the gross income of the non-resident parent rather than their net income and there is also a new collection charges system.

There is now an initial application fee of £20 for the parent with care, in order to apply for the maintenance calculation and then there are on-going collection fees thereafter for both parents. For more information about the new collection system please have a look here

The main purpose of the new scheme is to encourage parents to come to their own private agreement as this will alleviate some of the pressures which the Child Maintenance Service has been facing in recent years. It also removes the need for both parents to have to go through a time-consuming process in order to receive or pay child maintenance.

However, recent concerns have shown that there is a lot of uncertainty with the new scheme about the impact of the new charging system. Although the calculation has somewhat simplified the way in which child maintenance is calculated, on the other hand it may not seem as accessible to parents who cannot reach an independent agreement as there is an initial application fee and ongoing fees thereafter. Currently, the paying parent has to pay collection fees at a rate of 20% and then a 4% fee is deducted from the maintenance paid to the receiving parent.

The new scheme aims to reduce the number of cases that the Child Maintenance Service deals with, by one quarter by 2018-19. However, many have argued that this is unrealistic as even though parents may reach an independent agreement, there is nothing to suggest the agreement will last without the Child Maintenance Service governing it.  

For those non-resident parents who are on a low income, the £20 application fee may mean they are unable to make an application for child maintenance. If no agreement is reached between the parents and no application is subsequently made to the Child Maintenance Service, this is to the detriment of the child.

Overall, close management of the new scheme needs to be maintained in order to ensure that the new scheme is to the benefit of the child involved.