When a partnership breaks up it can affect the whole family emotionally, but there is often also a financial effect too. To ensure that both parents (or guardians) contribute to the welfare of their child, often a child maintenance agreement is put in place.
Maintenance should be paid by the parent that does not usually live with the child (the paying parent) to the parent that usually looks after the child on a day-to-day level (the receiving parent). Maintenance should be paid for each child under the age of 16, and each child that is under 20 but still in full-time education up to A-Levels.
If this agreement can be reached amicably between the two adults in the family it can be drawn up privately. There is a lot of information on how to arrange payment schedules and helpful tips on how to make the child maintenance process as painless as possible for all parties.
If the break-up is not amicable and there is little or no chance of a mutually agreed-upon settlement one party can take the other to court. Occasionally child maintenance is settled as part of the divorce proceedings, but if the case is brought solely for the purpose of child maintenance it can end up being very costly and distressing.
Another alternative is to apply to the government for support and assistance with the matter. Once your application is filled in, it will be forwarded to either the Child Support Agency (CSA) or Child Maintenance Service, depending on the circumstances of the applicants. These statutory child maintenance services can advise you on the ins and outs of child maintenance and can even collect payments in the event that the paying parent stops making payments.
Either party – the paying or the receiving parent – can apply to have a child maintenance plan set up, as can any other guardian or grandparent with whom the child regularly lives. The application can even be made by the child concerned if they are living in Scotland. Both of these agencies can assist with applications as long as both parties and the child are living in the UK – there is little they can do when the child or the paying parent is resident outside UK jurisdiction.
The statutory child maintenance services will help with issues such as adjustments in payments due to changes in either parent’s circumstances, parentage disputes and a number of other related problems or queries, as well as taking action in the event that payments are not made properly.
The two agencies can help you to receive payments at times that will suit you, be it weekly, fortnightly, four-weekly or monthly, and will ensure that payments go directly into your preferred bank account.
When you are ready to apply for child maintenance assistance you need to contact your local office:
- Belfast – East England
- Birkenhead – North-west England
- Dudley – Midlands
- Falkirk – Scotland and North-east England
- Hastings – South-east England
- Plymouth – South-west England
Or investigate online using the following link gov.uk/child-maintenance/how-to-apply – which will help you find your local office and provide e-mail contact details for you to start the process. Once your case has been opened it is wise to have any reference numbers and your National Insurance number to hand whenever you call in to chase up progress as this will help the staff to locate your details easily.
Be prepared with as much information as possible, not only about the child and yourself but also about the other parent, their full names, date of birth, employment and earnings information – the more information you can supply, the easier it is for the application to be processed quickly and efficiently. You can rest assured that the child maintenance services will use your information appropriately, being bound by the terms of the Data Protection Act.
If you are the receiving parent and you have lost touch with the paying parent your case can take up to 26 weeks to be resolved, and unless they are found, no payments can be made to you. The agencies will work hard, however, to locate them and remind them of their financial obligation to their children!
Frequently Asked Questions
Need to make a complaint about the Child Support Agency (CSA)? Contact the team and lodge your issue by phoning 0843 850 2117 now.
Set up to ensure that both parents were made to pay a fair amount for the upbringing of a child when both are living separately, the Child Support Agency (CSA) plays a vital role in the lives of many through their administration of Child Maintenance payments. Although most transactions are relatively straightforward, in cases where one parent is uncooperative the CSA can be key in resolving disputes.
However, there are many different situations where one or both parents may feel aggrieved at the CSA for a variety of reasons. This is why the organisation is believed to be one of the most complained about branches of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
How can I start a CSA complaint?
Any complaint needs to be started by getting in touch with the CSA branch that is directly dealing with your Child Maintenance claim. Use this CSA Contact Number: 0843 850 2117. Perhaps the easiest part of the process. All that is required is the details of your own personal circumstance. What has happened in regard to your CSA claim? How this has affected your life and what you believe would set things right.
In most cases, this is enough to bring the issue to a satisfactory conclusion. However, for a number of people, further steps need to be taken in order to bring the matter ahead. On the whole, this is done by following the CSA complaints procedure.
What is the CSA complaints process?
Any complaint not dealt with to a satisfactory level by an initial call to a local branch must then be resolved with central CSA Resolution Team. Although their powers are much more far-reaching and of a wider scope than the staff in regional offices, it has been reported that only cases that have extraordinary merit (such as poor service from the CSA or lengthy delays in dealing with an issue) will be resolved at this level.
This can then be escalated to the Complaints Review Team, and then to an Independent Case Examiner – however, these options are only viable in rare cases and are not generally applicable to most complaints. However, if you still feel that your issue has not been dealt with after exhausting all of these routes, you are advised to contact a local MP to take up your problem at a much higher level.
What are the CSA complaints team opening hours?
The CSA Complaints helpline is generally open from 8 am – 8 pm, and 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays. However, this is subject to change on Bank Holidays, and their contact line is always closed on Sundays.
My partner and I have agreed on the amount of child support. I would like the CSA to have a hand in it. Is this possible?
Yes, the statutory child maintenance agencies are able to assist with such agreements. They can help you both to set up a system of payment from the paying parent to the receiving parent. Even in the case of a private agreement on amounts and so forth.
My partner has children with a different woman – will those children affect my family at all?
Yes, when arranging child maintenance payments the Child Support Agency takes into account a lot of different factors. This includes how many children the paying parent has to provide maintenance for. If there are a lot of children, your payments will be reduced so as not to bankrupt the paying parent.
How long will it take to set up a child maintenance payment schedule?
It can be as quick as four weeks or so. It can take longer, especially if the paying parent’s whereabouts are not known. You will not receive maintenance payments if the authorities cannot locate the paying parent. You may be advised of other benefits that you can claim for instead.
I don’t feel like making child maintenance payments any more – what can you do if I just stop paying?
The authorities can seize property, claim funds from bank accounts, garnish the paying parent’s wages. Prison sentence may be given if they do not meet their financial obligations. Refusing to pay child maintenance can be seen as being similar to deciding not to feed or clothe your child.
CSA Contact Number: 0843 850 2117