The 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme - what happens when an application is made?
Both parents are responsible for the financial costs of bringing up children. If you split up and you don’t have day-to-day care of any children, you may have to pay child maintenance to the other parent.
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) can arrange maintenance under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme.
This page tells you what happens after an application has been made.
In Northern Ireland, you can arrange maintenance through the Northern Ireland Child Maintenance Service.
If you want more information about the different ways you can arrange child maintenance, go to Child Maintenance Choices at www.nidirect.gov.uk.
Therefore, when the page refers to the Child Support Agency (CSA) or the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), in Northern Ireland this means the Northern Ireland Child Maintenance Service. When the page refers to Child Maintenance Options, in Northern Ireland this means Child Maintenance Choices.
If you apply for maintenance
If you’re the parent with day-to-day care of the children and you apply for maintenance under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme, you will have to provide the CMS with as much information as you can about the parent who must pay maintenance.
The CMS will contact the other parent to say that the application has been made. The parent will be asked for their personal and financial details so that the CMS can work out how much maintenance they need to pay. It will also set the date when they will have to start paying child maintenance.
The CMS will then work out how much the maintenance should be. They will send this calculation to both of you to check that the figures are accurate. The parent with day-to-day care of the children will be given further information about how the amount was worked out. This includes the income of the other parent.
If either of you doesn’t agree with the calculation, you can appeal to the CMS and ask for the decision to be reviewed.
When you’ve agreed the amount of maintenance to be paid, the CMS will send you both a payment schedule for the year. This will show when payments are to be made. It will include the amount of any arrears that have built up since the application was made.
Tracing the parent who must pay maintenance
When the CMS gets your application for maintenance, they may ask you to provide more information because they have to trace or identify the other parent.
Usually, they will phone you to get this information but they could ask you to fill in a form. They will ask you more questions if the case is complex.
Questions the CMS may ask you about the parent who should pay maintenance include:
- their name (including any previous names)
- date of birth
- National Insurance number
- last known address
- details of their employer
- if they are self-employed, details of their business
- details of any benefits they may be claiming
- whether a court order or family-based arrangement for child maintenance is already in place
- whether they know they are the parent of the children
- other information that would help the CMS trace them, for example, their vehicle registration number, or the name and address of their accountant.
If you can’t provide all the information, you should tell the CMS that you don’t know the answers. Don’t ignore the request for information as this will delay your application.
What the CMS can do to trace a parent who should pay maintenance
The CMS has the authority to trace the parent who should pay maintenance, through any organisation who may hold their details. People they may contact include:
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
- a current or previous employer
- an accountant
- a credit reference agency
- a local authority
- the Prison Service
- the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
- a utility company
- a Jobcentre Plus office.
Anyone who is asked for details about a parent who must pay maintenance has to give the information to the CMS if they have it. If they don’t do this, they are committing a criminal offence and they could be prosecuted.
Finding out how much maintenance you should pay
If you’re the parent who should pay maintenance and you’ve asked the CMS to assess how much money you should pay, the CMS will work this out.
They will send their calculation to both of you to check that the amount is accurate. If you don’t agree with the calculation, you can challenge it by getting in touch with the CMS.
If you don’t challenge their decision within one month, the CMS will then send you both a payment schedule for the year. This will show you when payments are to be made and it will include the amount of any arrears that have built up since the application was first made.
How long will it take to arrange the maintenance payments?
The CMS aim to confirm maintenance calculations and payment schedules within four weeks of the date when you make the application.