The 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme - challenging a decision
There are different ways to query or challenge a maintenance decision made by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme.
If the decision was made by the Child Support Agency under the 1993 or 2003 Schemes, you shouldn't use this information as the rules may be different.
This page tells you how you can challenge a decision made by the CMS and where you can get more help.
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.
How can you challenge a decision made by the CMS
If you’re not happy about a maintenance decision the CMS has made and you think they've made a mistake, you may be able to ask them to look at it again. This is also called asking for a review or a reconsideration.
The time limit for asking for a review is one month from the date of the letter telling you about the decision.
If you miss this deadline, you may be able to ask for a late revision in exceptional circumstances. However, you must make the request no later than 13 months after you were told of the decision.
Appealing against a decision
In England, Wales and Scotland, for decisions made on or after 28 October 2013, and in Northern Ireland, for decisions made on or after 11 July 2016 , you will not be able to make an appeal until the decision has first been looked at again by the CMS. This is called a mandatory reconsideration.
Late appeals may be accepted, but there have to be good reasons and the other parent may be asked if they object to the appeal being accepted after the one-month time limit.
When you can’t appeal to a tribunal
You can't appeal to a tribunal if:
If your circumstances change, you can ask the CMS to alter a child maintenance calculation to reflect the changes. Changes of circumstances include:
- where income goes up or down by 25 per cent or more
- the parent paying maintenance becomes financially responsible for a new child
- children who were getting maintenance no longer qualify to get it.
This is called a supersession. You can apply for a supersession at any time. There is no time limit.
Varying a decision
You can ask the CMS to vary a decision it has made about child maintenance. You can do this because something has changed in your life and new rules apply for working out the maintenance calculation. For example, you now have special expenses that weren't taken into account in the original calculation and which might affect how much you should pay.
You can apply for a variation at any time as long as you have grounds. There is no time limit for doing this.
Asking for a judicial review
If you think the law has not been properly applied to your case, you may be able to ask the High Court for a judicial review. You will need expert legal advice about how to do this.
You must make a judicial review claim as soon as possible and within three months of the decision you want to challenge. In exceptional circumstances this time limit can be extended, but you can’t rely on this.
If you want to complain about the service you received from the CMS
You may be unhappy about the way you’ve been treated by the CMS, even though you aren’t disputing a decision they have made. For example, there may have been delays in dealing with your claim.
You can complain about poor service, either informally or formally. It's best to start by speaking with person you've been dealing with to try and sort out the problem informally. If this doesn't work you can make a formal complaint using the CMS complaints service.
There is no time limit within which you must complain. In some cases you might get compensation although this will depend on what's happened.
The CMS produces a leaflet which tells you more about how to:
- dispute a decision
- ask for a review
- make an appeal
- make a complaint about the CMS
- what to do if you deny you’re the father of the children.
- Download a leaflet about 'What to do if you're unhappy with the Child Maintenance Service' from the Department for Work and Pensions