The CSA is set to be replaced by CMS (Child Maintenance Service) in a process expected to take until 2018. A number of changes have taken place. For instance, you can no longer claim child maintenance via CSA. All child maintenance claims must be made through the CMS instead going forward. Cases involving child maintenance i.e. if you receive child maintenance via the CSA currently, your case will be terminated before 2018 when the CMS replaces the CSA fully. In such an instance, you must apply via the CMS to continue receiving payments.
You are supposed to receive two letters from the CSA notifying you that your case is being closed. The first letter is sent 6 months before a CSA case is closed. The second letter is sent a month before the case closes. You should act immediately i.e. when you get your first letter.
If you haven’t received a letter yet, don’t worry. The CSA is still in the process of closing cases, a process expected to last until 2018.
There may be a delay of 6 or more weeks on child maintenance payments during the transition. The delay is expected even in cases where you act fast and/or ask the CMS to expedite your case. The reason for this delay is simple i.e. the CMS recalculates and begins administering child maintenance after closing CSA cases which can take up to 6 weeks.
The CMS difference
You will be required to pay £20 as an application fee to utilise the service. There are however exceptions to this. For instance, you don’t need to pay this fee if you are under 18 years or if you have been a victim of domestic violence.
The charge is applicable for catering for expenses related to CMS checks on the income of your child/children’s other parent with the HMRC. You also get maintenance calculations, a payment schedule as well as information on arranging payments. The fee also gives you online access to your child maintenance account, an annual review of the income of your child’s/children’s other parent and lastly a collections service if you aren’t receiving payments (an extra charge may be applicable for this).
Collection charges are applicable if the CMS steps in to collect money on your behalf. The paying parent must pay 20% above the child maintenance amount. The receiving parent also gets 96% of the child maintenance amount. If the paying parent sends money directly to the other parent, no collection charge is incurred.
If you have arrears with the CSA, they will still stand and be enforceable with the CMS. The same applies in cases of family-based arrangements or if you still owe the arrears even if your child is an adult now. It’s also worth noting that the CMS is expected to be much better than the CSA at collecting arrears.