We’ve all heard of the Child Support Agency ‘CSA’ a government body set up after the Child Support Act 1991 came into force. I think it is fair to say that it has mixed effects. Numerous parents with care did not receive the maintenance the CSA calculated they were due, and many parents battled for years to get a correct assessment from them. A number of reforms failed to streamline the CSA and make it fit for purpose. Cue, the Child Maintenance Service – CMS – arriving with promises it would be more efficient, more effective and would ensure the child received the financial support it was due.

Is the reality any different now we have a new regime? Is it just the same old regime branded under a different name – at a cost to us the tax-payer? Well the jury is out on this, and it may be some years before we are able to say it is working. I am not convinced. Many parents who consult me do so because they feel let down by this expensive service.  Many parents are finding the service simple to use, particularly where the paying parent is employed and in a PAYE scheme.  What is clear is the old problems of collection, assessment, and enforcement seems to be very unreliable as before. A paying parent who, for instance, changes employer can find they struggle to get a prompt review. So if you are unemployed for a short period of time then find work at a lower salary you may find it very difficult to get the CMS to do an accurate review – if at all. The process of appeal is not easy to negotiate for a layman – the pitfalls are many.

If you are a parent with care and the paying parent is self-employed, the assessment may bear no relation to the luxury lifestyle the paying parent leads. The CMS place the onus on the parent with care to provide them with evidence of such high income, a process that is not easy and often impossible.

To add to the burden the CMS charges each parent for the use of the service, which is all well and good when the service is working well. What happens when it doesn’t? Well, not a lot it would seem from the cases I have been consulted about.

If you are struggling with an assessment by the CMS it is essential to get legal advice on your remedies, rights of appeal, or rights of review.  Please call Farleys Solicitors today on 0845 287 0939 or email us.