The already, arguably complex, system of child support is currently in the process of undergoing an overhaul with some major changes taking place.
The 2012 Rules came into force on 10 December 2012 but only currently apply to new applicants who have four or more children with the non-resident parent (NRP). The rules will soon be applicable to families where there are two children and then eventually all new cases will be governed by the new rules.
In an attempt to make the whole process less acrimonious, and perhaps to save money, pressure is being put on parents to resolve maintenance disputes by agreement, rather than involving the Child Support Agency (CSA). Previously, parents could apply to the CSA free of charge and they would calculate the amount payable and collect it from the NRP’s employer if necessary. Under the new scheme, the CSA will now charge an application fee, and an additional fee if they collect payment. However, resolving maintenance disputes through agreement carries risk. They are not binding and carry no sanctions for non-payment. Therefore, if a NRP does not pay the agreed amount, the Parent with Care (PWC) could be without any support while an application to the CSA is made.
The second major change is the move to using a calculation based on the NRP’s gross income rather than the previously used net income. For NRPs whose gross weekly income is up to £800, they should pay support of 12% of their gross income for one child, 16% for two children and 19% for three or more children. Where an NRP’s gross weekly income is between £800 and £3000, their liability will be 9% of their gross income for one child, 12% for two children and 15% for three or more children.
The new scheme has changed the rules on shared care; where the parents care for any children exactly to the same extent, there will be no support liability on either parent. This has attracted criticism as it could mean situations arise where one parent has significantly greater financial resources than the other, despite caring for the children in equal amounts.
As the new regime is only applicable to a small minority at present, only time will tell whether the changes are indeed improvements. However, even at this early stage the new rules have not proved to be entirely popular.
If you feel that any of the above might apply to you now or in the future and would like to talk to someone about child maintenance then please contact Aimee Barclay for expert legal advice. You can call Aimee on 0117 379 0170 or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.