October 2012 sees a new child maintenance formula being
phased in at the CSA, with a view to all cases falling under the new formula
from early 2014.
It is hoped that, by using gross income instead of net
income, it will be easier to establish self-employed income, as tax returns and
information submitted to HM Revenue & Customs can be used,. The changes
should also make it more difficult for parents seeking to minimise their
assessable income to reduce their child maintenance liability.
The new formula will be applied in 2 parts, one for the
first £800 of gross weekly income (12% for one child, 16% for 2 children and
19% for three or more) and the second for any gross weekly income over £800 (9%
for one child, 12% for two children and 15% for three or more). There will
continue to be reductions in maintenance if the paying parent is financially
responsible for other children, is a step parent to other children in his/her
household or to take account of overnight stays.
There will also be a charge for using the CSA to assess and
collect child maintenance, whereas at the moment this is free. The charge is
likely to come in once the new formula is being applied to all cases and has
caused some controversy with some critics saying that charges may not be
affordable for all parents and will see money effectively taken from the
children it was meant to support.
Existing cases will not be affected until late 2013 but when
they are it will mean that all parents currently paying through the CSA will be
given an opportunity to establish a direct payment to the other parent, failing
which a fresh application will have to be made to the CSA. Critics of this part
of the scheme have suggested that this may allow perpetrators of domestic
violence to manipulate or financially control their ex-partners, changing the dates of payment or missing
payments with the only other option for the victim to be to apply to the CSA
and be charged.
Louise Chipchase, Head of Family Law at local firm Whatley
Weston & Fox says: “The move to use gross income figures is likely to help
with accurate assessment and enforcement of child maintenance but the proposed
charges may, for many, be an obstacle to obtaining a more secure financial
future for their children, which ironically is exactly what the child
maintenance scheme is supposed to achieve. We shall wait with interest to see
how it all works in practice.”
For more information on this, or any other, family law issue
please contact Louise Chipchase on 01905 731 731 or at .