An A – Z of Child Support

Posted:9th February 2021

The CSA (Child Support Agency) is now the CMS (Child Maintenance Service) and this whistle stop tour sets out some information about the system of child support that it provides:

A – Anyone who provides day to day care for a qualifying child can apply for child support; not just a parent.

B – Boarding school fees can reduce a non-resident parent’s relevant income by no more than 50%. The time that a child spends at Boarding School is still considered to be time with the person who would normally be otherwise providing day to day care at that time.

C – Child Support can only be paid to one person. The person to whom it is paid can agree informally to share with someone else with care of the child

D – Day to Day care does not have a specific definition. In deciding who has day to day care CMS has to look at the overall care arrangements. The number of nights spent with one person is not the only consideration although it is often a good guide. What matters is to what degree someone has control over the child and that child’s safety and welfare.

E – Earned Income is the basis of the calculation in the first instance. This is usually the income from the latest available tax year from HMRC and takes into account taxable income from employment, pensions, certain State Benefits and profits from self-employment.

F – Full time non-advanced education usually means a course with more than 12 hours contact time that is no higher than the equivalent of an A level or NVQ up to Level 3. The child is still considered to be in full time education, even after leaving school or college, until the cessation of Child Benefit.

G – Gross income that is used for a CMS calculation is either historic income or current income. There is no scope for a mix and match approach even if there is a mix of employed and self employed income. It must all be historic or all be current.

H – Home is the physical home of a child where he or she lives. If a child has more than one home the CMS decides which home is the principal home. A household is not the same as a home. If parties are in the same household for CMS purposes then that is likely to be the same for other State Benefits.

I – Income calculations must be for the same tax year for both employed and self- employed earnings

J – Judicial review of the CMS decision is available but only in very limited circumstances, usually where there has been an error in law, or something relevant has been ignored, or the correct procedure has not been followed.

K – Knowledge about the non resident’s parent’s income can result in a request being made by the CMS to disclose that information. It is a criminal offence to refuse to provide it. Information can be sought from such people as previous employers, accountants, mortgage lenders, DVLA and banks and building societies.

L – Living together usually means that a couple has created a household and that a CMS calculation will come to an end as there is no longer a non-resident parent.

M – Mortgage payments can be the basis of a variation application by a non-resident parent but the property over which the mortgage is secured cannot be one in which the non-resident parent retains a formal interest. The CMS can also take into account payments made to a mortgage lender as child support. This is done by way of offset where the collection service is used and is only discretionary. It must be agreed by the parent with care and must be the home in which the qualifying child lives.

N – Non-resident parent is usually deemed to be the person not in receipt of Child Benefit. If there are competing claims for this benefit a decision has to be made by HMRC as to who should receive it. If there is no non-resident parent because day to day care is shared equally then no child support is payable.

O – Overpayments can sometimes occur and CMS has a discretion on how to deal with them from reducing arrears to reducing the current payments. It can also recover overpayments from the parent with care in certain circumstances.

P – Pension contributions are allowable deductions from earned income. A variation can be sought by a parent with care if contributions are considered to be excessive.

Q – Qualifying children have to be under 16 and one of their parents has to be a non resident parent. A qualifying young person is aged 16-19 who is such for Child Benefit purposes.

R – Redundancy lump sums are not treated as earned income. If over £30,000 they can be treated as a source of unearned income.

S – Shared Care occurs where more than one person is caring for a qualifying child or young person in separate households. If this is deemed to be equal then there is no liability for child support, otherwise child support is payable by the non resident parent. The number of nights spent with each parent is not the sole determining factor. Where each child spends a different amount of time with each parent this may be considered to be Split Care and may result in more than one calculation having to be carried out. The higher payment is usually lessened rather than 2 payments having to be made.

T – Travel expenses can be claimed by the non-resident parent that relate to spending time with a relevant child. It can include taxi fares and accommodation costs and is based on an average weekly amount usually over a 12 month period.

U – Unearned income can only be taken into account after a variation application. The types of income that can be taken into account are rent, bank account interest, trust payments, inheritance, royalties, diverted income, dividends, and notional income from capital assets if its value is over £31,250.

V – Variations can be made to take into account special expenses like travel expenses or boarding school fees or costs of the long term illness or disability of a relevant other child. The expenses must be over £10 per week. They can also be made in relation to non-resident parent’s unearned income, diverted income or notional income.

W – Withdrawing an application can be requested by an applicant and the CMS must honour the request which can be made via telephone or in writing.

X – Ex partner’s other children. A relevant non-resident child can affect the amount of child support payable to a parent with care. This is a child for whom no formal child support calculation can be sought.

Y – Young people qualify for child support if they are in full time non advanced education and are aged 16-19 inclusive. The young person must not be married or have been married.

Z – Zebra – unlike a Zebra the law in this area is not always black and white so please contact us if you would like more information.