Child Maintenance: Support for Victims and Survivors of Domestic Abuse


Posted on: June 10th, 2024

What is Child Maintenance?

Child Maintenance is a financial arrangement between two parents, one of which the child does not normally live with and the parent who the child lives with and provides day to day care for. A parent is legally required to maintain their child, even if they have no contact with them.

Child maintenance can be agreed under a formal Child Maintenance arrangements, which is arranged through the government, the Child Maintenance Service or a family-based arrangement.

The default option for a Child Maintenance case is for it to be placed onto the CMS’s ‘direct pay’ service. This is where the CMS calculates the rate at which maintenance should be paid however the payments are made between parents.

The other service is ‘collect and pay’ where the CMS additionally collects and passes on payments. This service was only available if:

  • The non-resident parent agrees to this service
  • If the CMS considers that the non-resident parent is ‘unlikely to pay’ (for example, if they miss or are late making payments)

Prevalence of Domestic Abuse among CMS applicants

In Autumn 2021, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) commissioned an independent review which emphasised that in May 2018, the CMS began to ask parents directly if they have experienced domestic abuse. Since then, applications have shown a strong prevalence of domestic abuse amongst parents accessing the CMS.

Dr Samantha Callan was named as the Independent Reviewer, her review can be found here, and she made ten recommendations, to which the government accepted eight. Those of which can be found in the Report by House of Commons ‘Child Maintenance: Support for Victims of Domestic Abuse’ here.

In January 2023, the Government acknowledged that the CMS has a responsibility to minimise risks that domestic abuse survivors may face in using its services.

What has been put in place?

The Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Act 2023 amends existing legislation to allow a Child Maintenance case to be placed onto the ‘collect and pay’ service where there is a case involving domestic abuse and one of the parents requests it.

This act was given the Royal Assent on 29 June 2023, enabling it easier for domestic abuse victims and survivors to receive Child Maintenance.

As of 08 May 2024, the £20 application fee has been removed so disadvantaged families are not deterred from accessing the CMS.

 

If you need support with Child Maintenance or situations relating to Domestic Abuse, give our team a call on 01642 777 680. 

 

Kirsty Ward

 

 

Written by Kirsty Ward – Public Law Paralegal

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