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Coronavirus and the Child Maintenance Service

Coronavirus and the CMS

Separated or separating families are learning that the impact of the Covid-19 virus is far-reaching and now extends to child maintenance matters.

For those families who have an ongoing case with the Child Maintenance Service (“CMS”), it may be that the assessment of your liability to pay child maintenance will need reviewing, particularly if the paying party has been furloughed as a result of recent employment measures introduced by the Government.

The current CMS regulations provide that outside of the annual review of child maintenance payable, if the paying party’s income has either increased or decreased by 25%, then the CMS has jurisdiction to vary the child maintenance liability assessment.  On that basis, those paying parties who are receiving 80% of their current salary, as a result of being furloughed, are still obliged under the existing regulations to pay the full level of child maintenance that has been assessed by the CMS.  We understand that in these unprecedented times, the CMS is considering the possibility of amending the legislation so that a variation of 20% in salaried income can be considered when reviewing child maintenance liability assessments, but for now, there is no such change.  If such a change is to occur, it is likely to be a temporary measure only and the rate may well revert to 25% when appropriate.

Whilst the CMS generally works on the basis that any reported change in income must be in place for at least 12 weeks before they review a child maintenance liability assessment, it is expected that this will be relaxed in the current climate.

CMS officers have also advised that no enforcement measures will be implemented against paying parties who may miss child maintenance payments or be unable to pay the full amount because of financial difficulties caused by the Coronavirus.  If as a paying party, you envisage these types of problems occurring, it is imperative that you advise the CMS immediately.

As a paying party, you are advised not to unilaterally stop or reduce payments without first discussing this with the other parent and communicating with the CMS about the change in your income.  If the CMS makes a new assessment of your liability to pay child maintenance based on your reduced income, then you will be obliged to advise them if your income is increased by the 25% threshold once times have improved.  A failure to do this may mean that arrears will be added to your account later on.

It is more important than ever for parents to communicate early with each other if they anticipate changes being required to child maintenance payments as a result of the Coronavirus.  Should you require assistance from the CMS, please note that as of 31 March 2020, it is our understanding that the CMS is not accepting calls for any matters that do not relate to the Coronaviurus and all other matters must be logged via the online portal.

 

 

Coronavirus and the Child Maintenance Service

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