Use Child Maintenance Service First 0843 455 0030.
Payments Helpline 0843 455 0070.
All calls to the CSA Payments Helpline will cost 5p per minute from a BT landline, calls from other operators and mobile providers may vary and will be charged at their standard rates. All calls are handled by experienced operators
A parent with care who gets Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance can keep up to £10 each week of any child maintenance paid. The rest is deducted pound-for-pound from the welfare benefits. This is supposed to be an incentive for such parents to make an application to the CSA Payments Helpline. However, they will be required to do so in any event, which means that even if there is an agreement about maintenance payments, but no order that is less than a year old, the CSA Payments Helpline will still get involved. If you are in this situation, you should obtain detailed benefits advice, e.g. from a Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
Under the CSA rules the parent who gets the child benefit from the government (the “parent with care”) can make an application to the CSA Payments Helpline for maintenance against the other parent (the “non-resident parent”).
The basic assessment is based on a percentage of the payer’s net income (after tax, National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions) at 15%, 20% or 25% for 1, 2 or 3 or more children respectively (“basic rate”).
The assessment is made on weekly figures (12/52 – months/weeks – of monthly figures, about 23%, not ¼). The following other main provisions apply:
- The maximum net income the CSA works on is £2,000 per week. If the non-resident parent has income above that the other parent can apply for top-up maintenance to the court once the CSA has made an assessment.
- Students, children (under 16), prisoners, people with an income of less than £5 per week and people living in a care home and getting help with the fees and do not pay at all (“nil rate”).
- If the net weekly income is under £100 or they or their partner are getting certain welfare benefits, child maintenance is £5 (“flat rate”).
- If the net weekly income is between £100 and under £200, the child maintenance is £5 plus 25%, 35% or 45% of the income over £100 (for 1, 2 or 3 or more children respectively) (“reduced rate”). So if the net weekly income is £160, the child maintenance for 2 children is £5+£60×20%=£17.
- If the payer has a child or children living with him, you first deduct 15%, 20% or 25% (for 1, 2 or 3 or more children) from his net income and then use that figure to work out the child maintenance payable for the other children (e.g. if the net income is £500 and there is 1 child from a new partner living with the payer, the income is reduced to: £500-15%x£500=£425; so that child maintenance for 2 children would be 20% of £425=£85 instead of £100).
- If a payer has to pay child maintenance for children living with different parents, the CSA will work out the total child maintenance and then divide it by the number of children to allocate it between the maintenance recipients.
- If the child or children spend overnight contact with the payer of more than 52 nights a year, the child maintenance is reduced by 1/7 for any full set of 52 nights the children spend with him each year.
- The problem is that if the child spends equal time with each parent (182 nights a year), whoever happens to get the child benefit from the government will be entitled to child maintenance reduced by 3/7, i.e. to 57% of the total. This is the case even if the maintenance recipient is the higher earner.
- If the non-resident parent refuses to provide information, the CSA makes a default maintenance decision of £30, £40 or £50 a week for 1, 2 or 3 or more children.
- If the non-resident parent is self-employed the net income is worked out similar to the way it is worked out for income tax purposes, but capital expenditure or business entertainment expenses are not deductible.
CSA Payments Helpline 0843 455 0070.
Variations are rare because the CSA system was set up to deal with simple calculations (and they do not even manage to get those right or done in time).
If you are the non-resident parent you may be able to apply for a variation amongst other things on the following grounds:
- high expenses surrounding contact (e.g. long-distance travel),
- disabled children living with you,
- debts that were taken out for the family before separation,
- boarding school fees for the child who you are paying maintenance for (but only the boarding element of it and not the school fees),
- mortgage payments for the child’s home if this was your shared home, but not if you also own the place, or
- some issues in connection with capital settlements made before the CSA existed (i.e. made before 5 April 1993).
Your own debts other than those listed above or your own mortgage for your home do not count.
If you are the parent with care you may apply for variation amongst other things if the non-resident parent:
- has assets other than his home worth £65,000 after deducting any mortgage,
- has certain other income and is are paying the flat or nil rate,
- controls his income (e.g. as a company director),
- diverts all or part of his income to someone else, or
- seems to have a way of life that he would not have on the income on which the calculation is based.
The CSA Payments Helpline Number are open from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, from 8am to 1pm on Saturday and closed on Sunday and bank holidays.
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