The current pandemic has left many parents wondering how a change in circumstances will affect their child maintenance payments, whether they are the parent paying or receiving it.
Either parent can apply for a variation of child maintenance, but the outcome depends on certain circumstances and these differ depending on whether you are paying or receiving child maintenance.
Parents do not have to use the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to calculate what the child maintenance should be, although there is a calculator facility which can be accessed on: https://www.gov.uk/calculate-child-maintenance.
Parents are encouraged to agree child maintenance payments but if this is not possible the CMS can decide what the payment should be. If parents require CMS involvement in calculating child maintenance, arranging for the other parent to pay or dealing with disagreements and enforcement, there are additional fees to be paid.
Calculating child maintenance is based on a variety of factors but includes consideration of the paying parent’s gross income. If there is no income, there is no child maintenance payable. If the paying parent has been furloughed or there has been a change of circumstances as a result of Covid-19, the paying parent may receive a reduced income which may affect their ability to pay child maintenance.
The CMS is advising that parents notify it about a change in circumstance. There are certain changes of circumstance that require the parents to notify the CMS via telephone only. These include being made redundant, temporarily receiving no income due to self-isolating, temporarily receiving statutory sick pay during an outbreak of Covid-19 or a change of circumstance that means child maintenance should no longer be paid. Any other changes should be reported online by logging into the CMS self-service account. It is important to notify the CMS of a change in circumstances because it may affect the amount of child maintenance paid or received.
If the shared care arrangements have changed temporarily due to Covid-19, the CMS will not make changes to the amount of child maintenance because the change in care is temporary. However, if the short term arrangements become long term arrangements, the CMS should be notified. It has not provided guidance on the difference between short term and long term.
Child maintenance payments should continue as normal unless there is a change in circumstances. The CMS has advised that due to reduced staff levels, it is not responding as quickly as usual and may not be able to pursue missed payments. If you are not able to contact the other parent or do not feel safe doing so, the CMS advise that you report missed payments using its online self-service system.
Parents can make new child maintenance applications.