Child maintenance arrears

When parents separate, they are both actively encouraged to try and agree the arrangements for their children without the need for any professional involvement. This includes whether one parent is going to pay money to the other parent in order to help meet the children’s basic needs. There are cases where parents cannot agree and require the support of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to either produce an assessment for maintenance or in some cases, collect money from one parent and pay it to the other. The CMS also deal with arrears of child maintenance.

Gingerbread, a charity for single parents, has released data showing the amount of child maintenance arrears within the UK being close to £4 billion. Their research also suggests that the level of arrears varies depending upon which area of the UK a parent may be living. Areas with the highest arrears include Milton Keynes South (£6.26 million), Telford (£6.13 million) and Nottingham North (£6.07 million). In contrast some of the areas with the lowest level of arrears include Sheffield Hallam (£1.15 million) and Wimbledon (£1.44 million).

A number of historic child maintenance cases were originally dealt with by the Child Support Agency (CSA). However the government is closing the CSA and all CSA cases are being transferred to the CMS. This also includes CSA cases involving arrears. However parents with children who have a CSA case will have to reapply to the CMS if they want their CSA arrears collected. Gingerbread claims that as the CSA winds down, the agency is doing even less to collect on the huge debts that have accrued. They also claim it is unclear how much effort the CMS is making to collect former CSA arrears which have been transferred to it so far. At the end of March 2016, £153.3 million in CSA arrears had been transferred to the CMS but no government information has yet been published on the progress of the CMS in collecting these arrears.

For any parent who has separated from their partner it is important wherever possible, to try and agree the arrangements for children directly with each other.

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Ipswich Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email