Why Child Support Was Introduced
The Child Support Agency (also known as CSA) was launched in the UK in 1993. This UK Government Executive Agency is responsible for implementing the Child Support Act of 1991, and all subsequent legislation. Up until 1991 the Treasury was responsible for benefit payments to lone parents, which were made to help reduce child poverty.
The CSA calculates how much child maintenance is due, and organises collection and transferal of these payments. Before the CSA was launched all disputes were handled in court. However, because absent parents could not be traced, the CSA was introduced to provide consistency in the assessment of payments, collection and distribution.
What Is Child Support?Child support is the regular contribution a non-resident parent pays towards the maintenance of their child’s growth. This payment is made to the adult the child lives with, which could be a parent, grandparent or legal guardian. The amount that is paid in contribution can be mutually agreed between both parents, but in some cases this decision is handled legally.
Initially the CSA used a complex method of calculation that took into consideration the age of the child/children and parental income after subtraction of allowances. Today maintenance payments are assessed by a more simple method of working out a fixed percentage of the non-resident parent’s income.
If one or both parents receives income-related benefits all child maintenance payments received must be declared.
Why Child Support Is NecessaryThe Child Support Act of 1991 was passed to allow for a regulated system of collecting child support to be established. Child Support was created to financially help and support all separated families, where one parent lives with the child/children and the other parent lives elsewhere. This form of payment is of great benefit to the parent in charge of the child’s upbringing, as it provides financial assistance with the costs of raising a family.
On separation/divorce the CSA is able to issue forms to the parents, which are later processed to calculate the payment amount due. Once an award has been made payment notices are sent to the absent parent. This usually includes a request for payment of arrears, based on the date the application for Child Support was made.
The CMECThe CSA works alongside the Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission (CMEC) to collect financial contributions from absent parents. The CMEC provides administrative support to parents, which provides them with information on all the options available to them. The Commission is currently reviewing and considering various considerations, which include the removal of the need to take a non-paying non resident parent to court, in order to pursue a debt. Other proposals currently under consideration include:
Powers to confiscate passports and driving licences, and to introduce curfews and the tagging of non resident parents who fail to contribute financially.
A ‘name and shame’ programme that lists details of all non resident parents who fail to pay child support.
Compulsory joint birth registration.
A charging scheme where payment is made for CMEC services.