Info & Advice

What information do I have to share with the Child Maintenance Service?

Request a Free Consultation with a Solicitor

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is operated by the government to ensure that parents separated from their children make financial contributions towards their upkeep. In order to calculate the maintenance payable, the non-resident parent is required to provide the CMS with their financial details. But what information do you have to share with the Child Maintenance Service, and can it force you to disclose it? This article aims to find out.

How does the CMS calculate child maintenance?

It is important to note that the CMS’ primary objective is to ensure that children receive the financial support they need. The CMS calculates an amount to be paid using rules set out in child support legislation. This amount is based on:

  • The gross income of the paying parent; and
  • The number of qualifying children the paying parent lives apart from

A child is considered being a qualifying child if they are under 16. Alternatively, if they are over the age of 16, but are under 20 and in approved education or training and have never been married or in a civil partnership, they will be deemed to be a qualifying child.

What information do I need to give the CMS?

You will need to provide the CMS with the following detailed information:

  • Your national insurance number
  • Your bank account details
  • Your child and ex’s details, including full names, address, and date of birth
  • How many nights a week the child spends with each parent
  • Your employer’s name and address
  • Your employee number (if any) together with wage slips for the last 3 months or P60
  • If not working, details of welfare benefits received and the amount
  • If you are self-employed, your accountants details, and/or your tax return and set of accounts for the last financial year
  • Details of any other children, whether your own or step-children who live with you or who you pay child maintenance for

What happens if I don’t provide the CMS with any information?

If you are the paying parent and refuse to send in, or provide false or misleading information, you can be fined up to £1,000. You can also be fined if you fail to inform the CMS that your address has changed. Before resorting to fines, the CMS uses several methods to encourage non-resident parents to provide their financial information. These are aimed at ensuring children receive the financial support they are entitled to. Some actions the CMS can take include:

  • Initially, the CMS may send reminder letters to the non-resident parent asking them to provide the necessary financial information. These letters typically explain the legal obligation to provide such details and the consequences of failing to do so.
  • The CMS may directly contact the non-resident parent via phone or email to request the required information. This direct communication can sometimes prompt compliance.
  • If initial attempts to obtain the financial information are unsuccessful, the CMS may arrange a compliance interview with the non-resident parent. During this interview, a CMS officer or their representative will discuss the legal obligation to provide the information requested.
  • If the non-resident parent continues to refuse to provide the required information, the CMS has the authority to conduct a financial investigation. This may involve gathering information from other sources, such as employers or financial institutions such as HMRC, to determine the parent’s income and assets.
  • The CMS has the power to impose penalties on non-compliant parents who fail to provide the required details. Penalties may include fines or deductions from any benefits or earnings.
  • In extreme cases, where all other attempts to obtain the information have been unsuccessful, the CMS may initiate court proceedings against the non-resident parent. This can result in a court order requiring the parent to provide the necessary disclosure with potential consequences for non-compliance.

What court action can the CMS take for non-payment of child maintenance?

The CMS can take action against people and organisations including parents, employers, and accountants. Other enforcement action that can be taken against a parent includes:

  • Deduction from earnings order – this requires an employer to take money directly from the earnings of the non-resident parent. This can also cover arrears as well as regular child maintenance. This can only be used against employed parties. If the individual is self-employed, this method of enforcement cannot be used.
  • Taking money from benefits – the CMS can take up to £7.40 a week from the non-resident parent’s benefits towards child support. A further deduction can be taken to pay any arrears. If the non-resident parent is claiming Universal Credit, the calculation will be different.
  • Regular deduction order – here, the CMS deducts a regular fixed sum directly from a non-resident parent’s bank/building society account without their permission. It can either remove a lump sum to clear arrears or set up regular deductions. This is useful if the individual is self-employed, and the money cannot be deducted from their wages.
  • Lump sum deduction order – the CMS can freeze and then deduct a lump sum in respect of arrears directly from the non-resident parent’s bank/building society account.
  • Liability order – the CMS can apply to the court for legal recognition of the amount of maintenance debt arrears owned over a period of time. This order opens the door to further enforcement actions.
  • Referral to a credit reference agency – the CMS has the power to share information about a parent’s child maintenance debt with a credit reference agency.
  • Bailiff referral – a legally recognised debt can be referred to a bailiff company who can seize the non-resident parent’s belongings and sell them to realise the debt owned.
  • Charging orders – an order from the County Court which adds the children maintenance debt to the non-resident parent’s property
  • Orders for sale – an order for sale of property to secure the arrears owed
  • Committal action – this is action taken in the magistrates court leading to an actual or suspended prison sentence, actual or suspended disqualification from driving, and/or an order for payment.

Related Articles

Load More

Podcast: Listen Now