In the past years, the recession has put families under more financial pressure than ever.
And, if you’re going through a break-up or trying to manage as a single parent, chances are you’ll have more money worries than most. One of the most important things to get sorted out as soon as possible is an effective child maintenance arrangement.
The Child Maintenance Options service aims to help separated parents find the best possible child maintenance arrangement, by providing information and guidance on all the options available. Over the last 12 months, our dedicated team has helped thousands of parents through a free helpline (0800 988 0988) and face-to-face meetings. There’s also a wealth of information, free guides and other useful tools available on our website www.cmoptions.org.
Child maintenance is changing
The last couple of years have also seen a raft of positive changes to the child maintenance system. In the past, if you were on benefits, you had to arrange child maintenance using the Child Support Agency (CSA). In October 2008 the law changed, and now all parents can choose to work together to make a Private Agreement instead of using the CSA.
Options can talk you through the pros and cons of both types of arrangement so you can make an informed choice. We are impartial, which means we are here to help both parents. We know that everyone’s situation is different, so we’re not biased towards any one way of arranging child maintenance.
Making a Private Agreement
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, a Private Agreement is usually the most flexible option. For example, if the heating breaks down in the family home, you could ask your ex to help you with the cost of getting it fixed and stop their regular payments for a while.
While Private Agreements only work if both parents agree to the terms, it doesn’t always follow that you can’t have one if things are strained between you and your ex. In fact, it might even help. For example, if you’re concerned that your money isn’t being spent on the children, you could agree to pay for specific items like school uniforms and new shoes rather than handing over cash.
Using the CSA
Going through the CSA also has its advantages. For example, if you want to avoid contact with the other parent, you can. And, if you’re the one paying child maintenance, you might find it easier to have money taken directly from your wages. It could even help you manage your finances better because you know what you’ll be left with at the end of the month.
Update (Nov 2012)
There are changes to the statutory child maintenance schemes coming into effect later this year. Where an application is accepted by the Child Maintenance Service, the calculation is based on the gross income of the paying parent. It should be noted that access to the 2012 Statutory Maintenance Service is initially for applications where there are 4 or more qualifying children within the same parental relationship. The qualifying child age to which statutory maintenance is liable will increase from 19 to the 20th birthday, depending on the educational status of the qualifying child. This remains the same, it is just the age that has changed.
How Options can help you
In addition to providing guidance on child maintenance, we work with specialist organisations to produce information on other issues you might be dealing with as a separated parent. For example, managing debt, finding help with legal costs, and property matters.
So whether you need to set up a new child maintenance arrangement, your current arrangement is not working as well as you'd like it to, or you simply want to talk through your choices, the team at Options are waiting for your call.
Call Child Maintenance
Options in confidence
From 8 am to 8 pm Mon to Fri
From 9 am to 4 pm Saturday
Please mention Wikivorce
when you call this helpline