David and Tracey’s Direct Pay story

As we blogged last week, growing numbers of separated parents are choosing to make a Direct Pay arrangement with the Child Maintenance Service, according to an official report. But how does Direct Pay work in practice? Here’s the story of David and Tracey, who overcame their differences to make a Direct Pay arrangement.

They tried to make a family-based arrangement first

David and Tracey have two children aged 4 and 6. When they separated, they tried to make a family-based arrangement. However, they ran into difficulties as they couldn’t agree on an amount of child maintenance. This was causing them to argue and made it difficult for them to continue to work together to care for their children, which is what they both wanted even though they were no longer a couple.

Child Maintenance Options helped them choose Direct Pay

After speaking to Child Maintenance Options, Tracey made an application to the Child Maintenance Service. She asked to use the Direct Pay Service as, during her conversation with Child Maintenance Options, she learned that she could avoid collection fees by using Direct Pay.

A standing order was set up so regular payments were made

The Child Maintenance Service calculated the amount of child maintenance that David needed to pay. Tracey gave her bank details to the Child Maintenance Service who passed them securely to David, who then set up a standing order to that bank account.

David set up the standing order to pay child maintenance straight after his monthly payday. That meant he knew the money went straight to the children and he knew how much money he had left and was able to budget.

Tracey was reassured because if David stops paying in future, the case can be moved to a Collect & Pay arrangement and the Child Maintenance Service can take action to recover the missing money.

Inspired by David and Tracey?

For more information Direct Pay, see our guide to comparing your options. Or, you can chat online or call us on 0800 988 0988 to speak to us in confidence.

Tell us your Direct Pay story

If you’ve made a Direct Pay arrangement work for you, why not tell us your story?

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Child Maintenance Service fees and charges – what it means for you

The Child Maintenance Service has introduced fees and charges for using the service. We want to explain what the charges are and how you can avoid them.

Applicants to the Child Maintenance Service will pay a £20 application fee

If you apply for a Child Maintenance Service case, you will have to pay a £20 application fee. There are certain circumstances when you don’t have to pay, for example if you are under the age of 19, a victim of domestic violence, or you apply from Northern Ireland.

Paying parents will also have to pay enforcement charges if they miss child maintenance payments.

Collection fees for Collect & Pay arrangements

If you have a ‘Collect & Pay’ arrangement with the Child Maintenance Service, then from 11 August, you will be charged collection fees.

With Collect & Pay’, the Child Maintenance Service works out a child maintenance amount, collects the money from the paying parent and passes it on the receiving parent.

If you are the receiving parent, a 4% fee will be deducted from each child maintenance payment you receive. If you’re a paying parent, you’ll be charged an additional 20% on top of each payment you make.

Avoid collection fees with a family-based arrangement or Direct Pay

You can avoid all fees and charges by making a family-based arrangement – where you sort out child maintenance with your child’s other parent and no-one else has to get involved.

If you can’t make a Family-based arrangement, you can avoid collection fees with a Direct Pay arrangement. Direct Pay is where the Child Maintenance Service calculates a child maintenance amount, but you agree with the other parent how and when money is paid.

Help and support for separated families

We want to help you make the best child maintenance arrangement for your separated family. Contact us now to have a confidential chat, or see our guidance on the Child Maintenance Service and family-based arrangements on our website.

Sorting out Separation has information, videos and other tools to help you work through a range of separation issues, such as legal rights and mediation.

We are also working with other organisations to provide support for separated parents. The “Help and Support for Separated Families” (HSSF) initiative has funded training for helplines run by Relate and Family Lives, plus parenting classes, counselling and mediation.

Do you have any questions about the introduction of charging that we can answer here on the Talking Child Maintenance blog?

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Are you a military family affected by relationship breakdown?

Are you living ‘on the patch’, perhaps a long way from the support that family members can provide? It’s Armed Forces Day tomorrow, so we thought we’d focus on military familes affected by relationship breakdown, and what support is available to them.

Facing separation is never easy and at times it can seem hard to know where to turn or what to do next, but there are many sources of support available to help you.

Contact your nearest HIVE (Army, Navy or RAF) for details of local arrangements and other sources of help such as:
• “The Guide to Help Service Families During Relationship Breakdown”
• Sources of support that best meet your needs, including mediation, counselling and reconciliation.
• Local Unit Welfare Team contacts who can help you regarding housing needs for those living in Service Families Accommodation (SFA). They can also help you to find support such as mediation, counselling or reconciliation where appropriate.
• Contact details for organisations such as SSAFA who can also provide a wide range of support, including temporary supported accommodation for separating service and ex-service families.

For help and support with wider separation issues not specific to military families, visit the Sorting Out Separation online service. You’ll find information, tools and videos on a wide range of topics such as legal matters, finances and homelessness. You can also create a personalised list of links to other organisations that could help you.

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Direct Pay – your questions answered

Growing numbers of separated parents are choosing to make a “Direct Pay” arrangement with the Child Maintenance Service, according to a report issued recently. We thought we’d answer some common questions about Direct Pay.

What is Direct Pay?

With a Direct Pay arrangement, the Child Maintenance Service will calculate a child maintenance amount, and then leave parents to manage payments direct between themselves. The Child Maintenance Service can step in again if payments are missed.

Is it different from a family-based arrangement?

Direct Pay is different from a family-based arrangement. With a family-based arrangement no-one else gets involved and you can agree between you how much child maintenance payments are. You can also decide what counts as child maintenance – for example you could agree to share childcare instead of monetary payments.

Will I be charged for a Direct Pay arrangement?

Later this summer, separated parents will have to pay fees for using the Child Maintenance Service. This includes an application fee and collection fees if you want the Child Maintenance Service to manage payments for you. But, if you use Direct Pay, you will not have to pay collection fees.

(Of course, the best way to avoid any fees and charges is to set up a family-based arrangement and not use the Child Maintenance Service at all.)

What if the other parent doesn’t want to use Direct Pay?

At the moment, both parents need to agree to Direct Pay in order to use it.

But, when charges and fees are introduced, the law will change so that you can choose Direct Pay without needing the other parent to agree, unless there’s evidence that the paying parent is unlikely to pay.

What about CSA cases?
If you have a CSA case, there is a similar service to Direct Pay called Maintenance Direct. If you want to know more about switching to Maintenance Direct, call the office managing your case.

Where can I get more information?

For more information about the different types of child maintenance arrangement, see our guide to comparing your options. Or, you can chat online or call us on 0800 988 0988 to speak to us in confidence.

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International Families Day – what it means to be a separated family

Today marks the 20th anniversary of International Families Day, which aims to celebrate the importance of families throughout the world. But, when you’re separated or going through separation, it’s easy to feel like the traditional definition of a “family unit” just doesn’t apply to you.

Things may have worked out differently than you planned, but it can still be possible to be a family after you’re separated, if you can work together for the sake of your children. That’s why we thought today would be a good time to revisit the idea of “separated families”.

Separated families come in all shapes and sizes

These days, families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – step-families, adopted families…and separated families. You could have a separated family, whether you have recently separated or if you’ve been separated for a few years. You may even have a step-family as well as a separated family! You could have never lived with your child’s other parent or been in a family situation together.

Working together as a separated family

Whatever shape your separated family comes in, it’s still important to work out how your child can be supported by both parents.

That’s because being a separated family is about working together, rather than fitting into the traditional family shape. In fact, research shows that the way a family works together has more effect on a child’s life than the family’s structure itself.

Of course, one of the ways you can support your child is to make a family-based child maintenance arrangement. Child Maintenance Options can help you put a child maintenance arrangement in place – call us now on 0800 988 0988 to talk through your options.

It would also be great if you would share your experiences of working together with your child’s other parent here on Talking Child Maintenance…

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‘Mediation made divorce more respectful’

Anyone going through family breakdown knows how awful it can get but mediation can make divorce “more respectful”. It can help the separating couple to avoid unecessary arguments, according to one mother.

Natasha Brittan told Daybreak that sitting down with her estranged husband and an impartial referee with legal knowledge helped them to have a more amicable divorce.

“It just made everything more respectful, kinder and we did not want, or certainly I did not want, my divorce to define the rest of my life.

“We just wanted to look after our children, our wider circle of friends and family by having a good divorce and a respectful divorce.”

Want to know more about how mediation might work for you? Visit Sorting Out Separation for further details about mediation and other helpful sources of support.

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Changes to mediation laws for divorcing or separating parents

As of yesterday, separated parents will need to show that they have considered mediation before going to court to make arrangements for children.

From the 22nd April 2014, before you can make an application to court, you will need to show that you have considered mediation by going to a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).

Find out more about Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings

What is mediation anyway?

First of all, let’s remind ourselves about what mediation isn’t. Mediation is not about trying to get you back together. It’s about helping you sort out a range of family problems after you have decided to separate. It can also help when you have already separated and need to sort out new issues that crop up.
Mediation is a process that involves an independent third person, who will help you reach agreement with your child’s other parent. It could even help sort things out with other family members – for example, making sure that the children spend time with their grandparents.

What about the costs of mediation?

The cost of mediation differs depending on how many sessions you need. But, the good news is, you may be able to get legal aid for family mediation.
And, if you are eligible for legal aid for family mediation, you will also qualify for some legal support once you start the process (as long as your circumstances don’t change in the meantime).

Find out more about funding for mediation

If you can’t attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting

If mediation is not suitable for your situation – for example, if there are domestic abuse issues – you will need to provide the court with a completed FM1 form to show that you have considered it. A mediator can complete the form or you can do it yourself.

Still not sure if mediation is for you? Come back tomorrow to hear a real-life story of someone who made mediation work for them.

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