The Child Support Agency Explained (CSA)
If you are facing a divorce or separation, or have a child with someone who you are no longer in a relationship with, you may be wondering who decides whether a parent must pay maintenance for their child.
If you have residence of your child, you may be wondering how you can seek maintenance payments from the other parent. In the UK, both responsibilities fall under the jurisdiction of the Child Support Agency (CSA).
What is the Child Support Agency (CSA)?
The Child Support Agency, or CSA, is an arm of the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions. The CSA is responsible for two main functions. Their first function is to determine how much child maintenance is due from a parent. Their second function is to actually collect that maintenance, and deliver it to the child’s guardian.
When does the CSA step in?
The CSA can only become involved in a case when a parent requests their services. The parent with residence of the child is most often the one to seek the help of the CSA, in order to help establish maintenance from the non-resident parent. As the mother of a child is most often granted residence, the mother is often the one to seek the help of the CSA in order to force the father to pay maintenance. However, if a father has the residence of a child, they may seek help from the CSA.
What does the CSA do to help?
In order to set up child maintenance, the CSA must perform a series of steps that vary based on each individual family and case. First, if parent that sought help from the CSA does not know the whereabouts of the other parent, then the CSA may help to locate them. They may also communicate with both parties in order to figure out where the disagreements about child maintenance stem from.
After working out how much child maintenance is due, the CSA then arranges for the payments to be made, and ensures that the payments make it to the other parent. Each year, the CSA reviews the payments that have been made, and ensures that they continue to be made. If they are not, the CSA may then take legal action against the non-resident parent.
How does the CSA determine how much maintenance is due?
In order to determine how much maintenance a non-resident parent owes, the CSA determines the net income of the parent, and then sets the maintenance at 15% of that income for the first child, 20% for the second, and 25% for those with three or more children. However, if the non-resident parent has other children with a different family, this amount may be reduced.
Does the CSA have to get involved in order for child maintenance to be established?
If a family can come to an agreement on child maintenance on their own, the CSA does not need to become involved. Help from the CSA is only sought when an agreement cannot be reached by the individual parents.
Update: The Child Support Agency is changing to the Child Maintenance Service