Later this year, the government will introduce application fees, collection fees and enforcement charges for parents using the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme. The fees and charges will apply to new parents who want to use the 2012 Scheme and existing parents already on it.

You won't have to pay any charges for an existing case with the Child Support Agency.

Application fee

In England, Wales and Scotland, there will be a £20 application fee to use the service. This will need to be paid by the parent who applies.

Collection fees

There will be additional charges if the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has to collect money from the paying parent and pay it to the receiving parent under the Collect & Pay service. The Collect & Pay service is when the CMS works out the amount of child maintenance to be paid and collects payments from the paying parent and passes them on to the receiving parent.

The paying parent will have to pay an additional 20 per cent on top of their usual child maintenance amount and the receiving parent will have their child maintenance amount reduced by 4 per cent. There will also be enforcement charges for parents who don’t make payments and get into arrears.If parents use Direct Pay, the collection fees don't apply. Direct Pay is when the CMS works out the amount of child maintenance a paying parent must pay. Both parents then agree between themselves how and when payments are made. If payments are not made, the case can be moved to the Collect & Pay service and both parents will have to pay the collection fees.

If you're using the CMS, you will receive a formal notice of charging letter when the scheme goes live. Most parents using the Collect & Pay service will be able to avoid collection fees by moving to Direct Pay.

Closing Child Support Agency cases

Over the next 3 years, everyone using the Child Support Agency (CSA) will have their case closed as the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will eventually replace the CSA.

Parents won't need to take any action until they're contacted by the CSA. Paying parents must continue to pay child maintenance until their case is closed.

If you're contacted by the CSA, you'll be given six months' notice that your case will close. You'll need to make a new arrangement for child maintenance through a family-based agreement with your ex-partner or use the CMS. If it's possible, you'll be encouraged to set up a family-based arrangement rather than use the CMS. If you use the CMS, you'll be charged a £20 application fee and collection fees if you use the Collect & Pay service.

You can get further information about your options from Child Maintenance Options at www.cmoptions.org.

For help from Salford Citizens Advice visit your local bureau in Eccles, Irlam and Cadishead, Salford City, Swinton, Walkden or at Salford Royal.

Telephone our advice line: 0844 826 9695 (if calling from a landline or if calling from a mobile 0300 456 2554).

Tom Togher