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Child maintenance: variations, including the new notional income criterion (GB)

Published Friday, March 8, 2019

This House of Commons Library briefing note sets out the rules on variations under the “2012 scheme” administered by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). From a policy standpoint, it compares the current variation rules to those for the legacy “2003 scheme”, and notes criticism of the changes and parliamentary debate of them. A link to the full report in pdf format can be found at the bottom of this page.

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Variations allow for the inclusion of factors not otherwise included in the standard method of calculating child maintenance (i.e. a variation from the standard formula).

Either the non-resident parent (known as the “paying parent” in CMS literature) or the person with care (known as the “receiving parent”) can apply for a variation.

A non-resident parent can apply for a variation in respect of special expenses, contact costs, and mortgage and debt costs, among others.

Under the current 2012 scheme, a person with care can seek a variation if they believe the non-resident parent has additional income, including “unearned income” of £2,500 a year or more or, since December 2018, “notional income” where the non-resident parent has a one or more non-income yielding assets each worth more than £31,250. Additional grounds include the diversion of income, or where the non-resident parent is on the nil or flat rate of child maintenance (in certain cases) but has gross weekly income in excess of £100.

Under the 2003 scheme (which is closed to new applicants), if a non-resident parent had either a “lifestyle inconsistent with their income” or assets in excess of £65,000, these were grounds for a variation. The Work and Pensions Select Committee called in May 2017 for the reinstatement of “provisions for parents to challenge child maintenance awards on the grounds of assets and lifestyle inconsistent with income”, and there have been two Private Members’ Bills tabled since April 2017 that have, to date, unsuccessfully sought to implement such a change. The Government’s position is that it has “no plans to reintroduce this provision”, although it did say that it would “consider how we can strengthen our ability [to] ensure all sources of income are included in the calculation” of child maintenance. As noted above, following a consultation the Government introduced in December 2018 the new “notional income” ground for a variation to the 2012 scheme.

This note applies to Great Britain only.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7773

Author: Tim Jarrett

Topics: Child support, Children and families, Divorce

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