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Child maintenance: variations, including "unearned income" rules (UK excluding NI)

Published Wednesday, October 25, 2017

This House of Commons Library briefing note sets out the rules on variations, including the grounds for a variation under the “2012 scheme” administered by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), how to request a variation, and sources of further information. From a policy standpoint, it compares the current variations rules to those for the legacy “2003 scheme”, and notes criticism of the changes and parliamentary debate of them.

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Variations allow for the inclusion of factors otherwise not included in the standard method of calculating child maintenance.

Either the non-resident parent (known as the paying parent) or the parent 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 parent 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. In contrast, under the 2003 scheme, 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.  There have been concerns voiced that it is more difficult under the 2012 scheme for a variation to be made in cases where a non-resident parent has not fully declared their income.

This note applies to Great Britain only (i.e. United Kingdom excluding Northern Ireland).

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7773

Author: Tim Jarrett

Topics: Child support, Children and families, Divorce

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