Child maintenance changes planned

Families minister calls for changes to child maintenance system, which may see parents paying to use family services

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Families Minister Maria Miller has proposed changes to the child maintenance system in the hope of preventing family breakdown. According to government statistics, one in five children whose parents split end up losing contact with the parent who leaves the family home.

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The proposal, outlined today in a Government Green Paper, aims to give parents more help to come to an agreement out of court. Those who are unable to agree on finances and visiting rights may then have to pay a fee to take their case to court. A fee will not be charged in cases where domestic violence is involved.

“Until now, the Child Support Agency may have been viewed as the default option for parents seeking support to make child maintenance arrangements following separation,” the Paper reads. “We want to change this culture so that parents are supported to reach arrangements between themselves before conflict and disharmony have set in.”

However, some experts are concerned how this would affect families from poor backgrounds. Fiona Weir, from single-parent charity Gingerbread, said that this scheme could make things more difficult for disadvantaged families.

Fiona explained, “This is a much broader group than single parents who have suffered domestic abuse. The sad truth is that there are a significant number of non-resident parents out there who are unwilling to support their own children adequately and we think the government should be doing all it can to ensure that such parents meet their responsibilities.”

There is currently £4billion in unpaid child maintenance in the UK.

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Do you think the proposal would make things easier for separating couples?

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