Dads’ FAQs: Child support

20 October 2012


Questions we have been asked include:

‘Young father wants to know at what age CMEC will start deducting money’

‘CMEC have just doubled his payment; he can’t afford it; what should he do?’

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) is responsible for the child maintenance system in Great Britain. It replaced the Child Support Agency. CMEC runs the Child Maintenance Options service, which provides information and support to help parents make a child maintenance arrangement that meets their needs. The service is also available to guardians, relatives, friends and child maintenance professionals, and can be used anonymously in England, Wales and Scotland. It is an impartial service, available through:

• a freephone national telephone helpline, 0800 988 0988 (a callback option is available so you don’t get charged if you call from a mobile phone).

• a website

• a face-to-face service for those in most need of more personalised help and support (you can find out more about this by phone or on the website).

Child Maintenance Options also provides information and support on other issues parents might face in making maintenance arrangements, such as housing, legal and money concerns – and it can signpost you to organisations that provide specialist help and advice.

The Government website still displays information about the Child Support Agency here (valid at 20.10.12).

If you’ve had problems with CMEC or the CSA and are looking for external help to resolve these, you could contact the National Association for Child Support Action, which has a website and helpline 01384 572525 (fees apply for telephone or face-to-face support). You could also try Citizens’ Advice on 08444 111 444 (England) or 08444 77 20 20 (Wales). Find your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau via their website.

What if you have financial problems?

If you have debt problems, contact the National Debtline for free confidential advice on money problems on 0808 808 4000 or visit their website. (Please note, this service cannot advise on benefits).

If you are a lone and/or separated dad and are having financial problems, you may also find the following useful:

Gingerbread information for single dads

Working Families’ information for working parents and carers

Horizons, a partnership between Citizens Advice, Family Action and Gingerbread – supported by Barclaycard – offers lone parents support on finance, as well as other issues. Find out more on its website.

For information and advice on benefits, visit the Government website or the Benefits section of Adviceguide, the website of Citizens’ Advice.

Further help and mediation

If you want help to try to reach a more successful agreement with your child’s other parent and need some support, the Centre for Separated Families may be able to assist you. It runs an email advice service and on its website you can read articles and buy a book about how to reach amicable post-separation arrangements.

If you think mediation could help you reach a better agreement, you could contact:

National Family Mediation – the umbrella organisation for services that provide mediation service to separating and divorcing couples. Visit their website or call on 0300 4000 636.

The Family Mediators’ Association – the membership body for family mediators. Visit their website or call 01355 244 594.

The Parent Connection offers online support to separating or separated parents, helping you to put your children first. Find out more on their website.

Find links to other Dads’ FAQs articles here.



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One Comment »

  • andrew says:

    The “Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission”. With a title like that you could be forgiven for feeling an uncomfortable shudder. This organisation’s task is to extract money from you after you have separated from your former partner. It emphasises the current idea that once you have separated from your partner, one of you will be forced to pay and the other will be expected to care for your children.

    In court the Judge/Registrar will tell you that you are responsible, meaning that you should continue to pay for your child and the prize for this is to have your childcare time drastically reduced (this is then called “contact time”). Your partner will be told they are expected to continue the childcare. (In reality their childcare element will increase because yours has been reduced to “contact time”).

    Before you separated you may have shared the parenting roughly 50:50 with your partner like most of us do. After Court, if it hasn’t already, it will dawn on you that things are now different. All the large Institutions that you thought should be supporting the children and family by maintaining the balance of childcare between you and your partner do not see things that way. Instead they support what they now see as the “single parent” and their new way of life. Some Institutions will label one parent as the “Primary Carer”, which obviously makes the other feel less significant. The Doctor doesn’t want your new address, the school only want to send you what they have to, you never see the note to parents which went home in your child’s school bag. All the New Dads services that have sprung up around the country will be training you to be a better parent, the irony of course is that in spite of you being super Dad of the year, you very rarely see your children.

    Even the Prime Minister on Father’s Day, of all times, will be labelling you as feckless and imagining that you weren’t driven away by society but ran away of your own accord. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    In an equitable sensitive and respectful society we could ensure that fathers maintain healthy relationships with their children even after separation, but unfortunately we choose not to.

    So, how can we change the system for something better for the sake of our children and ultimately for future generations? I suggest a “dual responsibility and care programme” that ensures mother and father both maintain similar proportions of chidcare and child maintenance.

    Historically, at times of World War men were expected to leave the home and fight for their Country. Women were left to bring up children on their own without the father and provide for them. Women became responsible for providing the munitions and food that enabled men to continue fighting. We are no longer at world war and such enforced gender role distinctions are no longer practiced.
    I look forward to the day when the Judge stands up in Court and says. In view of the fact that you parents are unable to work together as parents of your children it is my expectation that you now both share the childcare and responsibility.

    Consequently I see no need for a “Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission”. As responsible adults and parents we are equally responsible for the welfare of our children irrespective of gender.

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