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All You Need to Know About the Child Support Agency (CSA), Now Known as the Child Maintenance Service (CMS)

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The Child Support Agency (CSA), now known as the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), plays a crucial role in ensuring financial support for children in the UK. This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about the CSA/CMS, including its meaning, how it works, the application process, when payments stop, and the legislation surrounding it. In addition to that, the article explains how family mediation can be used instead of CSA/CMS to find an agreed way forward.

Understanding the CSA Meaning and its Transition to CMS

The Child Support Agency (CSA) was established to reduce child poverty in the UK by providing a means for parents with care to collect maintenance payments for their children from non-resident parents. The agency worked under the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, aiming to trace non-resident parents and enforce financial responsibility.

In recent years, the CSA has undergone significant changes, and as a result, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has replaced the CSA in handling child maintenance arrangements.

How Does the CSA/CMS Work?

Assessing and Processing Maintenance Claims

The CSA/CMS gathers information about income and circumstances from the parent with care to assess and process a maintenance claim.

Based on the collected information, the agency calculates the amount of payable maintenance and manages the payments from the non-resident parent.

Tracing and Enforcement

The CSA/CMS has the authority to track down absent parents who avoid paying child support maintenance by accessing information from government departments and using specialist tracing companies.

The agency can take enforcement actions, including wage garnishments, court orders, freezing accounts, and imposing fines for non-compliance.

Maintenance Process Facilitation

The CSA/CMS maintains regular contact with parents with care and non-resident parents to discuss the payable maintenance and provide payment options.

It ensures that periodic payments are continuously made and takes necessary actions to re-establish payments and recover arrears.

Applying for CSA/CMS

Applying for the CSA/CMS involves initiating the maintenance claim process. Parents with care can start the application process through the official channels provided by the agency.

Steps to Apply for CSA/CMS

  1. Initiating the Claim: Parents with care can initiate the claim process by providing necessary information about their circumstances and the non-resident parent.
  2. Agency Assessment: The CSA/CMS evaluates the provided information to determine the maintenance amount and payment arrangements.
  3. Enforcement Measures: In cases of non-compliance, the agency may resort to enforcement measures to secure the maintenance payments.

When Do CSA/CMS Payments Stop?

The CSA/CMS payments typically stop when the child reaches the age of 16, or 20 if they are in full-time education up to A-levels or equivalent. However, specific circumstances may affect the cessation of payments, such as the child entering into a qualifying apprenticeship or getting married.

Legislation Surrounding the CSA/CMS

The legislation governing the CSA/CMS is crucial in ensuring the fair and effective operation of the child maintenance system in the UK.

Key Aspects of Legislation

  • The Child Support Act 1991 laid the foundation for the establishment and functioning of the CSA.
  • The Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 introduced significant reforms to the child maintenance system, leading to the transition from the CSA to the CMS.
  • The Child Maintenance Service Act 2018 further refined the legal framework governing the CMS and its operations.

The Child Support Agency, now evolved into the Child Maintenance Service, serves as a vital institution in ensuring the financial well-being of children across the UK. Understanding its meaning, workings, application process, payment cessation, and legislative underpinnings is essential for parents seeking child maintenance support.

For more information and assistance regarding the CSA/CMS, individuals are encouraged to seek guidance from official sources and legal professionals.

By providing a comprehensive overview of the Child Support Agency (CSA) and its transition to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), this article aims to equip readers with valuable insights into the workings of the child maintenance system in the UK.

Using Family Mediation for Agreeing Child Maintenance Payments instead of the CSA/CMS

Family mediation can serve as a constructive and collaborative approach for parents to reach mutually acceptable agreements regarding child maintenance payments. This section will delve into the role of family mediation in facilitating discussions and negotiations related to child maintenance.

Understanding Family Mediation

  • Neutral Facilitation: Family mediation involves the assistance of a neutral third-party mediator who facilitates discussions between the parents to reach agreements on various issues, including child maintenance payments.
  • Emphasis on Collaboration: It promotes a cooperative and non-confrontational environment, allowing parents to work together in the best interests of their children.

Advantages of Family Mediation for Child Maintenance

  • Tailored Solutions: Mediation allows parents to tailor child maintenance arrangements to their unique circumstances, fostering a sense of ownership and fairness in the process.
  • Cost-Effective: Compared to legal proceedings, family mediation can be a cost-effective alternative for reaching agreements on child maintenance, potentially saving time and resources.
  • Preservation of Relationships: By encouraging open communication and understanding, mediation can help preserve or improve the parent-child and co-parenting relationships.

Process of Using Family Mediation for Child Maintenance

  • Initiating Mediation: Either parent can initiate the mediation process by contacting a qualified family mediator or a mediation service provider.
  • Mediation Sessions: The mediator facilitates structured discussions to help parents explore and negotiate child maintenance arrangements, considering factors such as the child’s needs, parents’ financial capabilities, and any special requirements.
  • Agreement Formulation: Through the mediation process, parents work towards formulating a child maintenance agreement that outlines the payment terms and any additional financial responsibilities.
  • Legal Review: It’s advisable for the proposed agreement to undergo legal review to ensure its compliance with relevant laws and its enforceability, providing additional security for both parents.

Legal Recognition of Mediated Agreements

In England and Wales, mediated agreements reached through family mediation can be legally recognised through a court order, providing them with the necessary legal standing and enforcement mechanisms. This means that the agreed child maintenance arrangements can be officially sanctioned and enforced, offering reassurance to both parents.


Family mediation stands as a valuable tool for parents to collaboratively negotiate and agree upon child maintenance payments in a supportive and non-adversarial setting. By embracing the principles of mediation, parents can work towards sustainable and child-focused maintenance solutions, promoting harmony and stability within the family dynamic.

Incorporating family mediation into the process of agreeing upon child maintenance payments can foster a positive and cooperative approach, ultimately benefiting the well-being of the children involved.

Case Study: Mediation vs. Solicitors and the CSA/CMS in Resolving Child Maintenance Disputes

In a case involving a family with child maintenance disputes, the decision to pursue mediation over engaging solicitors and the Child Support Agency/Child Maintenance Service (CSA/CMS) proved to be instrumental in achieving a more satisfactory outcome.

Case Background

Family Dynamics

  • The case involved a separated couple, Sarah and John, with two children.
  • John, the non-resident parent, had been inconsistent in meeting his child maintenance obligations, causing financial strain for Sarah and the children.

Initial Actions

  • Sarah initially sought legal advice from a family lawyer to explore options for compelling John to fulfil his child maintenance responsibilities through legal avenues.
  • John, on the other hand, was reluctant to engage directly with the CSA/CMS due to concerns about the potential financial implications and the perceived lack of control over the process.

Mediation Approach

Initiation of Mediation

  • Sarah, determined to find a viable solution that prioritized the well-being of her children, chose to explore mediation as an alternative approach to resolving the child maintenance issue.
  • With the assistance of a qualified family mediator, both Sarah and John agreed to participate in mediation sessions to address their child maintenance concerns.

Mediation Process

  • The mediation sessions provided a neutral and collaborative platform for Sarah and John to openly discuss their financial circumstances, the children’s needs, and the challenges they faced in meeting their respective responsibilities.
  • The mediator facilitated constructive discussions, encouraging both parties to focus on creating a sustainable child maintenance plan that considered the unique dynamics of their family.

Agreement Formulation

  • Through the mediation process, Sarah and John were able to reach a mutually acceptable child maintenance agreement that addressed the financial support required for their children.
  • The agreement was tailored to their specific circumstances, allowing for greater flexibility and consideration of the children’s evolving needs.

Outcome and Impact

Advantages of Mediation Over Legal Routes and CSA/CMS

Amicable Resolution

  • The mediation enabled Sarah and John to collaboratively shape a child maintenance plan, fostering a sense of ownership and cooperation that was absent in the legal approach.
  • Unlike the adversarial nature of legal proceedings, mediation promoted a more amicable and child-focused resolution to the dispute.


  • Opting for mediation proved to be a cost-effective solution compared to the potential expenses associated with legal actions and the uncertainties related to engaging the CSA/CMS.

Tailored and Sustainable Agreement

  • The mediated child maintenance agreement was tailored to the family’s specific needs, ensuring a sustainable and adaptable framework that considered the children’s well-being as a priority.

Long-Term Implications

  • By choosing mediation, Sarah and John not only resolved their immediate child maintenance concerns but also established a foundation for improved communication and cooperation in co-parenting matters.
  • The collaborative nature of mediation contributed to a more constructive relationship between the parents, potentially reducing future conflicts and enhancing the children’s overall welfare.