Child maintenance appeals and complaints
Before you can appeal a decision about payment amounts, you must contact the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to ask for the decision to be looked at again. You can also contact CMS if you’re unhappy with the service received. If following this you remain dissatisfied, you can make a complaint.
You can appeal a child maintenance decision about payment amounts to The Appeals Service (TAS(NI)). Before you can appeal, you must contact CMS to ask for the decision to be looked at again. This is called mandatory reconsideration. You’ll need to say why you disagree with the decision.
Following the completion of the mandatory reconsideration, you will receive a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice. If you’re unhappy with the outcome of the mandatory reconsideration, you can appeal to an independent tribunal within one month of the date of the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.
You must send the completed appeal form with the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice directly to TAS)
You can also appeal by writing a letter to TAS.
If you apply in writing you must:
- provide reasons for the appeal
- sign it, or have someone legally authorised to act on your behalf
- include your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice
Appeals are heard by TAS, an independent organisation separate from CMS. This is a formal process and the tribunal members who will take another look at the decision, will be appointed by TAS.
They will include a legally qualified member and sometimes a person who has financial expertise, such as an accountant.
Decisions you can't appeal
You cannot appeal against administrative decisions about collecting and enforcing child maintenance payments. For example, a paying parent can’t appeal against a decision to use an enforced deduction from earnings order to collect unpaid child maintenance. But they may be able to go to court to challenge such decisions.
You also cannot appeal against a decision because you are denying you are the child's parent. A separate process is used to manage disputes over this.
However, if you have been presumed to be the parent of a child you can appeal the decision.
Information on managing disputed parentage and appealing presumed parentage is available on the pages below:
TAS may also decide not to go ahead with your appeal if it has no reasonable prospect of success because you want to appeal against something that is set out in law, such as the way child maintenance is worked out.
What happens when a decision is appealed
While a maintenance decision is being appealed, it will stay in force. The paying parent must still pay child maintenance until the issue is sorted out.
If a new decision is made, it may either increase or reduce the amount of child maintenance due.
Complaints about the service you have received from CMS
If you’re unhappy with the service provided by CMS, you should contact them and explain what part of the service you’re unhappy about.
You can complain about how CMS managed your case or the service you received. You cannot appeal these issues through the legal system.
The First Stage in the CMS complaints process is called the Dissatisfaction Stage. When you contact CMS and explain the reasons you are unhappy with the service, the caseworker will open a Dissatisfaction Request. The Caseworker and Team Leader will then investigate this and provide a resolution plan.
Stage 1 complaint
If you are still not satisfied after the resolution action has been taken, you can request for your issues to be escalated to the NI CMS Complaints Resolution Team. They will then investigate the issues as a Stage 1 complaint.
Stage 2 complaint
If you are still not satisfied after the response and resolution action that has been taken by the Complaints Resolution Team, you can request that your complaint be escalated to Stage 2 of the complaints process. This means the Director of NI CMS will investigate your complaint and provide you with a response in writing. This is the last stage of the NI CMS Complaints Process.
When your complaint is received by the NI CMS Complaints Resolution Team, at Stage 1 or Stage 2, you will receive an acknowledgment by letter or telephone within 2 working days. CMS will aim to provide a full response to your complaint within 15 working days. If more time is needed to resolve your concerns, CMS will contact you and advise you of the new timescales.
If you used the full complaint’s process but think your complaint wasn't properly investigated, you can ask the Independent Case Examiner or the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman to investigate your complaint.