How child maintenance Annual Review works

To make sure a parent pays the right amount of child maintenance, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) looks at the paying parent’s income. CMS also reviews their benefits and other circumstances every year, to decide if the maintenance should stay the same, increase or decrease. This is an Annual Review.

Why an Annual Review is necessary

The parent who doesn’t have the day-to-day care (the ‘paying parent’) pays child maintenance to the parent or person who does (the ‘receiving parent’).

When making a child maintenance decision, CMS uses the paying parent’s taxable gross annual income (along with other circumstances) to work out the amount they should pay. It doesn’t take the receiving parent’s income into account.

Taxable gross annual income is the paying parent’s yearly income before Income Tax and National Insurance are taken off, but after occupational or personal pension scheme contributions are taken away.

You must tell CMS about changes that may affect the amount you have to pay, for example a change in income or benefits you get. The Annual Review is a different process. It happens for a number of reasons as it:

  • lets both parents know that previous child maintenance decisions can be updated regularly
  • ensures payments are as accurate as possible
  • allows CMS to check if anything else has changed (not just income) that they need to take into account

The paying parent must continue to pay the child maintenance set out in their Collection Schedule until any change, if any, happens as a result of the Annual Review.

How the Annual Review works

The Annual Review period lasts for 30 days and is made up of two parts:

  • thirty days before the Annual Review date
  • the actual date of the Annual Review decision

Thirty days before Annual Review date

Thirty days before the review date, CMS begins the process of calculating the amount of child maintenance due for the next 12 months.

It will:

  • contact HMRC to find out the latest available gross income for the paying parent and also check whether they are getting any benefits
  • work out the weekly amount of child maintenance
  • write to both parents to let them know the amount of child maintenance due from the Annual Review date, the figures used and how it was calculated   

If either parent disagrees with any of the figures used to calculate the child maintenance or has information they think could change it, they have up to the date of the Annual Review to contact CMS.

If a change is made because of the information provided by either parent, CMS will backdate the change to the date of the Annual Review decision.

The Annual Review date

CMS will write to both parents on the day of the Annual Review date giving them the child maintenance decision and a schedule of payments (if there are any payments). The amount of child maintenance due may have stayed the same, gone up or down depending on the circumstances of each individual case.

CMS will also send a child maintenance statement showing any payments made or received during the previous 12 months.

The Annual Review date decision lasts until the next Annual Review 12 months later, unless changes happen that affect payments before then.

If your circumstances change

If you have any small changes in your personal circumstances they don’t normally affect your maintenance calculation.

If there's a big change in circumstances, the calculation may need to be changed before an Annual Review takes place. For example, if you're the parent paying maintenance you should tell the CMS if:

  • your current income changes by 25 per cent or more
  • you have another child with a new partner

CMS will then decide if the maintenance calculation needs to be changed.

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