Other financial commitments in child maintenance cases

You can ask the Child Maintenance Service to look at its maintenance decision again if a parent has new expenses or extra income that wasn’t considered first time around. This is called ‘applying for a variation.’

Applying for a variation

Either parent can apply for a variation at any time during the life of a child maintenance case but it will only be accepted on certain grounds and these differ depending on whether you are the paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) or receiving parent (parent with care, 2003 scheme).

The only reasons you can apply for a variation are set out below (they are included in child support law). For other changes of circumstances you may have to ask for a review or an appeal of the calculation.

Before applying for a variation, you need to think whether you have the proper reasons for doing so and whether CMS is going to agree to one. CMS will always consider the welfare of any child likely to be affected by any variation in payments.

When a paying parent can apply for a variation

If you are a paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) you can ask for certain expenses, which reduce your gross income, to be taken into account. These are called “special expenses” and are for:

  • the cost of keeping in regular contact with the child or children you pay child  maintenance for – for example, the cost of fuel to travel between your home and the child’s home
  • costs to support children who live with you if they have a disability or a long-term illness
  • repaying debts from the former relationship – for example, if you are paying a car loan for a car the receiving parent has kept
  • some boarding school fees for the child or children you pay child maintenance for – but only the everyday living costs or ‘boarding’ part of the fees
  • making payments on a mortgage, loan or insurance policy for the home you and the receiving parent used to share – the receiving parent and the child or children must still live in the home and you must have no legal or ‘equitable’ interest in it

All the above special expenses, apart from supporting children who live with you if they have a disability or a long-term illness, must be for more than £10 per week.

If your gross income is less than £7 a week (£5 per week, 2003 scheme) or you are getting benefits, you can’t ask for any special expenses to be taken into account.

When a receiving parent can apply for a variation

You can apply for a variation if you think the paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) has other taxable income that wasn’t taken into account in the initial maintenance calculation. This is called “additional income” and includes:

  • “unearned” income – such as rent that the paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) gets from property or land, or dividends and interest from savings and investments - this must be at least £2,500 a year
  • “earned” income – is when the paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme)  or their partner is getting benefits (and qualifies to pay flat rate child maintenance) but also has gross income from a pension, employment or self employment - this income must be at least £100 a week
  • “diversion” of income – is when it is thought that the paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) may be hiding their full income so not all of it is included in the Child Maintenance calculation - for example giving it to someone else, such as their partner, or redirecting their money such as towards a company car, instead of taking a higher salary. 
  • if the paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) has assets (money or property) worth more than £65,000 – for property this is the value after any outstanding mortgage has been taken off and does not include the home they are living in or assets used for their business (this ground for a variation can only be considered under the 2003 scheme)
  • if the paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) is living the life of someone who has a higher income than that used to work out the initial child maintenance payment (this ground for a variation can only be considered under the 2003 scheme)

Whichever parent applies for a variation, CMS will share the information provided with the other parent. This will let them get information from everyone involved, before it makes a decision. CMS will also use other sources of information such as Companies House.

How to apply for a variation

You can apply for a variation at any time and make an application:

  • over the phone by contacting CMS
  • online through the CMS self service portal if you have registered your case

If the telephone application is complicated, you may be asked to apply in writing on an application form. Provide as much information as possible in your application, including why you are applying.

When you disagree with the decision

If you disagree with the CMS decision, you have 30 days from that date you were notified to contact them and explain why you think the decision is wrong.

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