CMS Advice
Legal Advice for Paying and Receiving Parents on all Child Maintenance Matters
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Frequently Asked Questions about the Child Maintenance.

Thank you for looking. We are Durham Legal Services, the UK's leading independent provider of Child Maintenance Advice.  CLICK HERE to arrange your appointment or call 01207 693966 to purchase your legal advice voucher


1. I'm in London and you're in Durham / I live abroad, can you help me?

Based in Consett, Co Durham we represent thousands of paying and receiving parents throughout the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland with all manner of child maintenance problems. We are totally independent and not connected in any way to either the Child Support Agency or the Child Maintenance Service.

The volume and variety of our child support cases make us unique among other organisations dealing with this area of law. If you have a CSA or CMS problem WE CAN HELP. 

2. My hearing is next week, can you help me?

Unless we're already booked out to be somewhere else, we should be able to help you, but if you know you have a hearing coming up, it is always better to give us as much time as you can

3. How much will it cost?

Full case management with tribunal representation

This is our most popular option. After all, what good is it to you if your legal adviser doesn’t want to speak to you about the CMS enforcing on the arrears which are currently under appeal? How does it help you if the thought of dealing with the CMS makes you feel ill but your legal adviser won’t help? What happens if you don’t understand the appeals process and a deadline is missed?

And really, what good is a quote for one tribunal attendance when 90% plus of the time these days hearings go to at least two dates so that Directions are issued and then a final hearing is set. If you’re being charged individually for hearings plus administration plus travel plus waiting time, your costs are quickly going to mount up. So, this is what we do:

What’s included:

·         Dealing with the Child Maintenance Service on your behalf in all matters arising from changes of address to getting your dispute to appeal, including problems with enforcement and getting replies to queries

·         Attendance at two hearings on the same appeal to cover you for an adjourned Directions hearing and a final hearing

·         All travel time, waiting time, accommodation and other disbursements

·         All appointments, either by telephone or face to face and all administration

If you’re already part-way through an appeals process or don’t want us involved with the CMS for you, it’s not a problem, please just give us a ring and we’ll tailor the fee to fit your requirements

If you suffer at the hands of a “serial appealer” and are facing years of hearings and CMS investigations, we understand, please just give us a ring to find out how ongoing fees can be looked at.  

 Arrears investigation

Not everyone needs full case management as their problems are all about old arrears – how have they come about, where do the amounts come from, why do you owe what you are being asked for and can you do anything about it?

We offer a fixed fee arrears investigation where we will obtain your old records and provide you with a written report, supporting documents and full-length appointment to go over it all with a fully qualified lawyer. We’ll advise you on what challenges can be made and how to go about it. We won’t be registered as your representative with CMS so you’ll will retain full control of your case.

The cost is £700 which can be split over two instalments with a £50 discount for full upfront £650 payment.    

Other services

Each case is as individual as the people involved in it so it’s impossible for us to cover every combination of fee but you can see that we are offer real value for money, a helping hand to make it affordable and a full, professional, qualified legal service. We deal with the CSA, the CMS, the First-tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal. We offer representation, advice, guidance and a huge amount of experience in the field of child maintenance. If you need assistance with something we haven’t covered, please call 01207 693966 and we’ll see how we can help.

4. If you're representing me, do I need to go to my hearing?

That depends on what the appeal is about but, whatever it is, we'll help you through.

5. I need to complete an appeal application form, can you do that for me?

We can complete the appeal application for you as part of the appeals preparation or representation work.

6. I would like a face to face meeting, can I have one?

Yes, you can. We can make arrangements for you to come to our offices in Durham and you are welcome to visit us to go over your case. In any event, your representative will usually meet you before any hearing to go over what to expect.

7. Will I still need to send lots of stuff to the Tribunal?

Yes and No! If we're helping you, you will still need to supply the evidence but you can send it to us in a way that suits you and we will check it's good to go and send it to the TS in an accceptable fashion. We will also help you to keep track of what's gone in and what still needs to be supplied. We will also check that the Directions ask for things which are relevant and question the Direction if we don't think they are.

8. How do I know I can trust a company I've found on the internet?

a) We're not ringing you up at 8:30pm telling you we're a new Government initiative - you're free to call us or not.

b) If we wanted to run a scam company there are many easier ways to do it than going to University to take a law degree and learning twenty years' of child support legislation.

c) Look up Upper Tribunal decision GR vs CMEC 2011 UKUT 101 AAT which now gives us the legal definition of a person with care - that's our Mike Smith in there.

9. Will you help with a private agreement?

On the day of the hearing, if it's appropriate, we will always attemp to reach a settlement with the other party if that's in the best interest of the children. This can include an arrears recovery agreement.

10. Where can I find a CMS Calculator

If you need a CMS calculator, we suggest you use our Footprint CMA Calculator app at a cost of £0.99p.

11. Where can I get free advice

If you have a low income and live in Scotland you could qualify for Legal Aid. In England and Wales you cannot get legal aid for child maintenance matters. Free legal advice is almost impossible to find. All major organisations dealing with child maintenance problems charge a fee although here at DLS we offer a legal fee guarantee. Please see our home page for details.

12. At what age does Child Maintenance stop ?

The governing factor which determines when child maintenance stops is the existence of a qualified child. A qualifying child is a child who is under the age of 20 in full time non-advanced education, who does not live full time with one of their natural parents.

13. How can I stop any charges

Charges are only applicable on CMS liabilities and again you will only pay a surcharge fee if you fail to make your regular maintenance. If you have arrears prior to moving to the new scheme you will be given a chance to put an arrangement in place that allows you to pay direct to the PWC. 

14. Shared Care

The circumstances around 50/50 shared care and day to day care need to be looked at carefully and there is no quick answer we can give here

15. What can I do if the paying parent is hiding their income

Under CMS income details come direct from HMRC. The Child Maintenance Service are required in law to accept that income. If you suspect that the paying parent is hiding income you will need legal advice on your options.

16. What if the paying parent's lifestyle is inconsistent with their declared income or they've got assets I think should be included?

Under CMS you can no longer apply for a Variation Order on grounds of lifestyle but Tribunals are still keen to have a look at it so don't dismiss it. Assets can also be looked at if they're over £32,250. If you feel that the paying parent could be liable for this or other undeclared income, you will need legal advice on your options.

17. Will my Variation Order transfer to CS3

All existing Variation Orders or Departure Directions will be cancelled once your CS1 or CS2 case is closed. They will not transfer on to any new CS3 case that is opened. 

Child Maintenance Service Advice

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Why DLS?

We are confident not only about the advice we offer but the standard of that advice. Durham Legal Services has represented people with child support problems for the last twenty years. We know we can help you if you have a real CSA problem.

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