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What is The Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Bill and How Will it Affect Mediation?

Family with children playing

In early March of 2023, the House of Commons held a first reading for a new bill that would look to safeguard the financial security of individuals that have been affected by domestic abuse. The bill which has been dubbed the Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Bill, was introduced by Conservative MP Sally-Ann Hart and is expected to be the first of multiple steps that will be taken to lessen the financial control abusive partners or ex-partners have on their family members.

 

What is The Purpose of The Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Bill?

While coming in various forms, domestic abuse tends to be unified around the premise of power and the ways in which it can be exerted over an individual or individuals to gain an element of control over their lives. Through violent, degrading, or coercive behaviour, the abuser establishes dominance within the relationship affecting the victim’s mental health and sense of self-worth which can in turn make it very challenging to leave the relationship.

Even in instances where the victim is able to distance themselves from their abuser, financial reliance often means that ongoing contact between the two parties is maintained. This is most common when the abuse occurs between a couple who have a child together and maintenance payments are required. Naturally, this gives the abuser an opportunity to regain a semblance of control by being late to make the payments, not paying in full, or simply not paying at all. This is where the Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Bill looks to provide a solution by enforcing regular payments made in full through the Collect and Pay service.

 

Using Collect and Pay for Domestic Abuse Cases

The Collect and Pay service was imposed by the CMS (Child Maintenance Service) in order to help with the claiming of child maintenance in cases where the parent has been identified as being unlikely to make the agreed upon payments. The CMS are able to utilise a range of enforcement actions including direct withdrawal from the individuals’ pay check to ensure compliance with terms. Whilst reliable payments are already beneficial to victims of domestic abuse, the Collect and Pay system can also be carried out without providing paying parties with information on the recipient allowing for concealment of addresses and contact information.

While the benefits make Collect and Pay a worthwhile system for many victims of domestic abuse, the charges included within the service have raised scepticism as being elements that may add to – rather than lessen – the financial strain felt by victims. The charges incurred by Collect and Pay include:

  • An initial £20 CMS application fee.
  • An additional 20% charge on top of the maintenance for the paying parent.
  • 4% of the maintenance received by the claiming parent.

Between the initial £20 application fee and the 4% deduction from maintenance payments, the CMS are actively weakening the financial circumstances of domestic abuse victims many of whom would have previously been financially reliant on their partners. To them, 4% can make a world of difference.

The Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Bill highlights the hypocrisy of charging domestic abuse victims for using this service and looks to remove these payments whilst also making Collect and Pay more readily accessible to those in need by no longer needing permission from both parties in order for this to be implemented.

 

How Will This Affect Mediation?

Mediation isn’t always the right option for domestic abuse victims, especially in instances where negotiating a split could jeopardise the safety of either party. However, in instances where a mediator has recognised that this can be beneficial, the refinement of Collect and Pay makes it a far more practical solution for vulnerable couples – especially those that may have avoided the service previously due to financial constraints. The changes imposed by the Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Bill are likely to make Collect and Pay a more commonly recommended service offering within mediation and counselling.

 

Get in Touch With FMACS

At FMACS, we are experts in resolving couple disputes and helping families come to amicable resolutions across the fields of finance, childcare, and more. Get in touch with a member of our specialist team today on 0330 113 0005.

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