DfC: COVID-19 and CMS

COVID-19: Child Maintenance Service

This page provides the latest information about COVID-19 and the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). It will be updated regularly with the latest information.

This information is for Northern Ireland only, if you live in England, Scotland or Wales please visit GOV.UK

For general heath advice relating to COVID-19, please visit the Public Health Agency's website. Key information is also available in Sign Language on this PHA page.


Child Maintenance Service (CMS)

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) continues to deliver essential services during the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. 

New customers are encouraged to make family-based arrangements - parents can use the online calculator to work out an amount, and keep a record of any payments they make between themselves.

CMS understand that economic circumstances resulting from Covid-19 may place some customers in a position where they are unable to meet their child maintenance payments. Over time, CMS will ensure all customers pay or receive the right amount of child maintenance and that calculations are backdated where needed and unpaid amounts pursued.

CMS will assist customers by signposting them to Departmental benefits, where applicable, to ensure that money is available to parents to continue to meet their financial responsibilities for their children.  CMS will engage with both parents to discuss the most appropriate child maintenance arrangement going forward.

Money received via Collect and Pay arrangements will be passed on as quickly as possible, and action is being taken to provide additional support to separated parents to help them cope with the impact of COVID-19. This includes:

Calculation 

The time period for reconsidering a paying parent’s maintenance liability in cases of a COVID-19 change in income will be reduced from 12 weeks to 2 weeks. This is intended to help reduce the short-term financial pressure that will be experienced by many paying parents. It is acknowledged that this may have a short-term negative impact on the income of some receiving parents and CMS will revert to the 12-week time-period as soon as possible.

All non-COVID-19 related change in incomes will remain at 12 weeks.

Changes of circumstance 

For reporting any changes of circumstance (other than those listed below) parents are encouraged to report these changes online.  You can report them by registering or logging into your My Child Maintenance Case account. You can access the site 24 hours a day. The vast majority of My Child Maintenance Case messages received by NI CMS are currently actioned and cleared within 5 working days.

However, if your circumstances have changed for one of the following reasons, call the Child Maintenance Service straightaway:

  • If you have lost your job
  • If you are temporarily receiving no income while you are self-isolating during the outbreak of Coronavirus
  • If you are temporarily receiving statutory sick pay during the outbreak of Coronavirus
  • If child maintenance should no longer be paid because of a change in circumstances
  • If you are adopting a child, or
  • If you are reporting a bereavement

CMS currently accept verbal evidence of a COVID-19 related reduction in income and will prioritise loss of job changes over other changes in income. CMS will monitor the impact of this and will revert to the previous standards of evidence required for changes of circumstances as soon as possible.

In addition, CMS will also revise calculations, and pursue arrears and / or enforcement action against anyone who has abused this short-term measure once the crisis has stabilised.

Vulnerable customers, including those with no internet access, can report any changes by phone.

Deduction from Earnings Orders (DEOs) 

CMS currently impose DEOs under normal business.


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