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The 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme - challenging a decision

This advice applies to Wales

There are different ways to query or challenge a maintenance decision made by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme.

If the decision was made by the Child Support Agency under the 1993 or 2003 Schemes, you shouldn't use this information as the rules may be different.

This page tells you how you can challenge a decision made by the CMS and where you can get more help.

How can you challenge a decision made by the CMS

If you’re not happy about a maintenance decision the CMS has made and you think they've made a mistake, you may be able to ask them to look at it again. This is also called asking for a review or a reconsideration.

The time limit for asking for a review is one month from the date of the letter telling you about the decision.

If you miss this deadline, you may be able to ask for a late revision in exceptional circumstances. However, you must make the request no later than 13 months after you were told of the decision.

Appealing against a decision

In England, Wales and Scotland, for decisions made on or after 28 October 2013, and in Northern Ireland, for decisions made on or after 11 July 2016 , you will not be able to make an appeal until the decision has first been looked at again by the CMS. This is called a mandatory reconsideration.

Late appeals may be accepted, but there have to be good reasons and the other parent may be asked if they object to the appeal being accepted after the one-month time limit.

Coronavirus - if you’re appealing a child maintenance decision to the tribunal

If possible, a tribunal judge will assess your case without a hearing. Instead they’ll make a decision based only on the documents.

Some tribunals have closed so it’s a good idea to check where you should send your documents - you can find contact details for your tribunal on GOV.UK.

Send any evidence you have as soon as possible - for example, financial documents like bank statements.

If the judge assesses your case based on the documents, they’ll send you a ‘provisional decision’. If you don’t agree with the provisional decision, tell the tribunal you want a hearing instead.

If there has to be a hearing, the tribunal might suggest a phone call or video conference.

Tell the tribunal as soon as possible if you will find it difficult to have a remote hearing. For example, tell them if you don’t have the equipment for a conference call. You can find out what happens at a remote hearing on GOV.UK.

When you can’t appeal to a tribunal

You can't appeal to a tribunal if:

  • you deny you're the parent of the child
  • you're unhappy with the service you've received from the CMS
  • you want to appeal against a deduction of earnings order. You will have to appeal to the county court
  • If you want to challenge a decision because your circumstances have changed

If your circumstances change, you can ask the CMS to alter a child maintenance calculation to reflect the changes. Changes of circumstances include:

  • where income goes up or down by 25 per cent or more
  • the parent paying maintenance becomes financially responsible for a new child
  • children who were getting maintenance no longer qualify to get it.

This is called a supersession. You can apply for a supersession at any time. There is no time limit.

Varying a decision

You can ask the CMS to vary a decision it has made about child maintenance. You can do this because something has changed in your life and new rules apply for working out the maintenance calculation. For example, you now have special expenses that weren't taken into account in the original calculation and which might affect how much you should pay.

You can apply for a variation at any time as long as you have grounds. There is no time limit for doing this.

Asking for a judicial review

If you think the law has not been properly applied to your case, you may be able to ask the High Court for a judicial review. You will need expert legal advice about how to do this.

You must make a judicial review claim as soon as possible and within three months of the decision you want to challenge. In exceptional circumstances this time limit can be extended, but you can’t rely on this.

If you want to complain about the service you received from the CMS

You may be unhappy about the way you’ve been treated by the CMS, even though you aren’t disputing a decision they have made. For example, there may have been delays in dealing with your claim.

You can complain about poor service, either informally or formally. It's best to start by speaking with person you've been dealing with to try and sort out the problem informally. If this doesn't work you can make a formal complaint using the CMS complaints service.

There is no time limit within which you must complain. In some cases you might get compensation although this will depend on what's happened.

Next steps

The CMS produces a leaflet which tells you more about how to:

  • dispute a decision
  • ask for a review
  • make an appeal
  • make a complaint about the CMS
  • what to do if you deny you’re the father of the children.

You can download a leaflet about the CMS complaints procedure from GOV.UK.

Other useful information

  • Find out more about asking for a judicial review on the Public Law Project's website:
  • What happens when someone denies they are the parent of the child:
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