Separated parents will be hit by fees if they cannot reach an amicable agreement over child support under a new system that comes into force today.

Mothers and fathers who turn to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to collect and pay settlements face losing significant sums of cash.

Non-resident parents will be forced to hand over 20 per cent on top of the payments and the other parent will lose 4 per cent of the money received.

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Applications to use the new system will cost £20 and absent parents who have to be pursued through the courts or have maintenance deducted from their earnings will also be hit by extra charges of up to £300.

Ministers insist that the reforms are being introduced to encourage parents to work together to make their own arrangements over money.