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New measures to tackle parents who refuse to pay child maintenance

November 15th 2023

The Government is planning new measures to deal with parents who refuse to pay child maintenance.

Amy Fallows Senior Associate Solicitor & Head of our Family Law team reports.

Those who fail to meet their obligations will face accelerated sanctions following the introduction of powers to speed up enforcement action and other reforms to make the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) fairer.

A consultation is now taking place on the use of liability orders to speed up enforcement action, the removal of the application fee to the CMS and longer-term changes.

The consultation lays the groundwork for new regulations that will accelerate tough sanctions on non-paying parents – such as forcing the sale of property – by modernising the enforcement process. 

Families will be paid faster as the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will be able to use an administrative liability order to recover unpaid child maintenance instead of applying to the courts and waiting up to 22 weeks. It’s anticipated this change could reduce the wait for further action to around six to eight weeks. 

Around 10,000 parents a year who wilfully refuse to pay maintenance are estimated to be affected by the new liability order regulations, to the benefit of thousands of children and parents for whom child maintenance is a key source of financial security. 

Removal of the £20 application fee 

There is currently a £20 application fee to apply to the CMS for assistance securing the financial support a parent is owed, although victims of domestic abuse and applicants aged under 19 are exempt.  

The Government will remove this application fee for all parents so that children in the poorest families are not unfairly disadvantaged if their parent cannot afford the £20.  

Changes to maintenance calculations 

The Government will legislate to ensure unearned income, such as savings, investment, dividend and property income, is taken into account automatically when the maintenance calculation is made. This will make it more difficult for the small number of parents who avoid paying the correct amount.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said: “Parents need to take financial responsibility for their children. It’s completely unfair that it can take so long to get children support they are due. I am determined to go after those parents who are refusing to pay up when we know they can.

“Child maintenance makes a real difference to the life chances of many thousands of children. The CMS can and does enforce compliance, but we want to enable it to act much faster.

“These new powers will improve how the Child Maintenance Service supports children of separated parents, helping families receive child maintenance faster and preventing further arrears.”

The liability order consultation is published here www.gov.uk/government/consultations/child-maintenance-accelerating-enforcement and closes on 24 November. 

If you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law please contact Amy on 01228 516666 or click here to send her an email.

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