Child maintenance is not being received. What can you do?

Child maintenance is not being received. What can you do?

Child maintenance – what happens if your child’s other parent doesn’t pay?

Child maintenance is generally paid to the parent who deals with most of the day-to-day childcare, with payments made by the child’s other parent. If payments stop, it can make life very difficult for both parent and child.

Payments are agreed upon at the time of divorce or separation. The route for enforcing maintenance payments will depend on how they were originally agreed.

The amount of child maintenance to be paid is decided upon in one of three ways, either by agreement between parents, through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) or by way of a Court Order.

Enforcing child maintenance payments that were agreed in a private arrangement

If you reached an agreement as to the amount of child maintenance to be paid, this may be included in the Financial Order that deals with the settlement of any claims flowing from a Divorce.  If you are not married and separating from your partner, it is possible to refer to such payments with a Separation Agreement.

If your child’s other parent has stopped making payments, the first step is to speak to them and try and find out the reason. If there is a Financial Order in place, for a year or more, you can ask the CMS to arrange maintenance payments to be made to you.

They will not collect any arrears, but you will be entitled to payments through the CMS from the date of your application to them.

Alternatively, you can make an application to the Court to enforce the Order and recover all the money owed to you. This also applies to parents where child maintenance was imposed by Order of the Court.

Enforcing child maintenance payments through the CMS

If the CMS arranged child maintenance or if you have asked them to step in to collect child maintenance, they have a range of options to deal with a non-paying parent. These include:

  • Requiring the paying parent’s employer to deduct the sum from their wages
  • Ordering the paying parent’s bank to take payment from their account; this could be either regular payments or a lump sum and could be taken from a joint account or an unlimited partnership account or a sole trader account
  • Asking the Court for a liability order to recover the money owed

The CMS’s ‘collect and pay’ service can often be an effective way of ensuring that payments are made if the paying parent has been reluctant to pay regularly or on time. If the CMS experience difficulties in obtaining the money, a liability order allows them to take further steps to obtain the outstanding payments, including:

  • Asking bailiffs to liaise with the parent to obtain the outstanding amount, failing which the bailiffs will seize and sell goods
  • Obtaining an order for sale allowing disposal of property or other assets to cover the amount owed
  • Registering a charging order against any property owned by the parent
  • Registering the outstanding debt on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines that will affect their credit rating until the debt is cleared
  • Revoking passport or driving licence or disqualifying the parent from applying for these
  • In extreme cases, asking the court to impose a custodial sentence

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