August 8, 2023
Scott Emsden, the Bates Wells & Braithwaite partner with a specialist focus on children & social care, welcomes the new law which gives the DWP greater power to reclaim unpaid child maintenance.
Child maintenance covers how the costs associated with raising a child are paid when its parents do not live together. This is a required commitment even if the two parents have never been in a recognised relationship. The usual scenario is that the parent not living with the child pays child maintenance payments to the parent who is living with the child. Financial arrangements, calculated on declared earnings, are required if your child is under 16 or under 20 if they are still in full-time education.
Sadly not all non-resident parents are happy to comply with child maintenance arrangements. Back in 2015, it was as high as 45%. Although compliance is rising, non-payment of child maintenance is still a huge problem for low income single parent families. In March 2022 government statistics confirmed that 820,000 children were covered by Child Maintenance Service (CMS) arrangements. In the quarter ending March 2022, of 164,500 Paying Parents due to pay via the Collect & Pay service:60,700 (37%) paid no maintenance at all.
Thanks to a Private Members’ Bill sponsored by Siobhan Baillie MP and Baroness Redfern, the Child Support (Enforcement) Act received Royal Assent on 20 July 2023. The new law means that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be able to impose tougher sanctions which could mean that non-paying parents could find themselves losing their passport, driving licence or even their home.
Under the new regulations, the DWP has the power to use a liability order to reclaim unpaid child maintenance instead of applying to court and waiting up to 20 weeks. For further information, see Government press release July 2023
Child maintenance remains a complex area, fraught with emotion. Avoidance is also not just an issue for those who have low earnings and finding it difficult to make ends meet. Recent media articles have highlighted a number of wealthy fathers accused of using loopholes to dodge child maintenance payments to their former partners. Progress is being made in terms of the law, and we welcome these recent positive steps to encourage compliance made possible by the new law.
If you are experiencing issues with regards to child maintenance, we may be able to help. Please contact a member of our Family team.