DWP report states non-resident parents paying child maintenance hits an ‘all time high’ – does this reflect reality?

According to a recent Department for Work and Pensions report (DWP), the number of non-resident parents who are paying towards the cost of their children through the Child Support Agency (CSA) has reached an all-time high of 86.5%. The report also states that in the past twelve months, the CSA has helped collect and arrange more than £1.2 billion of payments due to tougher enforcement action against parents who have refused to pay. The DWP report highlights other enforcement methods which are now being pursued, including the use of bailiffs and in March 2015, the DWP will have the power to disclose non-payment or refusal to pay maintenance to credit reference agencies.

Although this report shows that more parents are meeting their obligations to support their children, a BBC News report pointed out that government accounts show that £2.9billion of the £3.9 billion in maintenance arrears are ‘uncollectable’. However, the DWP has responded to this stating that it is not ignoring old debts; however where a child is still being brought up or still at school they will be the first priority.

How to enforce child maintenance arrears

The Child Maintenance Service or the CSA (depending on which service you use) will take action if child maintenance is not paid. You will need to contact the CMS or the CSA to take action. Then the CSA or the CMS will contact the ‘paying’ parent to find out why they haven’t paid, arrange for them to pay what they owe and warn them about action that might be taken if they don’t pay. The ‘paying’ parent will then have a week to respond. If no response is received, the CMS or the CSA can then take action to get the child maintenance owed.

Unpaid child maintenance can be collected in 3 different ways:

  • From a paying parent’s earnings or benefits
  • From a bank or building society account
  • Court action

When a parent stops paying child maintenance or refuses to pay this can cause severe financial difficulties and unnecessary hardship towards the children. Based on the DWP report it seems that it is now easier to enforce arrears of maintenance however, it remains to be seen how effective these methods will be and whether ‘old debts’ will ever be recovered.

How we can help

The Child Maintenance Service introduced fees and charges for using the service in June 2014. Parents making a new application to the CMS will have to pay a £20 application fee. If no agreement can be reached about paying, the CMS will collect the money on your behalf but there will be further charges. It is possible to avoid all potential fees and charges by agreeing child maintenance without the involvement of the CMS.

We want to help you make the most suitable child maintenance arrangement. Amongst other services, we are able to draw up an agreement reflecting what has been agreed in relation to payment of child maintenance. We can discuss your options and work with you to decide what it the best way to proceed. Consulting our specialist lawyers in our Altrincham or Manchester offices is a great first step. Contact us now on 0161 927 3118 for a free 20 minute consultation.