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Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Sunday 16 December 2018

Extracting Child Support Payments and Arrears: 'We have ways!'

So they won't pay the child support, eh? The prospect of some time inside doesn't trouble them. They keep their goods well hidden so the bailiff will end up tearing his (or her) hair out. They haven't got an employer so there's no opportunity to have their pay docked. They aren't so stupid as to keep their money in current or savings accounts so no chance of swooping in on that. And they don't own any land or buildings so nothing there to charge. 

But they do have a delicious looking UK passport which comes in handy for drug smuggling and holidays with their new partners. From last Friday 14 December 2018*  a magistrates’ court in England and Wales will be empowered, because of the arrears, to disqualify them from holding a UK passport (or obtaining an ID card recording that they are a British citizen) for up to two years. The court will have to consider whether a passport is needed to earn a living, along with the defaulter’s means. The order could be suspended if the defaulter agrees to pay and there are special circumstances!!!

Irritatingly for evading defaulters, as from last Thursday 13 December 2018, a loophole is closed with power to the Child Maintenance Service to use regular and lump sum deduction orders in relation to joint bank accounts and unlimited partnership bank accounts and lump sum deduction orders in relation to sole trader accounts. 

The 1993 and 2003 child support schemes provide for a notional income to be attributed to non-resident parents in respect of certain assets held by them. These provisions were not carried forward to the current 2012 scheme but will now apply Income from the asset will be deemed at 8% of value and an asset worth no more than £31,250 will be disregarded. Assets subject to a trust of which the non-resident parent is a beneficiary will rank but among the disregards will be assets used in the course of the parent’s business, the primary residence of the parent or their child and assets which would need to be sold to meet the maintenance where a sale would cause hardship to a child of the non-resident parent or would be unreasonable in the circumstances.

The Child Maintenance Service's power to write off arrears under the 1993 and 2003 schemes - £2.5bn is owed to parents – is widened, following representations against in some instances and without the need to seek representations where arrears are under £500 (or under £1,000 where the case started on or before 1 November 2008). 

So if the parent of your child has defaulted under their child support obligations and the Child Maintenance Service has so far got nowhere with enforcement action, press the Service to use its new powers. And press again.

* See Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 (Commencement No 16) Order 2018 SI/2018/1261if you don't believe me.