Child maintenance consultation launched
The Department for Work and Pensions is seeking the opinions and views of the general public on changing the powers and options the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has in order to assist with stronger compliance, collection and enforcement methods to make sure parents are meeting their responsibilities towards their children.
The Child Maintenance Service was established in 2012 to replace the old Child Support Agency (CSA). With the new CMS came a new way of calculating child maintenance. Payments are now based on the paying parent’s gross weekly income, the number of children they must pay for, the number of children they live with and how often they have their children overnight during the week. The CMS was also designed to try and give more power to parents to make their own arrangements when it comes to the payment of maintenance, with the CMS being a fall back last resort option for the collection and payment of maintenance.
Steps have previously been taken by the government to strengthen the action taken against parents who do not pay the child maintenance they owe, including consulting on seizing unpaid maintenance from joint bank accounts. The current consultation proposals include:
- removing passports – parents who persistently do not pay the child maintenance they owe could face being banned from holding or obtaining a UK passport for up to two years
- improved calculations – income from capital, foreign income, notional income from assets and unearned income could all be taken into account when the CMS works out how much maintenance a parent owes
- deductions from business accounts – the CMS could seize funds from sole trader and partnership accounts to pay off a parent’s unpaid maintenance bill.
The consultation also outlines proposals to address historic unpaid child maintenance built up under the old CSA, and options for writing it off. New analysis shows that it would cost the government £1.5 billion to collect the debt, most of which is owed on CSA cases where the children are now adults.
The consultation closes on 8 February 2018 and can be accessed here.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.