The DWP has announced the launch of a consultation on proposed further enforcement measures for non-payment of child maintenance via the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). How could this affect you?
Since the CMS launched in 2012 (taking over from the CSA) one of the biggest challenges has been to reduce the amount of maintenance that goes unpaid. Over time, various new powers have been brought in, including most recently the ability to confiscate driving licences and passports.
The problem of unpaid maintenance, however, remains a significant one.
What are the Proposed New Measures?
With the soaring cost of living, it is expected that more and more maintenance assessments may go unpaid, as paying parents struggle to keep up with increased outgoings. Of course, this comes at a time when, for receiving parents, payment is more important than ever.
The proposed new measures would allow the CMS to impose a curfew on parents in arrears - the monitoring of which would take place by electronic tagging in a way similar to the criminal justice system. The rationale is that defaulting parents will pay up, rather than having their lifestyle interrupted. Whether the measures are brought in and, if so, when and exactly how they work will remain to be seen.
The consultation is set to run until 12 August and anyone wishing to submit a response is invited to do so. The full details of the consultation and how to reply can all be found on the DWP website.
How Will the New Measures Affect You?
Child maintenance can be a complex issue, whether in respect to the assessment of the appropriate amount to be paid, or enforcement of any order, assessment or agreement once made. As households across the country tighten their belts, it is likely to become a point of dispute for many separated parents as they look to make finances stretch.
It is important that all parents, whether the payer or the recipient of maintenance, understand where they stand and what their options are in the event of a disagreement.
Read more on the options available when applying for child maintenance in our article: How to Arrange Child Maintenance Payments
The ideal way is of course for parents to be able to reach an agreement directly as to what maintenance should be paid. After all, no one knows your children or your situation better than you. However, even an agreement in writing is not legally binding, and so for some people things need to be dealt with more formally. Some cases are more complex, and it is not possible to reach an agreement. We often see how this can be for many reasons, including a lack of transparency about what a parent earns, hiding income and assets, or the child having particular or unusual needs. It may be that even once agreed or ordered, payment is not being made.
In some cases, it is a matter of working through the CMS system, but in others the Court may be able to assist. It is important to look at what is most suitable for your individual circumstances.
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