WHILST Christmas is seen as a time for families and children, what about those children whose parents are separated and one parent does not provide financially for their child?

December 2018 saw some significant changes to child maintenance enforcement powers. The changes include:

  • Extending income structures for calculation purposes
  • Authorising deductions from joint accounts and unlimited partnership accounts
  • Removing the right to a passport for parents who don’t pay

The changes mean that more money will be going to children to support their upbringing.

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) works with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to gather information on a parent’s earnings.

This information is used to assess how much a paying parent should pay in child maintenance to the receiving parent (the parent who has the main day-to-day care of the child).

As well as the traditional sources of income (earnings from work, savings, investments and property) the CMS will now include the following types of income in child maintenance calculations:

  • assets such as coins, gold and property (not including the paying parent’s home)
  • income generated from an asset over time or from a sale
  • foreign income
  • any unearned income, such as inheritance, rental income and interest on bank accounts

The paying parent will not have to sell their home or the property where they do their business, to pay any additional child maintenance.

From 20 December 2018, the CMS can make deductions from joint accounts and unlimited partnership accounts.

If there isn’t enough money in the paying parent’s individual account, CMS will try to make deductions from their joint account if they have one.

If unsuccessful the CMS can make deductions from their unlimited partnership account, if they have one, but only if the account balance is in credit by more than £2,000, and in exceptional circumstances

All account holders have the right to ask CMS to review a decision about reductions from the joint or unlimited partnership account.

The CMS also have the power to disqualify a paying parent from holding or obtaining a passport if they have consistently avoided paying their child maintenance debt.

If the debt is over £1,000, CMS will make an application to the Magistrates Court for the paying parent to be disqualified from holding or getting a passport for up to 2 years.

Other enforcement methods available to the CMS include:

  • asking bailiffs to seize and sell belongings
  • preventing the paying parent from selling or re-mortgaging their house until the child maintenance debt is paid
  • forcing them to sell their house or other assets
  • taking away their driving license
  • applying for them to be sent to prison

For further help or advice in relation to any of the issues raised, please contact Nicki Mitchell on 01904 561444 or nicki.mitchell@luptonfawcett.law