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Child Support (Enforcement) Act 2023

View profile for Rhian Taylor
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An Act making provision about the enforcement of child support maintenance and other maintenance received Royal Assent on 20 July becoming law. 

It seeks to up-date the 1991 Child Support Act and 2008 Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act, by strengthening the enforcement powers of the Child Maintenance Service (“CMS”). against non-paying parents.

It is estimated that sums fast approaching £550million are outstanding in arrears and it is recognised that greater teeth are needed to both reduce this and prevent arrears continuing to grow in the future.

Historically CMS could seek to recover arrears by way of direct deductions from the bank accounts or earnings of the defaulting parent. If such steps were not viable, the CMS could then seek a Liability Order upon application to the court. Ultimately, this could result in the defaulting parent having their assets being seized, their passport and/or driving licence suspended and ultimately a custodial sentence imposed.

These processes could however take many months to come to fruition, during which the child’s financial security, could be further weakened.  This is in a background where 44% of children living in one parent households have already been established to be living in poverty.

Evidence suggested that if all maintenance due were repaid, 60% of those children within single parent homes who were not receiving maintenance, would be lifted out of poverty.

The Act therefore allows, for enforcement action to be employed by the CMS directly, without the need to secure a Liability Order at Court thus accelerating the repayment of arrears.

There is some evidence that the CMS are being more pro-active when invoking its more draconian powers. For example, 18 suspended prison sentence were secured in the year to March 2021 as compared with over 300 in the year to March 2023.

Many are however concerned that the CMS has insufficient resources to tackle the scale of the financial backlog, nor better able to provide early support to separating parents, resulting in better financial outcomes for their children generally.

Should you wish to seek advice in respect of Child Support issues, or Family Law more widely, feel free to contact one of our family law solicitors in Kent at our offices in Ashford, Cranbrook or Hythe today. Please call 01233 665544 or fill in our enquiry form on the right hand side of the page to request a call back.