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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Child maintenance powers reach another level

Child maintenance powers reach another level.

New enforcement measures in relation to child maintenance are being proposed by the Department for Work and Pensions, and they could bring far reaching affects for parents.

For many years the CSA, now the CMS, has brought fear to non-resident parents and has not been short of bad press. On the flip side of the coin, there are many absent parents who do not financially contribute or take responsibility for their children and the new measures proposed by the Department for Work and Pensions if approved will take things to another level.

The suggestion is that separated parents who breach liability orders in respect of child maintenance will face having their credit rating affected from 2015.  We are all too well aware of the difficulties and issues that surround everyone’s credit rating and the importance of ensuring that debts including credit cards and loans etc are paid on time. A similar impact if agreed will result for non-payment of child maintenance.

Our credit rating plays an important role in our society. Whether we like it or not, it governs whether or not we can obtain loans or credit of any kind. It might be anything from a new mortgage to the simple purchase of a washing machine.

If approved by Parliament, from March 2015, the Child Maintenance Service together with the CSA will begin sharing information about the payment records of their clients with credit reference agencies.

In essence therefore if arrears build up in your maintenance payments, this will have the same affect on your credit score and credit rating as other unpaid debts. For some this could have a devastating effect, it could prevent you obtaining a mortgage, affect your ability to take out a loan or credit card and even determine whether you will be allowed a new mobile phone contract.

The information that is shared will only ever be used as a last resort but will, if approved by Parliament, be used as a tool to ensure that payments are met on a regular monthly basis. In the year from April 2013 to March 2014, 12,410 liability orders were granted, so you can see there are a fair number of people who would be impacted.

The whole idea behind the proposal is to ensure that more money is flowing to families and children that are in need of it and that absent parents take full responsibility for children that they have fathered in a relationship. It is also hoped that the new measure will have a deterrent effect on those who would otherwise choose to evade maintenance payments.

Any non-resident parent who has a good maintenance payment record, will be able to request the details from the CMS/CSA if this may assist or improve their position in relation to their own credit rating.

It is understood that during the last 12 months the success rate of the CMS/CSA in relation to payment reached an all time high of 86.2%, which might make you wonder why such a measure is needed. 

It is of course only a minority of absent parents who fail to pay maintenance but it can have a devastating effect on the children concerned, so anything that ensures that the money is used for the care of such children should be approved, shouldn’t it?

Andrew Robotham
Divorce & family lawyer Derby

 

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