The Child Support (Enforcement) Bill is scheduled to receive Royal Assent on Thursday, marking the arrival of new provisions for the creation of liability orders without first making an application to the courts.
At present, should a parent fail to pay the child maintenance they owe, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) can attempt to recover the money from the parent’s earnings or bank account.
If these methods do not work, the CMS can seek a liability order from a magistrate’s court that confirms the amount of child maintenance owed.
Enforcement actions available to the CMS at present include preventing the parent from getting or keeping a driving licence, seizing assets or property to pay the arrears, or imprisonment. The government’s website states that the legal process can take “anything from a few weeks to several months”.
The Child Support Act 1991 (as amended by the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008) contains uncommenced provisions allowing the secretary of state to make a liability order without first making an application to the courts.
The new Bill – set to receive Royal Assent on Thursday – would amend the basis on which the secretary of state could make these orders.
It would also make provision about the variation of liability orders, and require regulations to make provision about appeals.
Supporters of the Bill have argued that this would allow enforcement measures to be used more quickly against non-paying parents.
The Bill received cross-party support and completed its House of Commons stages without amendment.