New child maintenance legislation comes into force

Parents who fail to pay child maintenance will face tougher sanctions after new laws were passed last week to speed up stronger enforcement action.

Under the Child Support (Enforcement) Act, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be able to impose tougher sanctions on non-paying parents – such as forcing the sale of property and taking away passports and driving licences – through a quick and simple administrative process.

The Act will see families paid faster as it gives DWP the power to use a liability order to reclaim unpaid child maintenance instead of applying to court and waiting up to 20 weeks.

The DWP said this time and money-saving change will allow the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to “act swiftly, paying families faster and preventing further arrears”.

DWP Minister Viscount Younger of Leckie said:

“This is another step in our work to strengthen our powers and improve how the Child Maintenance Service supports children of separated parents.

We want parents to collaborate where at all possible, but if the financial responsibilities to children are not being met, the CMS will help those in need.

This new law will help speed up the enforcement process to get money flowing which ultimately will be for the benefit of children.”

Before escalating to this tougher enforcement action, the CMS has other options including collecting earnings direct from parents’ employers or different bank accounts.

The CMS helps more than 900,000 children get the financial support they are entitled to and between March 2022-2023 collected or arranged a record £1.2 billion on their behalf. Child maintenance payments help to keep 160,000 children out of poverty each year.

The Private Members’ Bill – sponsored by Siobhan Baillie MP and Baroness Redfern – received cross-party support in both Houses.

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