Child Support Maintenance

We will help both Parent with Care (PWC) and Non-Resident Parent (NRP)  with our expertise.

One of the key considerations for separating parents is how to provide ongoing financial support for children. One method is child support, also known as child maintenance. What is child support and how does it work?

Under the child support legislation, parents are given the title of parent with care (PWC) or non-resident parent (NRP). This is dependent on who the child normally lives with. Disputes about residency may be resolved in the family courts. However, even where a court grants joint residency, child support rules still require one parent to be the PWC and the other to be the NRP.

Child support is money paid by the NRP to the PWC to help provide for a child’s financial needs. It may also be paid to another carer such as a grandparent or a guardian, who the child normally lives with.

Who can apply for child support through the CSA?

A parent with care or a non-resident parent can apply to the Child Support Agency (CSA) to work out child support and set up arrangements for payment. In Scotland, a child over 12 years of age but under 19 and in full-time education may also apply.

When a parent with care, or their current partner, claims Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, their claim will also be treated as an application for child maintenance. It is possible to ask the CSA to deal with your child maintenance case even where you have previously made a private arrangement, although some restrictions may apply.

Non-Resident Parent (NRP)

Non-resident parents encounter a variety of problems with the CSA most notably:-

1. Demands for large arrears. These frequently result from incorrect penalty assessments backdated over many years. On investigation we frequently find that the CSA in fact used an incorrect address and therefore the NRP is being charged for arrears when he did not even know he had an assessment.

2. Large unaffordable assessments. Frequently occur in old style CSA cases. This is because child support can be payable at a marginal rate of 50p or even 85p in the pound which means that even minor miscalculations by the CSA of income or qualifying outgoings can dramatically increase the amount of maintenance payable causing over inflated claims and ultimately penury for the NRP.

3. Ignoring new circumstances. This is a common problem, particularly bearing in mind the downturn in industry over the past few years. Although we have a huge increase in the number of Civil Servants employed in the UK traditional industries are losing ground and as a result short working time, lay offs and “renegotiated” contracts (invariably leading to lower wages) are common place. When NRPs tell the CSA this they find that they receive little or no response save and except demands that the previously assessed maintenance is continued. They occasionally may receive reassurances that their new circumstances are being examined but nothing happens. We can break this cycle and ensure that changes of circumstances are actioned and dealt with.

4. Overactive enforcement. This is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Agency used to be a byword for issuing threats but not actually carrying them out. This company has however noticed a marked increase in the number of clients approaching this company with Liability order Applications and, of much greater concern, applications to commit to prison. The CSA can enforce debt owed via:-

  1. Deduction from Earnings Order. This only works where the non-resident parent is employed and in some circumstances even then a Deduction from Earnings Order fails to collect the entire or any of the amount due. If this is happening to you call us on 0208 127 6770 or 07590036272 because in most circumstances this will mean that your assessment is wrong and the CSA are charging you on income you do not have.
  2. Liability Orders. Not a method of enforcement in themselves they simply represent the Courts approval of the figure owed but open the gateway to other methods of enforcement as discussed below. It is very important that advice is sought when a Liability Order application is received. We frequently find that calculation of arrears on the Liability Order is incorrect and this can be much more difficult to address with the CSA once they have their Liability Order. When they are trying to obtain it from the Magistrates however the CSA has to listen for fear that the Magistrates would impose a decision the Agency does not like.
  3. Bailiffs can be instructed once a Liability Order is obtained. If this has happened to you should call us on 0208 127 6770 or 07590036272 for advice concerning to the situation relating to the bailiffs and enforcement generally.
  4. Third Party Debt Orders can be obtained, not only to freeze bank or building society accounts but to ensure that any individual who owes the NRP money can be forced to pay the cash over to the CSA. If this is happening to you it is possible to have the Courts release some or all of the money back to you in certain circumstances. Call us for advice on 0208 127 6770 or 07590036272.
  5. Charging Orders. Where the NRP has a house a Charging Order can be obtained. A Charging Order is a kind of sleeping mortgage. It does not incur interest but it does secure the money for the parent with care provided there is the equity to pay it. In some cases Charging Orders can be enforced by the sale of the land they charge.
  6. Criminal penalties. Although it is not a criminal offence to fail to pay child support if a Liability Order is made and all methods of enforcement above have either drawn a blank or simply would not work (i.e. the NRP does not own a property) then the CSA can take proceedings in the Magistrates Court for the NRP to be imprisoned or his driving licence to be suspended. “A Committal Order or a Banning Order”.Such action is always to be the action of the last resort. The idea of an application for a Committal or Banning Order is not to throw the NRP into prison or to ban him from driving, rather it is to hold a significant threat over his head to force him to pay the money. It is nonetheless the case that NRPs do go to prison and are being banned for failing to pay Liability Orders.It should be understood that contrary to rumours flowing around that serving a few days inside will get rid of the Liability Order, this is wrong, pursuant to the rules regarding double jeopardy it is not possible to go to prison on the same Liability Order twice but once out of prison the NRP can still be pursued in respect of the debt and the CSA can again try a Deduction from Earnings Order, Bailiffs, Third Party Debt Orders and indeed Charging Orders.