A new strategy for child maintenance

Children|August 15th 2018

I mentioned here briefly last month that the Department for Work and Pensions (‘DWP’) had published its response to its consultation seeking views on a new child maintenance compliance and arrears strategy. The House of Commons Library has just published a briefing paper considering the new measures set out by the DWP in its response, so I thought it would be a good idea to look at those measures in a little more detail.

The new strategy comes under five headings:

1. Where the non-resident parent has complex income or substantial assets

There are two key measures under this heading: the inclusion of unearned income in the initial calculation of child maintenance, and calculating ‘notional’ income from non-income generating assets.

Presently, when an application for child maintenance is first considered by the Child Maintenance Service (‘CMS’), it is only earned income of the non-resident parent (‘NRP’) that is taken into account as a matter of course. The parent with care (‘PWC’) can ask the CMS to consider unearned income by applying for a variation, but only after the initial calculation of child maintenance has been made. Under the new system, the NRP’s unearned as well as earned income will be included in the initial CMS calculation, although it should be noted that the onus will still be on the PWC to inform the CMS of the NRP’s unearned income. Clearly, there is a problem with this – as the briefing says, without access to the NRP’s financial affairs, and where a significant amount of time may have elapsed since their separation, it may not always be straightforward for the PWC to supply this information.

One of the problems with the current, 2012, child maintenance scheme is that, unlike previous iterations of the scheme, it does not include any way for other assets of the NRP to be taken into account. Thus an NRP might have substantial capital, but if he has little income then he will pay very little child maintenance, an issue that was raised by Mr Justice Mostyn last year. The DWP is to address this obvious flaw with the system by introducing a rate of interest of eight per cent to calculate a notional income for assets above a certain threshold. Very welcome.

2. Deductions for ongoing maintenance and arrears from welfare benefits

Again, there are two key measures under this heading: where the NRP is in receipt of Universal Credit and has earnings, allowing a deduction for ongoing maintenance direct from the Universal Credit, and allowing deductions from welfare benefits where arrears have accrued but ongoing child maintenance is no longer paid (at present no further payments can be taken once the child stops being eligible for child maintenance).

I think these are both fairly self-explanatory, and sensible ways to improve payment levels.

3. Deductions from bank accounts

This is allowed at present, but only for those bank accounts solely in the name of the NRP. The new measure will allow deductions from jointly-held private accounts and business accounts, subject to safeguards. Again, this should help improve compliance, and deal with the problem of NRPs shifting funds into accounts from which deductions could not be made, in order to avoid liability.

4. Enhanced enforcement methods – removal of passport

There is not much to say here. Anything that will help to ensure payment of child maintenance must be a good thing, although I doubt that this will be used very often – the DWP estimated that only a handful of cases, around 20 per year, would result in an NRP’s passport being removed, but felt that the publicity surrounding the measure might act as an effective deterrent to encourage the payment of maintenance.

5. A new arrears strategy

Last but not least, the DWP is to write off around £1.9 billion in historic Child Support Agency arrears, on the basis that it is highly unlikely that these arrears will ever be recovered. Whilst this is probably a pragmatic decision from a practical point of view, it is also a damning indictment of the failure of the child support system, and obviously of no comfort whatsoever to the millions of children who suffered as a result of the failure of one of their parents to support them. As the briefing paper mentions, the DWP will include a “statement of severe regret” when they inform PWCs that the debt owed to them will be written off. However, the DWP does not think it appropriate for them to offer compensation to the PWCs, as: “Responsibility for unpaid maintenance sits with paying parents who have failed to meet their responsibilities for their children.” So, no responsibility from a government that came up with such a hopelessly ineffective and inefficient system in the first place.

The Government has said that these changes will be introduced during autumn 2018, except for the changes relating to welfare benefits which will be implemented at an unspecified later date.

You can download the briefing paper here.

Author: John Bolch

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

Comments(21)

  1. Mr T says:

    In the name of equality, they need to ditch the whole scheme and the whole abusive department and save millions.

    Which will stop women (note I’ve not called them mothers) financially abusing dads (and occasional female NRP).

    The government needs to stop giving women financial entitlement it is breeding generation on generation of narcissistic entitled (mostly single) parents and it is having an impact on their children, who usually don’t see their other parent (mostly dads).

    At the very least the calculation needs to be changed to a set amount AND unlinked from the number of overnight stays to stop women from seeing their kids because they get more money.

    What about allowing equality between the sexes? What about, and here’s a crazy idea! Allowing women to provide for their children financially when they have them and the NRP when they’re not! Then allowing them to exercise their parental responsibility and discuss any split costs!

    What an amazingly forward-thinking idea eh!

    Its yet another scheme to force men to pay for everything and people wonder why there is a suicide epidemic.

    By financially incentivising women to stop their children from seeing their children it is causing them to alienate their fathers.

    It is basically financial abuse off the back of child abuse (parental alienation). I cannot think of anything more immoral. How is this even allowed let alone focused on in today’s society?

    It absolutely disgusts me.

  2. Andrew says:

    First, there are no circumstances in which jointly held bank accounts should be raised. Other creditors cannot get a third party debt order against such accounts and quite right too. You don’t make A pay B’s debts. The joint account will commonly be that of the NRP and his wife and no claim lies against her.

    Second, passports are the property of the issuing government, not of the person whose photo they bear, and non-British passports should never be seized.

    Third, there is no good reason why arrears should not be subject to the ordinary law of limitation. What makes this debt special?

    And fourth, much of this older debt must by now be due from NRPs who are dead and left no significant estate, or assets long since distributed; or have left the country; or have simply disappeared from view as is still possible in this country. It makes no sense to leave it on the books. Other creditors have to take a pragmatic and commercial view and again, this debt is not special.

  3. Fred says:

    Child maintenance at times can become little more than ideological pursuit of monies. Part of the problems with collection in the child maintenance system can be seen in the blunt nature of it that in no way considers the circumstances of the Father and his ability to survive under the penury that child maintenance inflicts on the Father – sometimes for decades. Fathers see themselves living out the best years of their lives in bedsits, on friends sofas or otherwise while Mothers find themselves financially equipped to go from strength to strength, living as they do on their own incomes, the incomes of their new partner, additional income from the state and income from their ex-husbands.

    This experience is then compounded by a state that sees you as a Father when it wants to take money from you, but not as a Father when you may need some help yourself – or indeed have a desire to maintain contact with the children, he has now sacrificed everything for.

    The witch hunt that is child maintenance, like most of family law still perceives the world through the prism of a 1950’s lens. Women stayed at home, men went to work. Given the failures of the family justice to protect Father – Child relationships and while child maintenance can be understood for the early years, there is no reason why it should continue to be paid in the proportions it is ad-infinitum. It should be tapered off and measured according to circumstances. A Mother living in wealth, a Father held in penury is a very unhealthy circumstance and enables women to become more vindictive in their parental alienation strategies.

    Honestly, a man would be stupid to have children in the UK under this regime. Utterly stupid.

  4. Fred says:

    So the reality for many Fathers as the Child Maintenance regime seeks to become ever more aggressive is a decision between whether they can afford to work or not, particularly since the senseless and desperately unfair move to gross calculations. I have arrived at that point. Such is the extent of child maintenance being taken from me that it is now becoming impossible to afford to get work and pay the basic costs of living for myself. By giving up work the children really lose out as does the Father and of course the Mother.

    Our legislators are appalling, Westminster is in crisis and the country sinks every lower. Family Law legislators should consider the competence of Westminster in managing the economy in concert with what they seek to take away from Fathers. The Gross calculation is a tax on ambition, it means it often is worth seeking to better oneself, rather to lay low and wait for release from the poisonous, damagi.ng shackles of the family law system

    The principles of child maintenance need examining in detail

  5. spinner says:

    I look forward to seeing your next post listing the enhanced enforcement measures that will be taken against mothers who flout child contact court orders.

    • Andy says:

      Your few words make a clear statement..I however waffle on..
      Regards.

    • Stitchedup says:

      Similarly Spinner, I look forward to a domestic violence related post from John where the accompanied picture portrays an adult male victim of domestic violence. That would be refreshing!

  6. Bu says:

    Nowadays, it is just as common for children to be in a single-parent family than a traditional two-parent family. Due to divorce rate, single-parent families are becoming increasingly popular.
    Whilst the parent with care may be in need of financial assistance to cover the cost of bringing up a child, the non resident parent may find they are having to work longer hours in order to be able to provide sufficient funds to cover the cost of the maintenance payments and their own living expenses.
    Regular maintenance payments can take the pressure off financial concerns in the home, for the parent with care, however, when the parent with care has a large income why does she need maintenance? Where shared care is in operation, the child, or children, will also benefit from having regular contact with both parents. Sharing care enables the non-resident parent to spend time with their child in their own home, and will also mean that the amount of payable maintenance is divided by two, and reduced by one-seventh for each night the child spends at the non resident parent’s home, however, this reduces the parent in care’s income and this is the reason why parents in care do not want to share children.
    Children need to be shared 50:50…

  7. Seriously says:

    Couldn’t agree more with the all the above comments.
    It was stated in June on this site by John Bolch that “ if child care is shared equally, then there is no child support maintenance liability at all ,”
    Therefore, as Mr T above states in his comments this give the incentive to women manipulate children into not seeing their biological fathers, because they get financially rewarded for doing so. The reward does not stop at child maintenance, it goes onto receiving tax credits in the form of working tax and/ or child tax benefit, plus child benefit payment. In addition the mother can then make a “ needs “based claim financial so for any capital assets of the marriage to the total detriment of the man she has snared into a marriage. Generation after generation of millions of children losing contact with good parents, and grandparents due to the greed of the other parent.

  8. Proton says:

    I’m constantly in a state of raging flux when I’m reading your blogs John.
    Children are thrown into poverty as a direct consequence of divorce, upwards of 70% are initiated by women, the vast majority predicated on a Marxist ideology that infects our society, this blog appears to champion this ideology.
    Women shed their agency with extreme proclivity, the state perpetuates this, women know they will be looked after when they have residency, they remain in the family home, do you know what it’s like bolch to be thrown out of your own home, to be removed from your child, on lies.
    You come across as being very malevolent towards the male.
    If you cared about the well being of children you would advocate the withdrawal of all payments made by the state to mothers, stop child maintenance completely, this approach will reduce child poverty and reduce divorce, it will stop the catastrophic effects divorce has on children.
    If in society we inflicted on millions of children the physical and psychological damage divorce does,thousands would be charged and imprisoned with child abuse.
    We know father alienation reduces a child’s life expectancy by 16% we know male suicide is at epidemic levels, divorce and it’s outcomes are directly responsible, why John do you never look beyond the overton window? Why do you write what you do knowing full well most men are responsible loving individuals, we love our children,t we know what is best for them, child maintenance is a malevolent, Marxist ,draconian sticking plaster solution to a huge gaping wound.

  9. Andy says:

    I don’t know weather to laugh or cry at such incompetent attempts by The Commons Committee to just take take and take again and still say in bold comments Father’s are Scum and Mothers are Good.
    So having read the embarrassment of how this document has been drafted the reality is the so called experts who by the way dodge every tax implication and of course this may apply to male ministers who pay child maintenance or not or say they do but of course given exemptions to this law change..
    So the booted out father lives like a dog on what little salary he earns whilst the generosity given to the So called Gold digger Mother in maintenance also benefits and of course can keep a good salary job and of course meets a new partner and joint income that is above three figure sum.. And of what has the father got.. Gross deduction of salary. Any assets that receive income from deducted. Starts a new life with partner and in the normality of his life joint account and now raided by the incompetent agency and just for spite The gold digger Mother just rings up the CMS ans states he has got unearned income as the idiotic example given in this document and guess what CMS then believe this is true and then want all you financial information.. So basically what she says is true.. Is this the same as Domestic abuse and Child Molestation well if she this it must be true…
    And of what action is taken by the authority if this is total rubbish.. Nothing… She might get a extra benefit payment if statements such as this are found to be inaccurate…
    As a knee jerk reaction if all paying fathers not just the comments that support by Mr Bolsh who clearly sided with the CMS… Did not pay and decided to go either self employed or go on the dole and deal drugs because it pays better than would this be classed as unearned income…
    I could go on on this subject but reading this document reads like a Beano comic…
    You just laugh at every page because it must be made up and of course additional income needs to be proved..so any chance a self employed builder can support cash payments. What are the CMS do contact the customer and ask for a receipt of job done… Haha all this to fall at the first hurdle.. Good old Commons Committee..

  10. Andy says:

    I have left a comment on her already via my phone but this may have been removed..no freedom of speech..
    Read the report..it makes laughable reading but the so called experts who rob our money to support a PWC with generous non paying tax income received but extra tax on income for the NRP..VERY ONE SIDED including Mr Bolch supportive comments in the bias view of the PWC..

    Has any one noticed the comment in the document The qualifying Child….IT states 16 to 19 is this correct as I was lead to believe till 20 or more if in further education etc so has the decision makers made a mistake and of course they never do as implimented by late 2018..hope this error is then taken forward and then when rubber stamped for approval we all get a 1year reduction in paying…
    The rest of the document is just a joke with generous payouts from the Government to support Gingerbread who are actually behind all this.. who still say it’s not enough..so Gingerbread where is you manifesto bring it to the table and for one put you money where your mouth is because so far your not fit for purpose. far you can only criticise..

  11. Mr T says:

    It’s time for men to speak up for their rights and DEMAND equality.

    In short we’re sick of not seeing our children and being powerless to stop our children being abused by their mentally sick and\or entitled mothers purely for their own financial gain.

    I’d love any of the people involved to experience going through this process and the experience of meeting their child after a long period of time being FORCED to not see them and them not recognising them.

    No parent should have to go through this male or female.

    Then to be forced to pay them more money because of the child support laws because you’ve been forced to is just immoral beyond words.

    I echo all the good men and probably good dads comments on these pages. MP’s need to realise we’re totally fed up of the status quo. It’s not equal.

    There is a storm coming.

  12. Proton says:

    Amen Mr T . Going through hell at present suffering immeasurably due to the malevolence of family law.
    Child alienation can reduce their life expectancy by 20 years, my son at three suffered this for five months, he was taken from me in the early hours one morning by police on allegations that had no basis in fact, I was released after 12 hours in custody, no case to answer, her word against mine, but to my absolute disbelief, day after I was served with an occupation order, non molestation order, child restriction order, what the hell has society degenerated into, that one can be guilty and never be proved innocent, that’s what these orders do, you have virtually zero chance overturning them. So within a week I was kicked out of my beautiful home, to live on my friends sofa, and still am, I’m an electrician earning good money, but still cannot afford a flat, I don’t drink, never have, never done drugs, gamble, I’m one of the 1%, but in the eyes of family law, I’m a man so that’s enough. I’ve come to the conclusion, that god himself could not free himself from the malevolence of family law.

  13. Spike Robinson says:

    8% ?

    What planet do these people live on?? They’re obviously either financially illiterate or they don’t live in the real world.

    I’d be lucky to get ZERO point 8 % and half of that goes in tax.

    This is what happens when committees of incompetent people try to decide real world issues they clearly know nothing about.

    CMS is a tax on divorced dads, making UK divorced dads the most heavily taxed group in Europe and probably the world. Like every tax, the government is desperate for more. From the outset, explicitly and by deliberate design, CSA/CMS was a tax to save the DWP money. Every pound the DWP gouges out of dads, with its Draconian powers that far exceed the HMRC’s, even, is a pound less the DWP might be asked to pay in benefits. CMS is the wholesale privitisation of a major part of the benefit system, on the back of dads who are financially crippled, lives ended, unable to move on or have the laughably called “clean break”, unable (unlike the mums) to start new families. Enslaved for life basically. The CMS is why there is no real divorce in this country, just a marriage without the benefits but with increased obligations enforced by Draconian law that would make a convicted terrorist feel lucky in comparison. To be a divorced dad is to exist in state-enforced slavery. Your labour belongs to your ex-wife and the big stick of the state is poised to strike at the mere allegation of momentary non compliance.

  14. Michael says:

    Why can’t we all just pay the same as child benefit ? Everyone would know how much they will pay and when it stops!!! The new system of using gross pay is a scandal and is forcing hard working Nrp to give up work or worse . Am paying over £430/month and with last years bonus going through my wages this is only going to go up !!! I cannot afford to live with this stupid unfair sham system. I wasn’t even in a relationship it was a one night stand I’ve never seen the child !!! It was her choice to keep the child not mine so why should I even pay

  15. Paul Apreda says:

    Typical comments from Bolch. The question must be whether Marilyn Stowe gain any PR benefit from his one side ignorant comments. I simply don’t understand the reputation as benefit to the firm who specialise in providing a service to high net worth clients to have Bolch saying such inflammatory nonsense.
    On the issue of compliance and the right off of arrears has no one considered that such arrears are highly likely to be caused by assessments that Paying Parents cannot possibly afford. It’s remarkable that we have a system that deducts benefits from one parent to pay them to the other. A system that takes money from someone on benefits is surely a definition of madness

  16. Fred says:

    If ever you needed evidence that the Family Law system has lost it’s authority, this thread shows it.

    Family Law is damaging:

    * Trust between the sexes
    * Children’s mental health
    * Future prospects of parents
    * Relationships between children and Fathers / NRP
    * The credibility of dual sex relationships for secure raising of children
    * The equality debate
    * Trust in law makers
    * Respect for the wider justice system

    And seemingly only benefits

    * Lawyers
    * Social Workers
    * Psychologists

    All of whom all to regular appear to exhibit nothing less than mental laziness in their assistance in family situations, all too often doing more harm than good while collecting their often exorbitant fees.

    Family Law has had it, yet another example of government failure and arrogance within the professions that surround / profit from it, preferring abuse of children to self-reflection. It needs total reform, complete overhaul. A wholly discredited system belonging only to a prior age.

  17. JamesB says:

    NUTS! Encourages decline of West and mgtow. Makes the state the daddy. Loyalty should be rewarded not penalized.

    I was going to comment but then everyone else did, so it shows I’m not the spark for the outrage as the establishment try and say I am when I tell them they are talking nonsense. Its their approach because courts are closed and politically incorrect to criticize women, especially Gingerbread and Mumsnet.

    CMS/CSA/CMEC/CMOptions and family law are entirely morally bankrupt.

    Oh, and if there are fathers who walk out on their family for no good reason leaving them nothing, I’m not a fan of them either. Problem is government throwing the baby out with the bath water on this one. It should go back to court or pre nups.

    Don’t expect the people out there to support (or vote) for these. No wonder general elections seem to be fought at the women’s institute and mumsnet these days, the government are alienating the men by calling us names and this nonsense.

  18. Tee says:

    What I find is the norm when concerning child support posts is: the NRP (usually male) always directs vitriolic stereotyping of single mothers; ie financial abusers and money grabbers. And the RP, usually female, will argue back and give their life story.

    Here are the facts:
    The system doesn’t work. At all. It is detrimental to children who have an NRP that refuses to pay. And it breeds contempt between ex partners where the NRP does pay but is getting screwed over.
    The CMS tend to get over zealous and take advantage of those NRPs who do actually pay because that’s where their income comes from. They take limited measures for the NRP who want to remain under the radar.

    The system isn’t equal. It isn’t fair. And I’m pretty sure if I went to head office at CMS I would find a zebra sat behind the desk smoking a pipe playing fortnite.

    It needs to stop screwing the compliant NRPs and start actually using those efforts to find the NRPs who are hiding.

    I do not appreciate a phone call every 18 months to tell me nothing has changed and I still won’t be getting any payments. I do not appreciate my friend being told to eat beans on toast as he’s being screwed for every penny while his ex doesn’t work.

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