Government launches new crackdown on parents who refuse to pay child maintenance

Parents who refuse to pay child maintenance will face accelerated sanctions as Ministers announce the introduction of new powers to speed up strong enforcement action and other reforms to make the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) fairer

  • Government introducing long-term changes to make the system fairer for children and parents
  • Enforcement process to be made almost four times faster and non-compliance will be detected and dealt with more quickly
  • Application fee will be removed to ensure the service is accessible to all

Today (02/10/2023) the Government is announcing a Liability Orders consultation to speed up enforcement action, the removal of the application fee to the CMS and longer-term changes.  

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said:  

"Parents need to take financial responsibility for their children. It’s completely unfair that it can take so long to get children support they are due. I am determined to go after those parents who are refusing to pay up when we know they can.

"Child maintenance makes a real difference to the life chances of many thousands of children. The CMS can and does enforce compliance, but we want to enable it to act much faster."

DWP Minister Viscount Younger of Leckie said:

"We always act fairly and carefully to protect children in separated families so they are supported by both their parents to have a good start in life.

"These new powers will improve how the Child Maintenance Service supports children of separated parents, helping families receive child maintenance faster and preventing further arrears."

Liability Orders consultation  

A consultation published today lays the groundwork for new regulations that will accelerate tough sanctions on non-paying parents – such as forcing the sale of property – by modernising the enforcement process.  

Families will be paid faster as the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will be able to use an administrative liability order to recover unpaid child maintenance instead of applying to the courts and waiting up to 22 weeks. It’s anticipated this change could reduce the wait for further action to around six to eight weeks.  

Around 10,000 parents a year who wilfully refuse to pay maintenance are estimated to be affected by the new liability order regulations, to the benefit of thousands of children and parents for whom child maintenance is a key source of financial security.  

Removal of the £20 application fee  

There is currently a £20 application fee to apply to the CMS for assistance securing the financial support a parent is owed, although victims of domestic abuse and applicants aged under 19 are exempt.   

The Government will remove this application fee for all parents so that children in the poorest families are not unfairly disadvantaged if their parent cannot afford the £20.   

Changes to maintenance calculations   

The Government will legislate to ensure unearned income, such as savings, investment, dividend and property income, is taken into account automatically when the maintenance calculation is made. This will make it more difficult for the small number of parents who avoid paying the correct amount.     

Improvements to collection of payments

The Government has also committed to consulting on the way the CMS collects and makes payments so it can act on non-compliance more quickly.  Changes will mean the CMS can use its strong enforcement powers more quickly to go after those who wilfully avoid their financial obligations to their children. 

This follows the Child Support (Enforcement) Act 2023 and The Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Act 2023 receiving royal assent in the summer. These Acts provide the basis for the CMS to act swiftly, progressing enforcement action faster with the aim of getting money to children more quickly, establishing compliance, preventing further arrears and bolstering domestic abuse protections for parents.  

The CMS helps around 930,000 children get the financial support they are entitled to and between June 2022-2023 arranged a record £1.2 billion on their behalf. Overall, child maintenance payments help to keep 160,000 children out of poverty each year.  

The liability order consultation is published here and closes on 24 November.

Department for Work and Pensions
The Rt Hon Mel Stride MP