The government recently announced that parents who refuse to financially support their children will face quicker penalties, under a new scheme with the Child Maintenance Service. The announcement comes following the decision in October last year to scrap the £20 assessment fee for parents seeking intervention when maintenance is not paid.

The Government believes the reforms will reduce enforcement times from six months to six weeks. It is the belief of the government and Work and Pensions Secretary, Mel Stride that the reforms will make “the system fairer” for parents and children.

We know the vast majority of parents strive each and every day to give their children the best possible start in life,” Mr Stride said. “But those who shirk the financial responsibilities they have for their children must be quickly held to account.” The government estimates around 10,000 parents a year refuse to pay maintenance and could be affected by the “fast-tracked” enforcement.

Although the announcement was made in October, the scrapping of the £20 application fee won’t come in to force until 26th of February. Alongside the removal of fees, the government intends to publish a review designed to give the Child Maintenance Service more powers to recover cash from non-paying parents, through the use of an administrative liability order.

This will allow the CMS to pursue the money owed without applying to the Courts and should ease pressure on the Court system in regard to this issue. These changes come after a report in 2017 estimated there was a UK backlog of more than £3.8 billion in uncollected child maintenance payments. This is estimated to fall to £1 billion by 2030. The removal of the fee may cause a sudden surge in applications. The reduction in cost, although seemingly small, shows an attempt to ease the cost of living and financial burden on those least fortunate and encourage those who otherwise would’ve gone without maintenance to apply.

However, the legislation to implement the changes regarding enforcement will not be laid before Parliament until the Spring. Some believe the proposed reforms do not go far enough with many calling for compensation for those parents who have experienced serious delay in receiving their payments.

Child maintenance is just one issue faced by couples who are separating that have children together. Should you require advice around any issues further to separation please contact a member of the Family Team.