4. Non-payment

The statutory child maintenance services - the Child Maintenance Service and the Child Support Agency (CSA) - will take action if child maintenance isn’t paid.

When a child maintenance payment is missed, the service you’re using will contact the parent the child doesn’t live with to:

  • find out why they haven’t paid
  • arrange for them to pay what they owe
  • warn them about action that might be taken if they don’t pay

The parent has a week to respond. If they don’t, the service you’re using can take action to get the child maintenance owed.

The parent the child doesn’t live with is called the ‘paying parent’. The parent or carer they live with is called the ‘receiving parent’.

What the statutory child maintenance services can do

The service you’re using can take action immediately if the paying parent pays through them.

If the paying parent used a statutory service to calculate child maintenance but pays directly (Direct Pay through the Child Maintenance Service or Maintenance Direct through the CSA), the receiving parent needs to ask the service to take action.

Statutory child maintenance services can get unpaid child maintenance in 3 different ways.

Taking money from a paying parent’s earnings or benefits

The service you’re using can tell the paying parent’s employer how much to take from their wages. The employer must then pass this to the service - if they don’t, the service can take them to court.

If the paying parent gets benefits, a State Pension or War Pension, the Child Maintenance Service or CSA can take the amount owed from these payments.

Taking money from a bank or building society account

The statutory services don’t need permission to do this. They can tell the bank or building society to take either:

  • regular payments
  • a one-off payment

Taking court action

The statutory services can take a paying parent to court over unpaid child maintenance. Things the courts can do include:

  • sending bailiffs (Sheriff Officers in Scotland) to a paying parent’s home to take and sell their belongings to get the child maintenance owed
  • sending a paying parent to prison
  • collecting money that’s owed to the paying parent by someone else and using this to pay the child maintenance owed
  • forcing the sale of a property and using the money to pay the child maintenance owed

If a paying parent tries to avoid paying by selling property or transferring it to someone else, the service managing their case can ask the courts to stop them.

The service can also ask the courts to reverse any sale or transfer that’s already happened.

If a statutory service takes action through the courts, the paying parent may have to pay the service’s legal costs as well as their own.

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