Maintenance and CSA payments

You may have to pay maintenance to an ex-partner and/or a child. This could be the result of a court order, payments to the Child Support Agency (CSA) or Child Maintenance Service (CMS), or voluntary payments.

piggybankIf you fail to meet your voluntary payments, your ex-partner could take you to court. The court can:

  • Order payments to be taken directly from your bank account
  • Order your employer to make deductions from your wages
  • Order payments to be taken from your benefits
  • Apply to the Magistrates court for a liability order.

With a liability order they can:

  • Order payments to be taken directly from your bank account
  • Instruct bailiffs to seize goods from your home
  • Apply for a third party debt order
  • Apply for a charging order against your property
If they fail to recover the money, they can apply for a court order to disqualify you from driving for up to two years or even send you to prison for up to six weeks. This will only happen if you have the money and refuse to pay.
You should contact the CSA or CMS as soon as you find yourself unable to keep up your maintenance payments or your circumstances change. Send them an income and expenditure sheet and ask them to recalculate your payments.
Try to come to an agreement with regards to arrears payment. There are guidelines they must follow, including accepting a lump sum in full and final settlement and, in exceptional circumstances, write off the arrears.
Do not ignore any communications from these agencies.

Maintenance ordered by the court

family lawYour circumstances may change after the court order was made, for example, you may lose your job or start a new family. If you can no longer afford the amount ordered by the court, you should apply to the same court to vary the order, submitting an income and expenditure sheet to back up your statements.

A fee will be payable but court fees can be waived in certain circumstances, for example, if you are on benefits or on a low income. See form ex160.

If you are in arrears, the court can order you to attend a means enquiry hearing to look at your financial circumstances. If they are satisfied you have a valid reason for not paying, they may write off the arrears, otherwise they can order you to pay the arrears in installments.

The court can instruct bailiffs to seize goods from your home and obtain an attachment of earnings where your employer is obliged to deduct a certain amount from your pay.
Maintenance and child support payments cannot usually be included in formal debt solutions such as bankruptcy, debt relief orders or IVAs.
Always deal with priority debts first. If funds are limited, non-priority creditors can wait!
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