The Lengths People Go To Avoid Child Maintenance Payments

Too many family law solicitors, there is nothing new in hearing that a parent is trying to avoid paying child maintenance.  From creating complex financial agreements, putting businesses in other names to even changing jobs frequently making it harder for a deduction of earnings order to be implemented.

Recent statistics released by the Child Maintenance Service appeared to hail the success of the service, praising the rise in compliance rate in paying parents on the Collect and Pay service, seeing a 5% rise in the last year, and almost a 10% rise since September 2017.  However, this still means that over a quarter of parents are still not paying the child maintenance they owe, and it does not include the parents who are missing payments on the Direct Pay service, which form the majority of cases.

In the quarter ending June 2019 there were 45,600 children who’s paying parent had paid no maintenance at all through the Collect and Pay service; totalling £18.5 million owing in one quarter, again, this does not include any amounts owning through the Direct Pay service.

Countless parenting forums have resident parents discussing how they are owed thousands by a non-resident parent and the ways and lengths gone to in order to avoid payment.  Newspapers have headlines such as ‘Fife mum asked to write off £18,000 under ‘deeply flawed’ child maintenance system’.  It appears, despite being created to right the failings of the CSA, the CMS is still a long way from being perfect.

A recent case in Shropshire, saw a father who owed £16,000 in maintenance, found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud.  Simon Jordan, 33, persuaded his ‘lookalike’ friend to provide a DNA sample at a medical centre, using Mr Jordan’s ID.  Jordan received a 12-month suspended sentence and a £2,000 fine for his actions, in addition to 200 hours community payback and 15 rehabilitation activity days with probation, whilst his friend received a six-month suspended sentence and 200 hours unpaid work.

It is welcome news that CMS is enforcing cases but there are still thousands who are avoiding paying and millions of pounds owing.

The CMS, since December 2018, has various enforcement powers in its arsenal, including powers to deduct maintenance from bank accounts using a ‘deduction order’, forcing the sale of property and even confiscating passports, but even these powers are useless when the loopholes are still open.

Mother of two, Tanya Matthews, is owed over £90,000 from her ex-partner, and has fought for 11 years to try and reclaim the amount owed.  The CMS has admitted however that without a ‘confident UK address’ it is unable to use its powers.

Many cannot understand why CMS does not treat outstanding maintenance as HMRC treats avoidance of tax, with such measures as interest on delayed payment, fines and even imprisonment.

With figures showing more than a third of single mothers have fallen into debt due to having to pay living expenses highhandedly, should the CMS be given higher powers, with non-resident parents being treated in similar ways to those who avoid tax?

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