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What happens if my ex-partner stops paying child maintenance?
Raising a child by yourself is a difficult and emotionally taxing task, but your situation can become even more complicated if you stop receiving child maintenance payments from your ex-partner.
Missed payments can be detrimental for both you and your child, but there are steps you can take to receive the child maintenance you are owed.
What action can be taken against my ex-partner?
The action you can take depends on how you and your ex-partner sorted out child maintenance. There are three main options:
- A voluntary agreement – if you applied to court to turn your agreement into a Consent Order, it is legally binding. Otherwise, it is not technically enforceable
- The Child Maintenance Service (CMS)
- A Child Maintenance Order
1. Voluntary agreements
Making a voluntary agreement – or family-based arrangement – then formalising it in the form of a Consent Order is a popular option for child maintenance. If your ex-partner stops paying, thereby breaching the Order, you can apply to court to enforce it.
If you did not get a Consent Order, your voluntary agreement is not legally binding. You can try to negotiate with your ex-partner to try and resume the payments. However, if you cannot come to another arrangement, you still have the option of applying to the Child Maintenance Service.
2. Child Maintenance Service
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is available for parents who have not been able to make a family-based arrangement, about how their child’s living costs will be paid.
If your ex-partner misses a child maintenance payment, the CMS will look to take immediate action. If a payment is missed, the CMS will contact your ex-partner to:
- Find out why they have not paid
- Make arrangements for them to pay what they owe
- Warn them about actions that could be taken if payment is not received
Further action will then be taken if your ex-partner does not respond to this initial contact. This can include the CMS taking money from their earnings or benefits or taking money directly from a bank or building society account.
In certain situations, the CMS may use their enforcement power to apply for a court order known as a ‘Liability Order’.
How do Liability Orders Work?
A Liability Order gives the CMS the power to take legal action against your ex-partner to collect the child maintenance payments you are owed. The Liability Order can then be used to take actions such as:
- Asking bailiffs to visit your ex-partner’s home and seize belongings which can be used to cover for the child maintenance payments which are owed
- Putting ‘charges’ against a property or other assets owned by your ex-partner so they cannot be sold or remortgaged without the child maintenance being paid off
- Forcing the sale of a property of other asset and collecting money from the sale to pay child maintenance
- Taking away your ex-partner’s driving licence
- Sending your ex-partner to prison
Liability Orders can also be issued if your ex-partner withholds information, provides false information, doesn’t inform the CMS of changes in their circumstances or disposes of valuable assets to avoid Child Maintenance payments.
3. Child Maintenance Orders
Child Maintenance Orders are only available in limited circumstances, for example, if your ex-partner lives abroad so you cannot use the CMS. As with a Consent Order, if you ex-partner does not make payment, you can take them back to court to enforce the Order.
Solving Child Maintenance Disputes Though Mediation
Disputes over child maintenance can potentially be avoided if you are able to organise a family-based arrangement with your ex-partner. Coming to an agreement that works in both of your interests is not always straightforward, which is why Alternative Dispute Resolution methods such as mediation can prove to be useful.
Mediation is a popular and cost-effective method of Alternative Dispute Resolution which focuses on opening up a dialogue between you and your ex-partner. Under the guidance of a trained mediator, you have the best possible chance of resolving any issues related to child maintenance in an amicable manner, with the ultimate goal being a constructive solution that is beneficial for both parties.
At Crisp & Co, our partner Henry Crisp is a professional Mediator who can work with you to organise an effective solution.
Get expert advice about child maintenance
At Crisp & Co, we have an expert team of child law solicitors who are on hand to ensure that any disputes surrounding child maintenance payments are sorted efficiently and with as little disruption to your life as possible.