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Maintenance can be a minefield
08 May 2017

The issue of child maintenance payments can be a minefield - which is why it's no surprise that there's a UK backlog of £3.8 billion in uncollected money.

FBCMB | Olivia Jones - Child LawThe Department for Work and Pensions money is owed by non-resident parents and has built up over 23 years, with figures showing about 1.2 million people are owed child maintenance.

The latest figures show the vast majority of unpaid maintenance money was accumulated under the Child Support Agency (CSA) - which was set up in 1993. The system was replaced in 2012 after mistakes were made with assessments and absent parents were not tracked down.

However, a further £93m of unpaid child maintenance has already developed under the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS) system. The child maintenance service is not always effective, particularly where the paying parent is self-employed and can obscure their level of income, they have little ability to investigate.

In addition, if a couple is unmarried, the court has very limited power to order maintenance outside of the child maintenance service. If a couple is (or has been) married the court might be able to order spousal maintenance in addition to child maintenance - which is especially effective where it is clear that the paying parent has obscured their income.

It’s important for married couples with children to obtain proper financial disclosure on separation to ensure that there is fair provision for both parties, the needs of any children of the family will always be the court’s primary consideration and collaborative law might help separating parents make decisions about future provision.

Finally, Schedule 1 of the Children Act allows unmarried parents to make claims for lump sums to support children. The court is also able to order the transfer of property for the benefit of a child. This can include claims for past expenses (such as the costs of giving birth and providing for a new baby) and claims for future expenses such as school fees, housing and a car.

In cases where one parents has a vastly significant increased income compared to the other parent, it is important for both the resident and non-resident to be alive to the possibility of such a claim.

If you're experiencing problems with receiving child maintenance payments or want to ensure that future provision has been finalised, please contact Olivia on 01902 392430 or email

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