Child Support Agency / CMEC Liability Orders to recover child maintenance arrears
We recommend if you receive correspondence from the Child Support Agency warning of a Liability Order you should make immediate arrangements to speak to a member of our team by calling 0845 0745907. A Liability Order it the first step to other civil enforcement measures using the Court system. Please don’t ignore the situation as it could result in you losing your home or possibly your liberty.
Liability Orders are being used by the Child Support Agency / CMEC to recover child maintenance arrears although they are often for the wrong amount. It doesn't take much searching on the internet to realise that they are being put in place at a previously unheard of rate but we can advise and help you deal with them and your child support arrears.
We're not here to say if Liability Orders and other Child Support Agency enforcement action is a good thing or a bad thing because the answer to that lies completely on who you are. If you're trying to look after the child and have all the related expenses then knowing that enforcement action is being taken has to help you out. However, if you are the person facing the Liability Order, then it feels very different.
What we do know though, is that there are a huge number of Liability Orders being granted for completely the wrong amount and that helps no one because it misleads one parent into relying on a prospective windfall which is never going to materialise and it places the other into feeling criminalised for something they feel is out of their control.
Up until now, it has been almost impossible to challenge a Liability Order and it has formed a key element in Child Support Agency enforcement procedures. The Liability Order has to be granted by the Magistrates' Court and many people mistakenly believe this is an opportunity for them to take their complete file along and get the Magistrate to review the Child Support Agency's decisions because they are in dispute about the amount of child support arrears being claimed. It isn't and usually the Liability Order will be granted if you are there or not. Of course, cases can be adjourned but it doesn't take too long before the Order will almost inevitably be granted. This then opens all kinds of other avenues of enforcement from the Child Support Agency / CMEC including Bailiff involvement and being sent to prison. However, there are major changes under way in how this will operate from the near future.
Before we look at the changes in how Liability Orders are being used by the Child Support Agency / CMEC, it is worth highlighting one of the ways that the CSA /CMEC appear to be starting to use the Liability Order process. Up until now, a Liability Order will go through for the child maintenance arrears, bailiffs are likely to get involved and then further action can be instigated through the County Court. One of these routes has been to put a Charging Order on the property to recover the child support arrears but this has not often been followed up by an order to actually force the sale. It is now much more likely that the sale of property will be forced to recover the child support arrears and this obviously has huge implications for families facing a child support debt. If the CSA follow the proper Court process then anyone with child maintenance arrears of any amount could be facing action to sell their house to recover those child maintenance arrears. Under current legislation, there is one opportunity within this process to deal with this so it is really important that if you get a Liability Order you get help from us at the earliest opportunity.
Liability Orders* seem likely to change in name and to be known as "Administrative Liability Orders". They can be put in place by the Child Support Agency / CMEC itself with no need to go to Magistrates Court. We strongly advise and recommend that you use our child support specialist and fully qualified legal services at that point because when either a Liability Order or an Administrative Liability Order is granted, it opens up a whole new route of enforcement action where the Child Support Agency / CMEC could:
- Appoint Bailiffs
- Sell your house
- Take away your driving licence for up to two years
- Send you to prison
- Attach a Deduction of Earnings Order (DEO) to your wages or salary through your employer
- Attach a DEO to your bank account, designed to catch up with those self-employed amongst you
- Attach a DEO to a joint account
- Put a curfew order of up to 12 hours a day in place and make you pay the costs of monitoring that you keep to the order. If you don't keep to the curfew, you can be sent to prison. A curfew order comes with powers to search you and remove any money you might be carrying to go towards the child maintenance arrears
Even without curfew, you can be searched and have removed any money you may be carrying so, for instance, you might be on your way out of the country on holiday and you can be stopped at the airport and have your spending money removed to be allocated towards paying off your child maintenance arrears. True, the kids might eventually get back what Granny gave them to go away with but not until ownership has been investigated and we're pretty sure you'll have missed your flight by then. All of that assumes, of course, that you still have your passport, but it is in the Child Support Agency's power to remove that for up to two years as well.
To recover child maintenance arrears, the Child Support Agency can also attach a lump sum deduction order to savings accounts or even with someone like your conveyancing solicitor so that any proceeds from something like the sale of your house can be drawn upon to pay the debt. Apart from the obvious, the real problem with this is the account will be frozen completely until investigations confirm who the money really belongs to so if you need it to pay the deposit on the house you are about to move into - well, enough said.
Finally, don't think that dying will make the arrears go away because your child support arrears can be recovered from your estate. Bankruptcy doesn't work either as legislation prevents the arrears from being written off with the rest of the debts. You should also bear in mind that unless the money has been paid, the above penalties aren't instead of paying, they are as well as - these do not make the debt go away.
All of this adds up to the fact that you can't risk trying to ignore the Child Support Agency / CMEC or even try to reason with them for yourself because if they have decided you are a problem, they will plough ahead regardless. What you need is professional help from us to solve the cause of the child support arrears problem whilst helping you deal with the symptoms.
Contact the Child Maintenance Advice Centre
today for help with all your child support and maintenance problems.