• UK Govt Signs up to Hague 19 Convention

Government Publishes Response To Consultation Changes To CMS

Government Publishes Response To Consultation Changes To CMS

Response to Consultation to Child Maintenance Service “CMS”.

Despite widespread speculation that this review would bring some relief to the many parents for whom the stress caused by the pattern of inaccuracies, demands for random arrears, lack of affordability, administrative denial and punitive sanctions from the Child Maintenance Service, may be alleviated, our hopes have not been met. Despite the National Audit Office failing to regularise their financial statements in any year-end report since 2012, the CMS remains largely unchanged. The response in fact even denies any statistical link between suicides and inability to pay raised by some of those consulted and pursues a strategy of maximising payments and enforcement on the non-residential parent.

The new proposals remove the requirement for CMS to apply to the court for a liability order when seeking sanctions for non-payment, such as bailiffs, forcing the sale of property, driving license or passport disqualification and ultimately, prison. The paying parent will get a 7-day notice period of the issue of the Liability Order. You can appeal against these administrative liability orders, now through the Family Court and you do not need permission of CMS to do so, but 7 days is little time to obtain legal advice or even review the financial implications of such an order. The rationale is to make the process faster, but in practice it will mean many paying parents will simply pay up to prevent further family court trauma and put themselves into further financial difficulty. Unfortunately, jurisdiction of your appeal against a liability order will not include consideration of the CMS calculation which will need to go through CMS as it does now.

If these proposals are enacted in any future legislation the implication for paying parents is onerous but still very unclear. Will the liability order be suspended if you inform CMS of your intention to appeal or will CMS go ahead and only change their order after a successful appeal? Will there be an express route for appeals or a wait 2 – 3 months even for a court date as currently? Why does the government not see the connection between the suicide statistics of paying parents and CMS?

The government have not committed to reviewing the 25% change to a paying parent’s income before a reassessment of maintenance payments will be made. This 25% limit has been in place for 18 years and takes no account of changing wages patterns, particularly the gig economy. A 25% change in wages, when they are already very low, can mean the difference between somewhere to live and destitution. Many FNF members report the difficulty they face paying for alternative accommodation and CMS.

We will continue to raise these concerns on the government’s child maintenance external policy group (on which we sit) as well as in meetings with the relevant minister and CMS officials.

Finally, for paying parents, who are by far the greatest proportion of our membership…don’t delay reading those CMS emails when the proposals become law!

UK Govt Signs up to Hague 19 Convention

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