It isn’t uncommon for people to struggle with their maintenance payments from time to time. This could be for many different reasons; they may:
- not be able to afford to pay
- believe that the money isn’t spent on the children
- not want to pay because of past experiences with the CSA or,
- not see their children because of access issues and feel they shouldn’t have to.
Whatever the reason, it’s important that parents understand that there can be severe consequences if they stop paying. Arrears can quickly build up, taking them further into debt. Parents who receive maintenance should also consider these reasons, and wherever possible speak to the other parent to try and resolve the situation.
Consequences of not paying
Parents who are tempted not to pay need to weigh up the consequences. The Child Support Agency (CSA) and Child Maintenance Service have the powers to deduct payments straight from earnings or bank accounts.
If parents continue not paying, they can confiscate driving licences; force paying parents to sell their assets; or in the most severe circumstances even send people to prison.
Most parents would find it difficult to live their lives without the freedom that being able to drive brings, or will have built up equity and savings that they would like to keep for other reasons; so to ensure the CSA don’t take these types of action, paying parents should contact the CSA as soon as possible to talk through their options before it’s too late.
Family Based Arrangements
The main benefit of having a Family Based Arrangement is flexibility. This means parents can work together to agree temporary changes that could stop paying parents falling into arrears. And remember, it doesn’t always have to be about money. If money is a problem, the paying parent can take on more caring responsibilities, which is an easy way to ensure that support for the children continues even when money isn’t available.
What if arrears have already built up?
If the reason why maintenance is not being paid is because of wider money problems, it’s important to note that Child Maintenance payments are classed as a priority outgoing, and should always be paid along with things like your mortgage and utility bills.
Organisations such as Step Change or Money Advice Service can help people who are struggling with their finances. Whatever happens, it’s always important to try and keep paying and seek help straight away to make sure the problem doesn’t spiral out of control.
Anyone worried about their arrears should contact the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service as soon as possible. The telephone number to contact will be on any letters that have been sent.