DWP to enforce maintenance payments

With solicitors in Britain and Northern Ireland having to deal with an ever-increasing number of divorces, new legislation may mean that separated parents do not have to chase each other through the courts to ensure that child maintenance is paid.

The Department for Work And Pensions (DWP) has just published the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill, which involves reforms to ensure that more children of separated parents get adequate amounts of maintenance money.

Some of the reforms include replacing the Child Support Agency with the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (C-MEC), which will have stronger powers to force estranged parents to pay maintenance for their offspring. The new powers will include a charging scheme for parents who miss payments and C-MEC sharing information on defaulting parents with credit reference agencies, which could affect future mortgage applications.

C-MEC would also be permitted to withdraw maintenance money directly from parents' bank accounts if they fail to respond to other collection methods.

Secretary of state for work and pensions, John Hutton, said: "The new rules would be simpler and more transparent, making it harder to hide income and giving us the power to deduct money direct from bank accounts as well as from earnings.

"This legislation would provide a strong framework to enable the new child maintenance body to deliver a system that puts the needs of the children who depend on it first, and ensures that families and children do not slide into poverty when parents split up."

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