Money deducted from bank accounts for unpaid Child Maintenance

The Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 established the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission and gave the Commission a number of enforcement powers where a non-resident parent fails to pay child support maintenance. These new powers include the power to deduct money from a non-resident parent’s bank account where child support maintenance has not been paid.

The power to make deductions from a bank account for non-payment of child support maintenance is exercised by the Commission itself and no application to a Court is required.

When can money be deducted from a bank account?

Regular deductions

The Commission has the power to make a “regular deduction order” against a non-resident parent who has failed to pay child support maintenance.  

A regular deduction order enables the Commission to collect payments from a non-resident parent’s account held with a “deposit-taker” (normally a bank) in respect of arrears of child support maintenance and amounts of child support maintenance which will become due in the future.

What obligations does a deposit-taker have?

Once a regular deduction order has been made the deposit-taker will be required to make deductions from the account specified in the order and pay the amounts deducted to the Commission. If they fail to do so they will commit a criminal offence, punishable by a fine. It is a defence to such an offence, however, if the deposit-taker can show that it took all reasonable steps to comply with the regular deduction order.

Can money be deducted from a joint account?

Money can be deducted from a joint account, although both account holders will have the opportunity to make representations before a regular deduction order is applied to a joint account. 

Where money is deducted from a joint account the amount deducted must be fair in all the circumstances.

Can a regular deduction order be appealed?

Any person affected by a regular deduction order has the right to appeal to a Court. A Court is, however, prevented from questioning the maintenance calculation by reference to which the regular deduction order was made.

Can a regular deduction order be made if there is an ongoing appeal against the maintenance calculation?

The Commission has the power to make a regular deduction order even where there is an ongoing appeal against the maintenance calculation. However, in such circumstances the Commission must be satisfied that the outcome of the appeal will not affect the amount of the liability covered by the order before it makes such an order or, must be satisfied that the making of an order will be fair in the circumstances of a particular case.

Lump sum deductions

The Commission has the power, by making a “lump sum deduction order”, to collect payments for child support maintenance arrears from: 

  • a non-resident parent’s account held with a deposit-taker; or
  • money due or accruing to them from a third party (for example, money held by the non-resident parent’s solicitor)

Can a lump sum deduction order be made in respect of future payments?

A lump sum deduction order can only be used to collect arrears and not any payments which may fall due in the future.

When can a lump sum deduction order be made?

The Commission has the power to make a lump sum deduction order where a non-resident parent appears to have failed to pay child support maintenance and there is money in the non-resident parent’s account, or an amount of money is due or accruing to them from a third party.

Can money be deducted from a joint account?

Money can be deducted from a joint account, although both account holders will have the opportunity to make representations before monies are deducted. Any order made will be served on both account-holders. 

Where money is deducted from a joint account the amount deducted must be fair in all the circumstances, having particular regard to the amount contributed by each of the account-holders to the account.

What is the process for the making of a lump sum deduction order?

The making of a lump sum deduction order is a two stage process. The Commission will firstly make an “interim lump sum deduction order”. 

An interim order will set out the amount of arrears in respect of which the Commission intends to make a “final lump sum deduction order” and will be sent to the deposit-taker or the third party, any joint account-holder and the non-resident parent.  

Once an interim lump sum deduction order has been made, the Commission will decide whether to make a final lump sum deduction order. The non-resident parent and any joint account-holder or third party will then have the opportunity to make representations at that stage. 

If a final lump sum deduction order is made it will be sent to the deposit-taker or third party, any joint account-holder and the non-resident parent. 

The amount of arrears set out in a final order cannot exceed those set out in the interim order less any arrears which have subsequently been paid.  

After a certain period of time, which varies depending upon the circumstances of a case, the Commission has the power to instruct the deposit-taker or third party to pay the money in question to the Commission.

What powers does the Commission have to safeguard money held by a third party or a deposit-keeper?

The Commission has the power to require a deposit-taker not to do anything that would reduce the amount of money standing in credit in the account to an amount below the amount set out in the order, or not to reduce it any further if the amount held is below the amount specified in the order. 

Similarly, the Commission has the power to require a third party not to do anything that would reduce the amount of money due to the non-resident parent to an amount below the amount set out in the order, or not to reduce it any further if the amount held is below the amount specified in the order.

Can a lump sum deduction order be made if there is an ongoing appeal against the maintenance calculation?

The Commission has the power to make both an interim lump sum deduction order and a final lump sum deduction order even where there is an ongoing appeal against the maintenance calculation. However, in such circumstances the Commission must be satisfied that the outcome of the appeal will not affect the amount of the liability covered by the order before it makes such an order or, must be satisfied that the making of an order will be fair in the circumstances of a particular case.

What obligations does a deposit-taker or third party have?

If a deposit-taker or third party fails to comply with an order they will commit a criminal offence, punishable by a fine. It is a defence to such an offence, however, if the deposit-taker or third party can show that it took all reasonable steps to comply with the order.