Parents disqualified from driving for non-payment of Child Maintenance

The Child Support Act 1991, as amended by the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000, gave the Secretary of State the power to apply to the Magistrates’ Court for an order disqualifying a non-resident parent from holding or obtaining a driving licence for failure to pay child support maintenance. The Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 established the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission and transferred this power to the Commission.

The Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 contains some new provisions which relate to the disqualification of non-resident parents from holding or obtaining driving licences due to non-payment of child support maintenance and which are expected to come into force in 2010.

In what circumstances will such an application be made?

The current position

Currently the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission has the power to apply to the Court for the an order disqualifying a non-resident parent from holding or obtaining a driving licence if: 

  • it has tried to levy the arrears by distress and sale of the non-resident parent’s goods in accordance with the Child Support Act 1991, as amended by the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000; or
  • it has tried to recover the arrears by means of a third party debt order or a charging order; and
  • the arrears remain outstanding in full or in part.

The position under the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008

When the new provisions of the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 come into force the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission will have the power to apply to the Court for an order disqualifying a non-resident parent from holding or obtaining a driving licence if:

  • it has tried to recover the arrears through the use of bailiffs or by means of a third party debt order or a charging order;
  • the arrears remain outstanding in full or in part; and
  • it is of the opinion that the non-resident parent has wilfully refused or culpably neglected to pay child support maintenance.

For the purposes of the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 the Commission will be treated as having sought to recover arrears by way of a charging order if an interim charging order is in place and irrespective as to whether or not further action has been taken to recover the arrears.

What matters will the Court take into account when deciding whether to disqualify a non-resident parent from holding or obtaining a driving licence?

When deciding whether to issue a warrant committing a non-resident parent to prison the Court will be required (by both the Child Support Act 1991, as amended, and the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008) to inquire in the presence of the non-resident parent:

    whether the non-resident parent needs a driving licence to earn a living; whether there has been wilful refusal or culpable neglect on the part of the non-resident parent to pay the child support maintenance; and as to the non-resident parent’s means.

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For more information on:

  • When will a disqualification order not be granted?
  • Will the Court be able to question the liability order on which the application has been made or the original maintenance calculation?
  • If a disqualification order is made how long will the non-resident parent be disqualified from driving for and what happens to their driving licence?
  • Who will be responsible for the costs associated with an application for a disqualification order?
  • Does the Court have any other powers?
  • Can a disqualification order be revoked or varied?