Maintenance Orders: Imposing Financial Responsibility on Parents

What is a Maintenance Order?

Traditionally, maintenance orders impose necessary financial paternal responsibility for a child to be paid to the child’s mother. However in today’s more complicated family units, the more preferable explanation would be that the parent with the main everyday care responsibilities of the child are to receive child maintenance from the non-resident parent who doesn’t have the main everyday care responsibility for the child. A private agreement can be made between parents meaning that a maintenance order is unnecessary, where such an amicable arrangement cannot be met, the Child Support Agency can be of assistance to arrange child maintenance.

Child Support Agency (CSA)

The Child support agency is an enforcing body in the UK that can be contacted when a private mutual agreement over child maintenance cannot be arranged. Ordinarily where the non resident parent would provide financial support directly to the resident parent (often the child’s or children’s mother), the non resident parent would receive a maintenance order to pay child support to the Child Support Agency, who in turn pay it to the resident parent. The CSA has the power to do this through The Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1972.

Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders (REMO)

Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders or REMO is a practice facilitated in the UK through The Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1972. REMO refers to the process wherein UK court generated maintenance orders are registered and enforced on the non-resident parent by authorities and courts in foreign countries. Due to the REMO procedures being governed internationally, maintenance orders can be made against UK residents in favor of a foreign party. (Counties vary in status within the international convention, and the availability of REMOs depends on whether or not the country is a signatory).

The CSA and Enforcing Maintenance Orders

The CSA or court advises the absent parent that maintenance is to be paid to the resident parent, when payments are not made, or the absent parent refuses to pay actions can be taken by the CSA and courts to recover the owed money and action can be taken against the party in breach of their maintenance duties.

Charging Orders

When the owing party refusing to pay maintenance is a home owner, the resident parent can apply a ‘charge’ to the property which ensures that upon the sale of the property, maintenance arrears will be paid. An application can be made through the court for an early sale of the property once the charge has been obtained.

Attachment of Earnings

In the instance that the absent parent is employed, the courts and CSA can approach the employer so an amount can be deducted from their salary to meet maintenance payments.

Garnishee Orders

Similar to attachment of earnings, when another third party owes money to the non-resident parent or is holding money on this person’s behalf, the court can order that some or all of that money is recovered to the parent due the maintenance payments.

Freezing Injunctions

In the instance that the party in breach of a maintenance order is concealing available finances, a court order can be obtained to get affected bank accounts frozen, and ability to move money out of the country is seized so the court can act accordingly and decide how the assets should be divided. 

Judgment Summons

When someone is in breach of a maintenance order and they continue to refuse to make payments to the other parent, an application can be made in court for them to be sent to prison.