New powers announced to clampdown on “child maintenance cheats”

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Parents who use a joint bank account will no longer be able to avoid paying child maintenance as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announces new powers to recover arrears.

Under current arrangements, debt can only be recovered from a bank or building society account held solely by the parent.

The DWP said closing this “loophole” could lead to the collection of more than £390,000 additional child maintenance each year. The new powers will come into effect “early next year”.

Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance Caroline Dinenage, said: “Our priority is for children to get the support they need. Only a small minority of parents try to cheat their way out of paying towards their children and this new power will be another tool to tackle those who do.

“The government’s response to a public consultation on joint account deductions has been published today. This sets out how deduction orders against joint accounts will work and the safeguards that will be in place to protect the other holder of the joint account.”

How can the new powers be used?

  • A deduction order only being imposed on a joint account when the paying parent does not have their own account, or there is not enough money in their own account
  • Only funds belonging to the paying parent being targeted, as before a deduction order is made on a joint account, data on that bank account will be collected and bank statements examined to establish which money in the account belongs to the paying parent
  • Existing safeguards already in place for deduction orders for child maintenance will apply to this new power, including the maximum deduction rate on regular orders being set at 40 per cent of the paying parent’s weekly income
  • Both account holders will be given the right to make their case before a deduction order is made.
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