Enforcement if paying parent lives in England, Wales or Scotland

If you're a separated parent responsible for paying child maintenance and live in England, Scotland or Wales, the Child Maintenance Service can take legal action against you for missing a payment or not paying the amount due. This legal action can force you to pay the child maintenance you owe.

Steps that CMS can take against you

Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will contact you to find out why the maintenance wasn’t paid and arrange for you to make payment. If nothing can be agreed, CMS can:

  • take money directly from your earnings or pension
  • take money directly from your bank, building society or Post Office account

If the maintenance is still not paid or CMS thinks taking either of these two actions is not suitable, they will contact CMS/CSA in GB. They can ask them to use enforcement powers, on CMS’ behalf, through the courts, or sheriff’s office if you live in Scotland. If court action is taken, you may have to pay court costs and other charges.

Court action

CMS/CSA in GB will apply to the courts for a “liability order”. A liability order legally recognises there is a debt to be paid and gives CMS the authority of the court to take action to get the child maintenance owed.

If the liability order is successful, CMS can take legal action against you.

What legal action CMS/CSA take on behalf of CMS depends on whether you live in England and Wales, or Scotland.

CMS/CSA action against a paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) who lives in England or Wales

If you live in England or Wales, the CMS/CSA can:

  • instruct bailiffs to go to your property, seize your belongings and sell them to get the maintenance owed
  • freeze your bank, building society or Post Office account
  • freeze money that an individual or business owes you
  • ask Land Registry to put a ‘charging order’ against you
  • force the sale of a property or asset you own to get the child maintenance owed

CMS/CSA action against a paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) who lives in Scotland

If you live in Scotland, the CMS/CSA on behalf of CMS can:

  • ask the sheriff’s officers to issue a demand for payment – this allows you 14 days, or 28 days if you are living temporarily outside the UK, to pay the money you owe or legal action will be taken
  • ask the sheriff’s officers to list and value items that belong to you which are kept outside your home or business if self-employed, and can be moved – these can then be sold at public auction to get the money owed
  • ask the sheriff’s officers to value and remove items belonging to you that are kept inside the home which can then also be sold at public auction to get the money owed
  • freeze your bank, building society or Post Office account
  •  freeze money that an individual or business owes you
  • stop you from selling or transferring any “heritable property” (house, garage, business premises and land) you own

Further CMS/CSA action against a paying parent (non-resident parent, 2003 scheme) who lives in either England and Wales, or Scotland

If you still refuse to pay the child maintenance owed, the CSA/CMS on behalf of CMS can request the courts to:

  • take away your driving licence or stop you from getting or keeping a driving licence for up to two years
  • send you to prison for up to six weeks

Even if you're disqualified from driving or sent to prison, you must pay the money you owe.

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