Home > The Basic Facts > Arranging Child Support Through the Courts

Arranging Child Support Through the Courts

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 19 May 2017 |
 
Court Consent Order Enforcement Child

It is possible to arrange child maintenance payments through the court. This is done, in England and Wales, by way of a ‘consent order.’ A consent order is an official ruing of the court that orders the non-resident parent to pay an agreed amount of child support to the resident parent. If you and your ex partner cannot agree on the amount that should be paid, a consent order is not the right option for you.

Consent orders for child support payments are almost always ordered at the same time as the parties are in court for another reason, e.g. a divorce or in ancillary relief proceedings. If you are not eligible for legal aid, you will have to pay for the consent order yourself (court fees, solicitors fees etc.) It is also important to note that if you are normally eligible for legal aid, you will not be covered for a consent order if you are only going to court to deal with child maintenance issues.

What Happens If The Order Is Breached?

If the non-resident parent does not comply with the order of the court, the court can then enforce payment against them. If you then wish to go to the CSA/CMS to obtain child maintenance payments, you cannot do this until the order has been in force for at least twelve months.

The Court’s Powers of Enforcement

Much like the powers of the CSA/CMS, the court can require that deductions are made from the non-resident parent’s earnings at source. It is also possible to put a charge on the non-resident parent’s property, if they own it. Although this is not a quick-fix in that you will not get your money immediately, it means that you will obtain the money you are owed on the sale of the property if there is enough equity left after mortgage and any other charges are paid off. If your ex-partner has a lot of charges against his or her property, you may be quite a long way down the list and may not receive anything when it is sold. If someone owes your ex-partner money, you can apply to the court to obtain a ‘third party debt order’, which is basically an order of the court requiring the money to be paid to you rather than to your ex-partner. You can do this with money owed to your ex by banks, companies and private individuals. The facility for an overdraft does not count, in this regard, and nor does money that is contained within a joint account.

Injunction

If your ex is caught trying to move money between accounts or hiding details of his or her finances, you can also ask the court to intervene by obtaining a ‘freezing injunction.’ This stops the assets being moved around, and is especially useful if your ex-partner is trying to take money out of the country.

Prison For Non-Payment of Child Support

A last resort in relation to CSA/CMS payments is that you can apply to the court to have your ex-partner sent to prison. The application that you make is called a ‘Request for Judgment Summons’, which summons your ex to court. If your ex does not show up, the court may issue a warrant for their immediate arrest, or a ‘suspended committal order’, which in effect gives them another chance to show up before a warrant is issued.

The judge can either: order that the payments are made by instalments; or, if satisfied that your ex has the means to pay but is wilfully refusing to pay, can send him or her to prison for a period of up to six weeks.

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sammy123 - Your Question:
I am currently owed back pay (substantial amount) my son is now 22 years old and I have never recieved a penny from the father. He has had numerous assessments by the CSA, some reasonable other amounts baffling. I fully intend to take the father to court for the back pay, I am just looking for advice on where I should begin? The process etc.

Our Response:
You should begin by seeing a solicitor to see whether you have a strong case, as you could be liable to court costs if you lose. You don't give the reason why your ex has not paid and why CSA/CMS were unable to collect the money. If your ex does not have the money (regardless of whether he owes it or not), a court may not be able to extract the money either. Therefore, please take some sound legal advice first.
ChildSupportLaws - 19-May-17 @ 2:49 PM
I am currently owed back pay (substantial amount) my son is now 22 years old and I have never recieved a penny from the father. He has had numerous assessments by the CSA, some reasonable other amounts baffling. I fully intend to take the father to court for the back pay, I am just looking for advice on where I should begin? The process etc..
sammy123 - 19-May-17 @ 1:08 PM
I separated from my children father in 2015, he hasn't paid me a penny since oct 2016, and the payments in between was in constant. I finally got a csa agreement in Aug 2016, which he broke 3 months later. They wright to him, he promises to pay, then don't. I am owed 1200 and counting. He hasn't seen my chick since July 2016 after my son just refused to c him as all visits was in the pub, or around other people. My son kept requesting time alone with him, he refused, calling my son selfish. Since we split I have had a non mol order against him, and his new partner has had a warning of the police for harassment, which they have both resently broke. I am in financial crisis, I was debt free when I broke from him, after 4 yrs of slugging my guts out to free myself, after we split, I unavoidable got myself into debt, just trying to keep the roof over mine and my children head. I've been advised to get a court order for maintenance, but I'm not sure where he lives, where he works, and I really can't afford court costs, etc. I work, 30 hrs a wk. Will I get any help taking him to court? The csa just write to him, in the meantime me and my kids live hand to mouth.
Me - 14-May-17 @ 10:34 PM
My ex stop paying for my eldest child believing he'd left education. He is in fact16 yrs at full time college. We had a court order since 2013 which I have now passed on to the Child maintenance options (C.S.A) as I cannot risk my ex just stopping the payments as he sees fit, without giving me any notification. He believes he's in the right and claims he has a letter from the court (for his own records) I have rang the courts, they have no record of this so called letter. I would like to know how to claim back the other half that he did not payin March for my eldest son. As the courts and the C.M O. cannot help me resolve this and I have had no maintenance since end of March , the next payment will be end of May.
dignity - 10-May-17 @ 10:24 AM
Cathy - Your Question:
I would welcome advice from anybody with regards to an ex partner ( self employed, so usual difficulties there!) trying to control the amount of maintenance he pays. This would appear to be presenting itself in terms of how he wishes to amend a draft document before signing, so that if I commence work , find a partner and cohabit, in the future, that he will reduce the amount as he sees fit! It is a control issue, he has good earning potential , the amount he presently pays is above his assessed by maintenance amount, ( agreed verbally a year ago so I would not refer him to maintenance for assessment again/ yearly, as it was an unpleasant experience for him) so all mind games and punishment tactics. Is there a way to deal with this effectively ? I do not want to live under the shadow of insecurity/ control. Do I just need to have his income assessed yearly? Or is there a more definitive way to achieve desired outcome and what is the procedure ?Thank you

Our Response:
Child maintenance is not and should not be based upon your circumstances - child maintenance is based solely upon your child's father's earnings. Whether you work or not, or who you choose to live with is irrelevant to the amount the father of your child should pay in order to support his son. CMS works on the basis of the amount of tax he pays to HMRC. Dependent upon his business, he can offset earnings to expenses which can make it more difficult for the non-paying parent. However, whether he has had a nasty experience or not with CMS is not your concern. Your concern is to remove his efforts to control and ensure he pays towards the day-to-day needs of your child as every father who is earning a wage is legally bound to do. If he persists in trying to force you stick to his rules, a solicitor's letter outlining your child maintenance rights by law might do the trick. The decision you make is of course, up to you.
ChildSupportLaws - 9-May-17 @ 10:41 AM
I would welcome advice from anybody with regards to an ex partner ( self employed, so usual difficulties there!) trying to control the amount of maintenance he pays. This would appear to be presenting itself in terms of how he wishes to amend a draft document before signing, so that if I commence work , find a partner and cohabit, in the future, that he will reduce the amount as he sees fit! It is a control issue, he has good earning potential , the amount he presently pays is above his assessed by maintenance amount, ( agreed verbally a year ago so I would not refer him to maintenance for assessment again/ yearly, as it was an unpleasant experience for him) so all mind games and punishment tactics. Is there a way to deal with this effectively ? i do not want to live under the shadow of insecurity/ control. Do I just need to have his income assessed yearly? Or is there a more definitive way to achieve desired outcome and what is the procedure ? Thank you
Cathy - 8-May-17 @ 9:37 AM
D - Your Question:
Sam,Thank you for the quick response.After reviewing the papers it is in fact a 'consent order' signed off by the judge, not a court order.Dose this change things or does the above message still apply?Many thanksD

Our Response:
A consent order is drawn up by a solicitor and sealed by a judge, which makes it legally binding. As a rule, a consent order is final. However, it can be reviewed through court if one person suspects there has been some dishonesty suspected i.e hidden finances/assets. Or where one party fails to tell the other party about a pay rise or new job offer. Also, if new events have occurred since the making of the order which are significant enough to invalidate the fundamental basis upon which the order was made.
ChildSupportLaws - 4-May-17 @ 12:40 PM
Sam, Thank you for the quick response. After reviewing the papers it is in fact a 'consent order' signed off by the judge, not a court order. Dose this change things or does the above message still apply? Many thanks D
D - 3-May-17 @ 6:46 PM
@D I don't think the CMS will touch this if there is a court order in place. If she wants more money, she'll be told to apply back to court to vary the order. But I don't think court would allow her to re-apply unless there was a change in circumstances, i.e you'd had a big wage hike. The court don't usually let people apply to vary the order so close to the order being issued. Sam.
SGF - 3-May-17 @ 11:24 AM
My ex wife has said she wishes to seek CMS payments despite us having a court order in place, which already gives her a healthy percentage of my wage. This sum was agreed by both parties and signed off by a judge less than 12 months ago. She says she now wants more money. Can the CMS over rule a court order?
D - 2-May-17 @ 9:59 PM
Jct126- Your Question:
Hi can I apply for a consent order for child maintenance even though I have a decree nisi

Our Response:
Yes, you can make a claim for child maintenance from the non-resident parent as soon as you separate - please see link here.
ChildSupportLaws - 24-Mar-17 @ 1:46 PM
Hi can I apply for a consent order for child maintenance even though I have a decree nisi
Jct126 - 24-Mar-17 @ 6:34 AM
Hi I have 2 children to my ex partner and he earns 600 to a 1000 a week which goes In his bank account he's classes as self employed but works for a company. He's company put on his wage slip that he only earns 300 a week but it's more than that how does he get away with this? My children are only entitled to 47pound a week and he can't even stick to that payment...how do I get to the bottom of this and get a percentage of the right wages he is getting what my children deserve is this classed as dread by him and also his company ?
Lincook - 15-Mar-17 @ 10:19 PM
Bert - Your Question:
My 16 year old who lived with me and her mum (not married) was induced by a distant family member to go and live with her. Our daughter had been in trouble through use of social media including police involvement. On advice from police and the school we removed direct access through smartphone. The relative, my partners cousin, then enticed outlet daughter away by providing her with a phone. That relative is now making a claim for child benefit. She also claims many benefits and works 16 hrs. She admitted she is using our daughter for financial gain. Next will be child maintenance. CMS say we will have to pay her. Our daughter has been bribed and in our view is being groomed to provide extra benefits/ bigger house and then child maintenance. She has her own two young children. This seems immoral if not illegal to use our daughter in this way. Is there anything at all we can do. I am tempted to take this to court to get a judge to view the scenario.

Our Response:
You would have to seek legal advice about taking the matter to court. We can't advise whether this family member is acting rightly or wrongly, it would be up to the court to decide what it thinks is in the best interests of your child.
ChildSupportLaws - 8-Mar-17 @ 12:53 PM
My 16 year old who lived with me and her mum (not married) was induced by a distant family member to go and live with her. Our daughter had been in trouble through use of social media including police involvement. On advice from police and the school we removed direct access through smartphone. The relative, my partners cousin, then enticed outlet daughter away by providing her with a phone. That relative is now making a claim for child benefit. She also claims many benefits and works 16 hrs. She admitted she is using our daughter for financial gain. Next will be child maintenance. CMS say we will have to pay her. Our daughter has been bribed and in our view is being groomed to provide extra benefits/ bigger house and then child maintenance. She has her own two young children . This seems immoral if not illegal to use our daughter in this way. Is there anything at all we can do. I am tempted to take this to court to get a judge to view the scenario.
Bert - 7-Mar-17 @ 6:35 PM
MumNeedsHelp - Your Question:
Can someone advise me how to go about, and the possible cost, of a child maintenance order please? I was never married to my sons father, who lives in Sydney, Australia, and an added complication is he is not on the birth certificate as he lived over there when my son was born 4 years ago, although he did ask for a paternity test when he visited last year as he was to discredit his son as he hadn't told his latest girlfriend about him, anyway the test confirmed he is the father so he has no argument there. I have looked online and can find that I need to apply for a court order as the father lives abroad, but can't seem to find anymore information on how I go about a court order and how much it can cost.

Our Response:
The Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Order (REMO) Unit helps to register and enforce child maintenance orders internationally, this may be more helpful and less costly than court. Please see link here.
ChildSupportLaws - 21-Feb-17 @ 11:16 AM
Can someone advise me how to go about, and the possible cost, of a child maintenance order please?I was never married to my sons father, who lives in Sydney, Australia, and an added complication is he is not on the birth certificate as he lived over there when my son was born 4 years ago, although he did ask for a paternity test when he visited last year as he was to discredit his son as he hadn't told his latest girlfriend about him, anyway the test confirmed he is the father so he has no argument there.I have looked online and can find that I need to apply for a court order as the father lives abroad, but can't seem to find anymore information on how I go about a court order and how much it can cost.
MumNeedsHelp - 20-Feb-17 @ 10:31 AM
ladypebbles - Your Question:
Hi, my partner had a consent order to settle access and child maintenance as part of his divorce settlement. In May it has been one year so we can apply to the CMS to have this reassessed as I understand it. The amount was settled originally at £400 total, with extra expenses (which we consider to be big school trips, passports, swimming lesson etc) to be agreed by both parties in advance with one month notice. Originally he paid £480 but was struggling to afford it, so reduced it to £440 then again to the £400. The final time was partly financial as he had to set up in a new house with space for them to stay as they have shared custody, but also as she kept presenting him with demands for payments such as medicines, haircuts, designer clothes. We have fitted them out with all the clothes etc they need here and have told her we do out own christmas/birthdays but she also wanted £100 towards each birthday party, which we refused after going to one where we were completely ignored. He has also paid her for extras such as passports but she has yet to apply for these. Being very frustrated with all of this, he has decided to refer it to the CMS and offered to continue his salary sacrifice of £80 per month towards her childcare but she has refused to entertain this and is using emotional blackmail telling him he is taking money out of their mouths, although last year she had 4 luxury holidays abroad and never took the kids away once. This is without even knowing what the CMS will decide he should be paying! we cant budget with these constant demands for money, which are never agreed, only given, and if we suggest a cheaper option, we are laughed at - for example second-hand school jumpers from a close family friend in perfect condition. That is why we want one set amount, and any extra money we have can be spent on them here, or put aside to save for them, which we have told her. Is a ny of that unreasonable?She also says she will consult a lawyer now and we are concerned what will happen - especially if she will stop him seeing the kids, which he already has more than the agreed amount, so it would be very upsetting for him and them. Where do we stand if she refuses to accept what the CMS says? Is it likely to go to court and if so, what can we do to try an avoid it as we do not want the children to have to be in the middle of that.

Our Response:
The Child Maintenance Service cannot overrule a court order. If your partner wishes to for the assessment to go through CMS, then he would have to refer the matter back to court to ask for a variation of the order. You can see how much he should be paying via the CMS link here. Also, if your partner's ex threatens to/ or stops him seeing the kids, he may wish to ask a solicitor to write a letter to his ex explaining that child maintenance and child access have no bearing on each other (as children cannot be used as weapons in child maintenance disagreements), as well as to seek some legal advice to explore his options.
ChildSupportLaws - 6-Feb-17 @ 10:36 AM
Hi, my partner had a consent order to settle access and child maintenance as part of his divorce settlement. In May it has been one year so we can apply to the CMS to have this reassessed as I understand it. The amount was settled originally at £400 total, with extra expenses (which we consider to be big school trips, passports, swimming lesson etc) to be agreed by both parties in advance with one month notice. Originally he paid £480 but was struggling to afford it, so reduced it to £440 then again to the £400. The final time was partly financial as he had to set up in a new house with spacefor them to stay as they have shared custody, but also as she kept presenting him with demands for payments such as medicines, haircuts, designer clothes. We have fitted them out with all the clothes etc they need here and have told her we do out own christmas/birthdays but she also wanted £100 towards each birthday party, which we refused after going to one where we were completely ignored. He hasalso paid her for extras such as passports but she has yet to apply for these. Being very frustrated with all of this, he has decided to refer it to the CMS and offered to continue his salary sacrifice of £80 per month towards her childcare but she has refused to entertain this and is using emotional blackmail telling him he is taking money out of their mouths, although last year she had 4 luxury holidays abroad and never took the kids away once. This is without even knowing what the CMS will decide he should be paying! we cant budget with these constant demands for money, which are never agreed, only given, and if we suggest a cheaper option, we are laughed at - for example second-hand school jumpers from a close family friend in perfect condition. That is why we want one set amount, and any extra money we have can be spent on them here, or put aside to save for them, which we have told her. Is a ny of that unreasonable? She also says she will consult a lawyer now and we are concerned what will happen - especially if she will stop him seeing the kids, which he already has more than the agreed amount, so it would be very upsetting for him and them. Where do we stand if she refuses to accept what the CMS says? Is it likely to go to court and if so, what can we do to try an avoid it as we do not want the children to have to be in the middle of that.
ladypebbles - 5-Feb-17 @ 8:28 AM
Hi We have a Court Order Consent for child maintenance.I have two children aged 10 and 12.I divorced my husband after years of domestic violence and verbal harassment.He refuses to communicate with me regarding the children, he doesn't reply to texts, emails and phone calls.I paid for mediation before and he refused to attend any meetings. So far he has been regular on the maintenance money but he is a month overdue and because I work full time I am not entitled to legal aid.How can I enforce the Court Order without paying a solicitor?I have contacted CMS, Child Maintenance Options already and they cannot help me because it was a court order.
Preety - 27-Jan-17 @ 12:08 PM
Hi My ex and I have a court order for him to pay maintenance until our son is 17. After a year he went to the casa to change the amount. Our son is now 17. Does he have to stop paying or will he have to continue until the law states 20 in full time education?
Loopylou - 5-Jan-17 @ 9:32 PM
michaela - Your Question:
My daughter is 5 her dads never paid maintenance when I contact csa then cms when it changed hands he quit his job he seems to think the money is for me or he doesn't trust itd get spent on our daughter so I suggested maybe he could buy her what she needs as she needs it and he still refused im just wondering whether or not court would be my next step? We have a court order in place for his contact twice a fortnight. Thank you

Our Response:
Unless your ex is working and paying tax via the HMRC, then he will not be responsible for paying child maintenance as child maintenance is based upon the non-resident parent's earnings. I can only suggest you contact HMRC again as son as he begins work.
ChildSupportLaws - 21-Dec-16 @ 12:48 PM
My daughter is 5 her dads never paid maintenance when i contact csa then cms when it changed hands he quit his job he seems to think the money is for me or he doesn't trust itd get spent on our daughter so i suggested maybe he could buy her what she needs as she needs it and he still refused im just wondering whether or not court would be my next step? We have a court order in place for his contact twice a fortnight. Thank you
michaela - 20-Dec-16 @ 9:32 PM
Cb594 - Your Question:
Advice please. Consent order issued to me in 2001 to pay maintenance for my son. He is nearly 19 now and I have never missed a payment( about 35k in total). It states reaches 17 or finishes full time education. My son is now doing another college course and wont finish this one until he is over 20. I have had enough and want to stop paying when he is 19. If the ex has her way she will keep him in college until he is 40. I havent spoken to her about this yet as she will kick off. Anyone know where I stand.

Our Response:
Every parent has the basic responsibility to provide for their child up until the age of 16, when they are legally allowed to leave school and get a job. After this age, it depends what your child chooses to do. If they continue in full-time non-advanced education not higher than A-level equivalent, for at least 12 hours a week, then your maintenance payments will continue until your child finishes or until they turn 20. Therefore, I'm afraid your ex would be able to take the matter back to court if you stop paying, as you will be in breach of the court order and liable for arrears. However, your son should be in government approved education and still in receipt of child benefit for you to keep paying, please see link here. If his course does not comply with those listed and/or child benefit has stopped, then you too can stop.
ChildSupportLaws - 4-Nov-16 @ 2:05 PM
Advice please. Consent order issued to me in 2001 to pay maintenance for my son. He is nearly 19 now and i have never missed a payment( about 35k in total). It states reaches 17 or finishes full time education. My son is now doing another college course and wont finish this one until he is over 20. I have had enough and want to stop paying when he is 19. If the ex has her way she will keep him in college until he is 40. I havent spoken to her about this yet as she will kick off. Anyone know where i stand.
Cb594 - 3-Nov-16 @ 8:09 PM
Hi I'm from Ireland and have the justice department here working with the uk authorities , my ex moved to the uk when our son was four months old ,I have an Irish court order seeking €25 a week . Do you know how long it takes to make a decision and how long it takes to process ? Thank you
Adie - 13-Oct-16 @ 1:50 PM
Hi My hubby pays his ex maintenance each month, when they got divorced they set an amount in divorce in line with CSA, she then got a lawyer (lives in Europe) and demanded more. My hubby increased this to her request. She is now demanding more inline with Düsseldorf table. He has refused as on top of her payments he pays £500 each holiday to fly his children across plus school expenses. What are his options?
Kap77 - 10-Oct-16 @ 1:59 PM
Cms or csa tactics are heavy handed I paid as a standing order for ten payments they said I could set up a direct payment plan offer was made an accept then refused and a doe of twice the amount was take. Out of my living income They said it was fair of them to garnish my wages to the tune of £400 because I was a bad payer ? Can I provide proof that I paid after the fact of a doe ? And hr in work gave me doe statements Mad system then informed that £400 a month for 12 months out of a 13,500 net wage was balanced No housing costs food clothing no nothing They have said we have done nothing wrong My bill is £33 a week I offered 20 a week so I can still toto work keep my home collect my children Said no and it's 54 a week and arrears it now £70 a week for two children ??? When I was only £100 in arrears A report was written in 2005 stating that csa cms are just shambolic and 11 years later no change Parents should pay but not with threats of prison loss of liberty or no contact or limited contact stupid Kids need fathers and fathers need their kids It's that simple so stealing a persons living wage to give profit for a defunked system is stupid and lacks common sense to put the parent out of a child's life over this criminal process We should pay but at a reasonable amount that keeps people in empolyment and housed so the state does not have to pay out Commons sense but lacks profit for cms and the system that does not communicate with each other and a doe at a rate that puts extreme hardship and say suck it up and get on with it Process of stealing for profit is not about ending child poverty if making a parent excluded form
Dave - 1-Oct-16 @ 6:58 PM
Put upon - Your Question:
I have a child maintenance order as part of my divorce in 2006 and my ex is supposed to pay a fixed amount about a year and a half ago he started to pay me less, can he do this and if I take him to court will I win? Not only has it not gone up with the cost of living as it is supposed to, it has gone down!

Our Response:
Yes, if your ex is in breach of the court order you can take the matter back to court to have the order enforced. If you wish the order to be financially re-assessed, which after 10 years you will be eligible, I advise you to do this at the same time. Dependent upon your ex's situation, hopefully the courts will re-issue it with an incremental re-evaluation of the cost of living and also the arrears. Please, be aware that if your ex's financial situation has come down since the order was issued the courts will also take this into consideration. However, if this is the case, your ex should have applied for a variation hemself.
ChildSupportLaws - 18-Aug-16 @ 12:24 PM
I have a child maintenance order as part of my divorce in 2006 and my ex is supposed to pay a fixed amount about a year and a half ago he started to pay me less, can he do this and if I take him to court will I win?Not only has it not gone up with the cost of living as it is supposed to, it has gone down!
Put upon - 17-Aug-16 @ 7:49 PM
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