Friday 13 August 2010

Child maintenance debt prevents father selling house

One of the region’s most experienced family lawyers is warning parents that they could be prevented from selling their homes if they have unpaid child maintenance costs.

Steven Jackson, a consultant at Higgs & Sons with over 30 years' experience, said the recent case of a father being prevented, by Order of the High Court, from selling his house because he owes in excess of £78,000 in unpaid child maintenance should be a warning to other parents across the region.

“This is the first reported case of its kind,” says Steven. “The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, formerly the CSA, secured the order to stop the father from dissipating the proceeds of sale.

“The case follows the Commission being given new additional powers to deal with parents who fail to meet their maintenance liabilities by selling or transferring assets including to relatives, friends and new partners.”

Steven says that in this case, a ‘freezing order’ was made after the man placed the house on the open market online and the Commission has indicated that it has similar cases in the pipeline. The Commission now hopes to produce similar orders or reversals of the sales or transfers of property previously made by parents who have unpaid maintenance arrears.

Steven said: “The Commission are determined to send out a strong message that it will seek to close escape routes for parents who are intent on trying to cheat the system. In addition to this, Lump Sum Deduction Orders are also being pursued forcing banks to pay over monies held in accounts of defaulting parents.

“It’s clear that there will be an increased use of such powers and my message to parents who are liable to pay but who may well have genuine reasons for challenging assessments or alleged arrears must be to not allow matters to get to such a point.

“Seek legal advice at an early stage, be proactive and whatever you do, do not bury your head in the sand.”

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