Plans for crackdown on non-payment of child maintenance

Plans for crackdown on non-payment of child maintenance

Aidan Reynolds

Planned reforms to the enforcement of child maintenance orders have been welcomed as a potential “game-changer” for parents.

The Department of Justice today published a 26-page report setting out 26 recommendations for improvements to the current system of enforcement of child maintenance orders, which ministers have said they will implement as quickly as possible.

Child maintenance payments should be collected by Revenue in a similar way to how it collects local property tax (LPT), or potentially deducted from social welfare payments by An Post, the report says.

The report’s other recommendations include:

  • the development of a set of child maintenance guidelines;
  • strengthening attachment of earnings orders and exploring the possibility of attaching an order to a PPS number rather than employing entities, so that orders do not lapse when there is a change in employer;
  • the introduction of a single enforcement procedure when the receiving parent makes an enforcement application, allowing the judge to choose the most appropriate enforcement option based on the circumstances of the case;
  • the simplification of the bench warrant process; and
  • placing the onus on paying parents to pay costs associated with enforcement proceedings.

Welcoming the report, Aidan Reynolds, partner at Keith Walsh Solicitors, told Irish Legal News: “These new reforms could be a real game-changer for child maintenance. They are targeted, practical and capable of being introduced immediately.

“The expert group report has opted for a sensible and pragmatic approach which means we may see these reforms introduced in the coming months, unlike many other solutions in family law.

“Not only will they make it easier for those who are owed child maintenance to collect it, they will also provide guidelines to judges so that there is more uniformity when dealing with maintenance.

“Other useful measures are the use of the sheriff and the Revenue Commissioners to collect outstanding maintenance and the abolition of the statute of limitations on maintenance.”

Publishing the report, justice minister Helen McEntee said non-payment of child maintenance “is a common problem and the current enforcement options available are limited in scope and impact”.

She added: “These recommendations are designed to deliver maximum compliance with child maintenance orders, and that is why I intend to commence the implementation process immediately.

“That will involve establishing an interdepartmental group to develop a set of child maintenance guidelines and I will do that without delay.

“At a later point, I will seek government approval for other recommendations which will require legislative change to ensure I do everything I can to ensure security and stability for children.”

Social protection minister Heather Humphreys will also introduce legislation to address some of the review’s recommendations.

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