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Detachment of Earnings Orders

Volume 732: debated on Tuesday 2 May 2023

The petition of Craig Bulman,

Declares that the Child Maintenance Service’s current policy on the enforcement of Detachment of Earnings Orders is not in accordance with the principles it should apply; notes that the CMS must provide factual evidence to the Paying Parents employer and Bank Manager that arrears are owed before such enforcement can commence; further notes that if arrears are in dispute DEO’s must not be enforced bank accounts must not be garnished and liability orders must not be granted; furthermore that the burden of proof lies upon the accuser to prove with factual evidence that a debt is owed by the Paying Parent.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to take into account the concerns of the petitioner and work with the Child Maintenance Service to prevent the improper use of the Detachment of Earnings Orders.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Official Report, 1 March 2023; Vol. 728, c. 6P.]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies):

The Child Maintenance Service always encourages paying parents to pay their maintenance on time, in order to avoid accrual of arrears.

What a paying parent has to pay is determined by their maintenance calculation. If the paying parent is not happy with the calculation, they can ask for a mandatory reconsideration of it by the CMS, and if they remain unhappy, they can appeal the calculation in an independent tribunal. If a paying parent does not dispute the calculation, or if any dispute results in its remaining unchanged, and the paying parent does not pay it, then collection methods are used which are intended to re-establish full compliance as quickly and effectively as possible.

Therefore, where a paying parent fails to pay maintenance payments on time or in full, the CMS will take action to re-establish compliance and collect any unpaid amounts that have accrued.

Paying parents are given warnings of the consequences of non-compliance and caseworkers will seek to establish reasons for missed payments, help parents get back on track with their payments and put a repayment plan in place. If an arrears notice has already been issued within the last 12 months, the CMS is not required to issue another before taking enforcement action. If negotiations are unsuccessful and no payment is agreed, then enforcement action can be sought to restart the flow of money to ensure children get the financial support they deserve.

If the paying parent is employed, the CMS will instruct that child maintenance payments are deducted from their salary using a deductions from earnings order. Employers are obliged by law to take this action. When a DEO is served, the CMS provides the employer with a figure to be deducted which usually includes ongoing maintenance, collection fees and arrears.

To ensure that the CMS protects the paying parent against financial hardship, the maximum amount an employer can deduct is 40% of the paying parent’s net wage. The 60% of net income that the paying parent is allowed to keep is known as the protected earnings proportion and helps to ensure parents have enough money for their living costs. If the paying parent’s protected earnings proportion means that the employer cannot deduct the full amount that is instructed because they have not received sufficient earnings, the employer deducts as much as possible while leaving the paying parent with 60% of their net earnings.

If the paying parent does not agree with the decision or they think it is wrong, they can formally ask for the decision to be changed. This is called an appeal. An appeal can only be based on one or both of the following reasons:

The order is not correct or does not contain enough information for the deductions to be made by an employer,

The payments made to the paying parent by the employer are not classed as earnings.

To appeal against the deduction from earnings order, they must write to the local magistrates court if they live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland; or to the local sheriff’s court if they live in Scotland. The appeal must be made within 28 days of the date on which the deduction from earnings order was sent—56 days if they do not live in the United Kingdom. They must specify which of the above reasons are applicable to the appeal.