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My ex-partner says they have no money left for child maintenance. What are my rights?

If your ex-partner either reduces or stops paying your child maintenance payments altogether, it is important that you seek independent legal advice as soon as possible. It could be that they have a good reason to do this. Have they lost their job or has their business collapsed? If so, you can either agree to them reducing the maintenance or they should apply to the court with a view of trying to vary the level of maintenance they pay.

If you obtained your order through court and it is less than 12 months old then you are able to enforce this order through court. However, if the order is more than 12 months old then you will need to apply to the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service. One of these agencies (which one you use will depend on a number of factors including how many children you have) will assess the non-paying partner and the amount of child maintenance originally decided in court is replaced by this assessment. Then the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service will enforce the child maintenance for you.

There are various enforcement methods available to you if your previous partner will not co-operate with the child maintenance order and it is under 12 months old. These include a charging order (attempting to attach a charge against land), attachment of earnings (money can be deducted from the payer’s salary), a third party debt order (attempting to seize money), warrants of possession or execution (seize goods or secure possession of premises) or petitioning for the debtor’s bankruptcy.

However, you must get specialist legal advice before you decide to enforce an order in court because if your ex-partner has a good reason for reducing or not paying the maintenance, like, for example, losing their job, then these proceedings may be stopped while the maintenance is being dealt with.


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