Description of the reformed system
Index: the reformed child support system
A bit of history of child support

The reform process
The timetable for the reforms
The basics of the new formula
The effect of benefits & tax credits
Penalties and default liabilities
How partners are handled in the reformed system
Presuming and establishing paternity
Variations (the new name for departures)
Quick history of the programme to reform the CSA
The stages of the reform to the CSA legislation
Summary of the changes in the reformed system
Commencement dates - 2000 Act - sections, links to the text & dates
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Penalties and default liabilities

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Changes in the 2000 Child Support, Pensions And Social Security Act include penalties, new punishments, and what happens before the CSA has sufficient information. (DEOs, or "Detachment from Earnings Orders", are the same as the current system, and are not described here).

The existing system has relatively few penalties outside the CSA. So the CSA imposes "interim maintenance assessments" (IMAs) to cause people to provide the required information. The idea is that IMAs are sufficiently high that they will cause people to cooperate. There are various types of IMA, and some are more effective than others. IMAs disappear in the reformed system.

Two major changes with the reformed system are:

1 - There is a new penalty, which can be imposed directly by the CSA, and new punishments, which can be imposed by courts if people are found guilty of new offences such as "information offences".

2 - There is a simpler default amount that can be required to be paid if the CSA doesn't have the full information needed to make a proper calculation.


The CSA can impose a financial penalty for failing to pay, as an incentive for people to pay the full amount on time. (The CSA should not do this if there is a good enough reason for the failure, and penalties can be appealed).

They are up to 25% of the liability, so failing to pay (say) £40 in a particular week may result in a penalty of £10 for that week. This penalty is not part of the child support payment (which remains due). The penalty goes to the Treasury.

This penalty only applies to cases under the reformed system.


These punishments came into operation early in 2001, and apply to all cases, not just those under the reformed system.

Courts can impose the following punishments, if the person concerned is found guilty ("beyond reasonable doubt").

Failing to provide requested information when available, or knowingly telling lies: a fine of currently up to £1000.

Consistently failing to pay the required amount of child support maintenance: loss of driving licence for up to 2 years, as an alternative to prison, and only after other means have failed. The court should take notice of whether the driving licence is needed for making a living.

Default maintenance decisions:

These are to ensure that money starts flowing as rapidly as possible, even before enough is known to do the proper calculation. They replace IMAs. The default payment (per week) is simply £30 for 1 child, £40 for 2 children, and £50 for 3 or more children.

If the later calculation is higher than this, the extra is due (as arrears). If it is lower, there is no refund.

(There are also "interim maintenance decisions", which applies where a "variation" has been applied for and a proper decision cannot yet be made. Variations, the new name for departures, will be the subject of a later article).

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Reduced benefit decisions:
Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000 (section 19)
The Child Support (Maintenance Calculation Procedure) Regulations 2000

Financial penalties:
Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000 (section 18)

Information offences:
Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000 (sections 13 & 14)

Punishments for not paying:
Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000 (sections 16 & 17)

Default maintenance decisions:
Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000 (section 4)

Page last updated: 17 December, 2003 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003