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The Child Support(Northern Ireland) Order 1991

Status:

This is the original version (as it was originally made).

Collection and enforcement

Collection of child support maintenance

29.—(1) The Department may arrange for the collection of any child support maintenance payable in accordance with a maintenance assessment where—

(a)the assessment is made by virtue of Article 9; or

(b)an application has been made to the Department under Article 7(2) for the Department to arrange for its collection.

(2) Where a maintenance assessment is made under this Order, payments of child support maintenance under the assessment shall be made in accordance with regulations made by the Department.

(3) The regulations may, in particular, make provision—

(a)for payments of child support maintenance to be made—

(i)to the person caring for the child or children in question;

(ii)to, or through, the Department; or

(iii)to, or through, such other person as the Department may specify;

(b)as to the method by which payments of child support maintenance are to be made;

(c)as to the intervals at which such payments are to be made;

(d)as to the method and timing of the transmission of payments which are made to or through the Department or any other person, in accordance with the regulations;

(e)empowering the Department to direct any person liable to make payments in accordance with the assessment—

(i)to make them by standing order or by any other method which requires one person to give his authority for payments to be made from an account of his to an account of another’s on specific dates during the period for which the authority is in force and without the need for any further authority from him;

(ii)to open an account from which payments under the assessment may be made in accordance with the method of payment which that person is obliged to adopt;

(f)providing for the making of representations with respect to matters with which the regulations are concerned.

Collection and enforcement of other forms of maintenance

30.—(1) Where the Department is arranging for the collection of any payments under Article 29 or paragraph (2), it may also arrange for the collection of any periodical payments, or secured periodical payments, of a prescribed kind which are payable to or for the benefit of any person who falls within a prescribed category.

(2) The Department may arrange for the collection of any periodical payments or secured periodical payments of a prescribed kind which are payable for the benefit of a child even though it is not arranging for the collection of child support maintenance with respect to that child.

(3) Where—

(a)the Department is arranging, under this Order, for the collection of different payments (“the payments”) from the same absent parent;

(b)an amount is collected by the Department from the absent parent which is less than the total amount due in respect of the payments; and

(c)the absent parent has not stipulated how that amount is to be allocated by the Department as between payments,

the Department may allocate that amount as it sees fit.

(4) The Department may by regulations make provision for Articles 29 and 31 to 37 to apply, with such modifications (if any) as it considers necessary or expedient, for the purpose of enabling it to enforce any obligation to pay any amount which it is authorised to collect under this Article.

Deduction from earnings orders

31.—(1) This Article applies where any person (“the liable person”) is liable to make payments of child support maintenance.

(2) The Department may make an order (“a deduction from earnings order”) against a liable person to secure the payment of any amount due under the maintenance assessment in question.

(3) A deduction from earnings order may be made so as to secure the payment of—

(a)arrears of child support maintenance payable under the assessment;

(b)amounts of child support maintenance which will become due under the assessment; or

(c)both such arrears and such future amounts.

(4) A deduction from earnings order—

(a)shall be expressed to be directed at a person (“the employer”) who has the liable person in his employment; and

(b)shall have effect from such date as may be specified in the order.

(5) A deduction from earnings order shall operate as an instruction to the employer to—

(a)make deductions from the liable person’s earnings; and

(b)pay the amounts deducted to the Department.

(6) The Department shall serve a copy of any deduction from earnings order which it makes under this Article on—

(a)the person who appears to the Department to have the liable person in question in his employment; and

(b)the liable person.

(7) Where—

(a)a deduction from earnings order has been made; and

(b)a copy of the order has been served on the liable person’s employer,

it shall be the duty of that employer to comply with the order; but he shall not be under any liability for non-compliance before the end of the period of 7 days beginning with the date on which the copy was served on him.

(8) In this Article and in Article 32 “earnings” has such meaning as may be prescribed.

Regulations about deduction from earnings orders

32.—(1) The Department may by regulations make provision with respect to deduction from earnings orders.

(2) The regulations may, in particular, make provision—

(a)as to the circumstances in which one person is to be treated as employed by another;

(b)requiring any deduction from earnings under an order to be made in the prescribed manner;

(c)requiring an order to specify the amount or amounts to which the order relates and the amount or amounts which are to be deducted from the liable person’s earnings in order to meet his liabilities under the maintenance assessment in question;

(d)requiring the intervals between deductions to be made under an order to be specified in the order;

(e)as to the payment of sums deducted under an order to the Department;

(f)allowing the person who deducts and pays any amount under an order to deduct from the liable person’s earnings a prescribed sum towards his administrative costs;

(g)with respect to the notification to be given to the liable person of amounts deducted, and amounts paid, under the order;

(h)requiring any person on whom a copy of an order is served to notify the Department in the prescribed manner and within a prescribed period if he does not have the liable person in his employment or if the liable person ceases to be in his employment;

(i)as to the operation of an order where the liable person is in the employment of the Crown;

(j)for the variation of orders;

(k)similar to that made by Article 31(7), in relation to any variation of an order;

(l)for an order to lapse when the employer concerned ceases to have the liable person in his employment;

(m)as to the revival of an order in such circumstances as may be prescribed;

(n)allowing or requiring an order to be discharged;

(o)as to the giving of notice by the Department to the employer concerned that an order has lapsed or has ceased to have effect.

(3) The regulations may include provision that while a deduction from earnings order is in force—

(a)the liable person shall notify the Department, in the prescribed manner and within a prescribed period, of each occasion on which he leaves any employment or becomes employed, or re-employed, and shall include in such a notification a statement of his earnings and expected earnings from the employment concerned and of such other matters as may be prescribed;

(b)any person who becomes the liable person’s employer and knows that the order is in force shall notify the Department, in the prescribed manner and within a prescribed period, that he is the liable person’s employer, and shall include in such a notification a statement of the liable person’s earnings and expected earnings from the employment concerned and of such other matters as may be prescribed.

(4) The regulations may include provision with respect to the priority as between a deduction from earnings order and—

(a)any other deduction from earnings order;

(b)any order under any other statutory provision which provides for deductions from the liable person’s earnings.

(5) The regulations may include a provision that a liable person may appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction if he is aggrieved by the making of a deduction from earnings order against him, or by the terms of any such order, or there is a dispute as to whether payments constitute earnings or as to any other prescribed matter relating to the order.

(6) On an appeal under paragraph (5) the court shall not question the maintenance assessment by reference to which the deduction from earnings order was made.

(7) Regulations made by virtue of paragraph (5) may include provision as to the powers of a court of summary jurisdiction in relation to an appeal (which may include provision as to the quashing of a deduction from earnings order or the variation of the terms of such an order).

(8) If any person fails to comply with the requirements of a deduction from earnings order or with any regulation under this Article which is designated for the purposes of this paragraph, he shall be guilty of an offence.

(9) In paragraph (8) “designated” means designated by the regulations.

(10) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under paragraph (8) to prove that he took all reasonable steps to comply with the requirements in question.

(11) Any person guilty of an offence under paragraph (8) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.

Liability orders

33.—(1) This Article applies where—

(a)a person who is liable to make payments of child support maintenance (“the liable person”) fails to make one or more of those payments; and

(b)it appears to the Department that—

(i)it is inappropriate to make a deduction from earnings order against him (because, for example, he is not employed); or

(ii)although such an order has been made against him, it has proved ineffective as a means of securing that payments are made in accordance with the maintenance assessment in question.

(2) The Department may apply to a court of summary jurisdiction for an order (“a liability order”) against the liable person.

(3) Where the Department applies for a liability order, the court of summary jurisdiction shall make the order if satisfied that the payments in question have become payable by the liable person and have not been paid.

(4) On an application under paragraph (2), the court shall not question the maintenance assessment under which the payments of child support maintenance fell to be made.

Regulations about liability orders

34.—(1) The Department may make regulations—

(a)prescribing the procedure to be followed in dealing with an application by the Department for a liability order;

(b)prescribing the form and contents of a liability order; and

(c)providing that where a court of summary jurisdiction has made a liability order, the person against whom it is made shall, during such time as the amount in respect of which the order was made remains wholly or partly unpaid, be under a duty to supply relevant information to the Department.

(2) In paragraph (1) “relevant information” means any information of a prescribed description which is in the possession of the liable person and which the Department has asked him to supply.

Enforcement of liability orders

35.—(1) Where a liability order has been made against a person (“the liable person”)—

(a)the order shall be enforceable by the Enforcement of Judgments Office on an application to it by the Department; and

(b)the Judgments Enforcement (Northern Ireland) Order 1981(1) (“the Order of 1981”) shall apply in relation to the amount in respect of which the order was made, to the extent that it remains unpaid, as a money judgment, but subject to paragraphs (2) and (3).

(2) Without prejudice to Article 141 of the Order of 1981(power to make Judgment Enforcement Rules), the Departmentmay, with the consent of the Lord Chancellor, make such regulations with respect to the enforcement of liability orders by the Enforcement of Judgments Office as it considers appropriate.

(3) Regulations made under paragraph (2) may, in particular, provide for the modification of any provision made by or under the Order of 1981 in its application to liability orders.

(4) In paragraph (3) “modification” includes the making of additions, omissions or amendments.

Enforcement in Northern Ireland of English and Scottish liability orders

36.—(1) The Department may by regulations make provision for, or in connection with, the enforcement in Northern Ireland of—

(a)any liability order made by a court in England and Wales; or

(b)any liability order made by the sheriff in Scotland,

as if it had been made by a court of summary jurisdiction in Northern Ireland.

(2) Regulations under paragraph (1) may, in particular, make provision for the registration of any such order as is referred to in that paragraph in connection with its enforcement in Northern Ireland.

Commitment to prison

37.—(1) Where the Department has sought to recover an amount by virtue of Article 35 and that amount, or any portion of it, remains unpaid the Department may apply to a court of summary jurisdiction for the issue of a warrant committing the liable person to prison.

(2) On any such application the court shall (in the presence of the liable person) inquire as to—

(a)the liable person’s means; and

(b)whether there has been wilful refusal or culpable neglect on his part.

(3) If, but only if, the court is of the opinion that there has been wilful refusal or culpable neglect on the part of the liable person it may—

(a)issue a warrant of commitment against him; or

(b)fix a term of imprisonment and postpone the issue of the warrant until such time and on such conditions (if any) as it thinks just.

(4) Any such warrant—

(a)shall be made in respect of an amount equal to the aggregate of—

(i)the amount in respect of which the liability order was made or so much of that amount as remains outstanding; and

(ii)an amount (determined in accordance with regulations made by the Department) in respect of the costs of commitment; and

(b)shall state that amount.

(5) No warrant may be issued under this Article against a person who is under the age of 18.

(6) A warrant issued under this Article shall order the liable person—

(a)to be imprisoned for a specified period; but

(b)to be released (unless he is in custody for some other reason) on payment of the amount stated in the warrant.

(7) The maximum period of imprisonment which may be imposed by virtue of paragraph (6) shall be calculated in accordance with Schedule 3 to the Magistrates' Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1981(2) (maximum periods of imprisonment in default of payment) but shall not exceed six weeks.

(8) The Department may by regulations make provision for the period of imprisonment specified in any warrant issued under this Article to be reduced where there is part payment of the amount in respect of which the warrant was issued.

(9) A warrant issued under this Article may be directed to such person or persons as the court issuing it thinks fit.

(10) Article 110 of the Magistrates' Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 (application of money found on defaulter) shall apply in relation to a warrant issued under this Article against a liable person as it applies in relation to the enforcement of a sum mentioned in paragraph (1) of that Article.

(11) The Department may by regulations make provision—

(a)as to the form of any warrant issued under this Article;

(b)allowing an application under this Article to be renewed where no warrant is issued or term of imprisonment is fixed;

(c)that a statement in writing to the effect that wages of any amount have been paid to the liable person during any period, purporting to be signed by or on behalf of his employer, shall be evidence of the facts stated;

(d)that, for the purposes of enabling an inquiry to be made as to the liable person’s conduct and means, a justice of the peace may issue a summons to him to appear before a court of summary jurisdiction and (if he does not obey) may issue a warrant for his arrest;

(e)that for the purpose of enabling such an inquiry, a justice of the peace may issue a warrant for the liable person’s arrest without issuing a summons;

(f)as to the execution of a warrant for arrest.

Arrears of child support maintenance

38.—(1) This Article applies where—

(a)the Department is authorised under Article 7 or 9 to recover child support maintenance payable by an absent parent in accordance with a maintenance assessment; and

(b)the absent parent has failed to make one or more payments of child support maintenance due from him in accordance with that assessment.

(2) Where the Department recovers any such arrears it may, in such circumstances as may be prescribed and to such extent as may be prescribed, retain them if it is satisfied that the amount of any benefit paid to the person with care of the child or children in question would have been less had the absent parent not been in arrears with his payments of child support maintenance.

(3) In such circumstances as may be prescribed, the absent parent shall be liable to make such payments of interest with respect to the arrears of child support maintenance as may be prescribed.

(4) The Department may by regulations make provision—

(a)as to the rate of interest payable by virtue of paragraph (3);

(b)as to the time at which, and person to whom, any such interest shall be payable;

(c)as to the circumstances in which, in a case where the Department has been acting under Article 9, any such interest may be retained by it;

(d)for the Department, in a case where it has been acting under Article 9 and in such circumstances as may be prescribed, to waive any such interest (or part of any such interest).

(5) The provisions of this Order with respect to—

(a)the collection of child support maintenance;

(b)the enforcement of any obligation to pay child support maintenance,

shall apply equally to interest payable by virtue of this Article.

(6) Any sums retained by the Department by virtue of this Article shall be paid by it into the Consolidated Fund.

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