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Child Maintenance Act (Northern Ireland) 2008

Background and Policy Objectives

3.This Act makes provision for Northern Ireland corresponding to provision contained in the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 (c.6).

4.Part 1 of the Act makes provision for the Department to have responsibility for raising awareness among parents of the importance of taking responsibility for the maintenance of their children and making appropriate arrangements for the maintenance of children of theirs who live apart from them. The Department will have more flexibility to commission external providers to carry out its child support functions in order to deliver services in the most efficient and effective way.

5.Part 2 of the Act makes provision for:

  • removing the power that parents with care who make a claim for benefit are to be treated as making an application for child support maintenance and with it the power to reduce the amount of benefit parents with care receive if they choose to opt out of the scheme without good cause for doing so;

  • changes to maintenance calculations. This includes a move from using net to using gross weekly income to determine maintenance liability. Gross weekly income details will be based on information held by Revenue and Customs. As gross weekly income is higher than net income the percentage rates will be reduced and there will be an increase in flat rate maintenance. Annual reviews would take place to ensure that the calculation reflects any changes in income or circumstances and the income figure for the latest available tax year would be updated;

  • a deduction from earnings order to be the initial method of collection unless there is good reason not to in a particular case;

  • a regular deduction order to be applied to an account held by the non-resident parent with a deposit-taker such as a bank, which can be used to collect arrears of child maintenance;

  • a lump sum deduction order to be applied to an account held by the non-resident parent with a deposit-taker, which would be used to collect arrears of child maintenance;

  • liability orders to be administrative and would no longer require an application to the court;

  • disqualifying a non-resident parent from holding a travel authorisation, which may be a UK passport and/or an ID card issued under the Identity Cards Act 2006;

  • applying to the court for a curfew order to made against a non-resident parent who fails to pay maintenance;

  • negotiating settlements where a lesser amount of money offered by a non-resident parent can be accepted as full and final settlement of a child maintenance debt;

  • the ability to write off debt in specified circumstances;

  • the recovery of child maintenance arrears from the estate of a deceased non-resident parent;

  • to enable the disclosure of information relating to certain family proceedings to be given to the Department in relation to child support functions without the risk of the relevant parties being found in contempt of court;

  • the Department to disclose certain information relating to non-resident parents to credit reference agencies for the purpose of providing information relevant to the financial standing of individuals; and

  • information sharing gateways between the Departments for Social Development, and Employment and Learning and Revenue and Customs.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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