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Child Maintenance Act (Northern Ireland) 2008

Section 20: Commitment to prison

Section 20 inserts three new paragraphs (2A), (2B) and (2C) into Article 37 of the Child Support (Northern Ireland) Order 1991. These provisions will enable the Department to make a separate application to a court of summary jurisdiction to commit a non-resident parent to prison for failure to pay child support maintenance.

The new paragraph (2A) enables the Department to apply to a court of summary jurisdiction for the issue of a warrant committing a non-resident parent to prison if:

  • it has sought to recover an amount through the use of the Enforcement of Judgments Office;

  • the whole or any part of the amount due remains unpaid; and

  • it is of the opinion that the non-resident parent has wilfully refused or culpably neglected to pay maintenance.

New paragraph (2B) requires the court to inquire about (in the presence of the non-resident parent against whom the liability order has been made) that person’s means, and whether they have wilfully refused or culpably neglected to pay the child support maintenance for which they are liable.

New paragraph (2C) prevents a court, when considering an application for committal to prison, from questioning the liability order on which an application has been made, or the original maintenance calculation which is the basis of the liability order.

Paragraph (2) of Section 20 replaces paragraph (10) of Article 37, and provides that the court may order the search of a non-resident parent in respect of whom a commitment to prison order has been made. During a search, any money found on a non-resident parent can be taken by the court and put towards the amount specified in the order (the balance, if any, would be returned to the non-resident parent). The court is prevented from taking money if it is satisfied that it does not belong to the non-resident parent.

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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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