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How the CSA deals with non-payment
If a non-resident parent uses the Child Support Agency (CSA) to arrange child maintenance, they must pay the right amount, on time. If they don't, the CSA can and will take action. Find out what action the CSA can take to make sure child maintenance is paid.
What action can the CSA take when parents don't pay?
Tell the CSA straight away if you're a non-resident parent and you are going to miss or be late making a payment.
The quickest way to do this is by phone. You will find the contact details you need at the top of any letter the CSA has sent you.
You can also find contact details for your local office using the link below.
The non-resident parent is the parent who the child does not normally live with.
When a payment is missed, the CSA will contact the non-resident parent to:
- find out why they haven't paid
- arrange for them to pay what they owe
- warn them about what action might be taken if they don’t pay
The non-resident parent has one week to respond. If they don't, the CSA can take action to get the child maintenance owed. This is known as enforcement action.
When the CSA takes enforcement action
Before the CSA can take action, it needs enough information to be able to identify and find the non-resident parent. This usually means their name and current address is needed. If you’re the parent with care, you need to provide this information if the CSA don’t already have it.
The CSA can take action immediately if both of the following apply:
- it has all the information needed
- the non-resident parent uses the full collection service
The parent with care is the parent or carer who the child normally lives with.
But, the parent with care needs to ask the CSA to take action if the non-resident parent both:
- used the CSA to calculate child maintenance
- pays the parent with care directly through Maintenance Direct
The CSA can also take legal action when a non-resident parent:
- doesn’t give the CSA information when it asks for it
- gives information that they know is false
- doesn’t tell the CSA that their circumstances have changed
What action the CSA can take against non-resident parents
There are three things the CSA can do to get unpaid child maintenance from a non-resident parent. It can:
- take money direct from their earnings or benefits
- take money from their bank or building society account
- take action through the courts
Taking money from a non-resident parent's earnings or benefits
If the non-resident parent is employed or gets an occupational pension, the CSA can take money from these earnings. This is called a Deduction from Earnings Order. It is usually the first step the CSA will take if a non-resident parent:
- is employed
- cannot give a good reason why they’ve missed payments
- fails to agree another method of payment with the CSA
The CSA will tell the non-resident parent’s employer how much to take from their wages. The employer must then pass it to the CSA. If they don't, the CSA can take them to court.
If the non-resident parent gets benefits, State Pension or a War Pension, the CSA will usually take the amount owed from these payments.
Taking money from a bank or building society account
The CSA can take child maintenance out of a non-resident parent’s bank or building society account. They don’t need permission from the non-resident parent or the courts to do this.
The CSA can tell the non-resident parent’s bank or building society to take either:
- regular payments (there is a limit on how much they can take)
- a one-off payment
The bank or building society may charge an administration fee for each payment.
Taking action through the courts
The CSA can also take a non-resident parent to court over unpaid child maintenance. Some of the things the courts can do include:
- sending bailiffs (Sheriff Officers in Scotland) to a non-resident parent’s home to take and sell their belongings to pay the child maintenance owed
- sending a non-resident parent to prison
- collecting money that’s owed to the non-resident parent by someone else, to pay the child maintenance owed
- forcing the sale of a property and collecting the money from it to pay the child maintenance owed
The CSA can ask the courts to stop a non-resident parent who tries to avoid paying by:
- selling property
- transferring ownership of property to someone else
The CSA can also ask the courts to reverse any sale or transfer that has already taken place.
If the CSA takes action through the courts, the non-resident parent may have to pay:
- their own legal costs
- the legal costs of the CSA
This is in addition to the child maintenance they owe.
For more information about the actions the CSA can take download the following leaflet.