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Child maintenance enforcement - deduction from earnings orders
Both parents are legally responsible for financially supporting any children.
If the Child Support Agency (CSA) or the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) arranged maintenance under the 1993, 2003 or 2012 Child Maintenance Schemes, and you don’t pay, they can arrange to have money taken directly from your earnings to pay off the arrears. This is called a deduction from earnings order.
This method of enforcement can only be used if you’re an employee. If you’re not an employee, for example, if you’re self-employed or retired, the CSA or CMS will use different methods of enforcement.
This page tells you more about what happens if a deduction from earnings order is made against you.
Deduction from earnings orders
A deduction from earnings order is an instruction to your employer to deduct maintenance payments from your wages.
The Child Support Agency (CMS) or Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will send you an arrears notice informing you that they may make a deduction from earnings order if:
- you’re the parent who should pay maintenance, and
- you’re an employee, and
- you’re in arrears, or
- you haven’t kept to an agreement to pay off arrears.
The CSA or CMS don’t need to apply to court for a deduction from earnings order, they can make one themselves. If you're given a deduction from earnings order you can appeal against it.
If your circumstances change
If a deduction from earnings order has been made against you, you must get in touch with the CMS or CSA within seven days if:
- you leave employment, or
- you change jobs.
You must give all the following details:
- the name and address of your employer
- the amount of your earnings and expected earnings
- your place of work
- the type of work you're doing
- any works or pay number.
It's a criminal offence not to give this information within the seven days’ time limit and you could be prosecuted and fined.
Your employer can add an administrative charge of up to £1 for each deduction they make to cover their costs. This charge will not be passed on to the other parent.
If you get an arrears notice about a deduction of earnings order
Even if you’ve received an arrears notice, you can still negotiate with the CSA or the CMS about your repayments. In the meantime, pay whatever you can towards the arrears.
If you don’t respond to the warning letter, or don’t come to an arrangement with the CSA or CMS, a deduction from earnings order may be made without further warning. You’ll get a copy of the order. Your employer must comply with the order. If they don’t, they can be prosecuted.
The order will include details of the arrears you owe, and current payments.
How is a deduction from earnings order calculated
The CSA or CMS calculate payment of arrears on a deduction from earnings order according to a strict formula. They don’t take into account any other debts or outgoings that you may have. If your earnings go up and down, the deductions will be varied accordingly.
You must be left with at least 60 per cent of your net income. Your net income is the money left after you've paid tax, National Insurance, and other payments taken from your gross income, such as pension contributions.
How long will a deduction from earnings order last
A deduction from earnings order can be made for an indefinite period. It can continue even after all your arrears have been repaid to cover ongoing maintenance payments, although the rate you pay will be adjusted.
Cancelling a deduction from earnings order
If you’re unhappy about a deduction from earnings order, you should make a reasonable repayment offer and make sure you make regular maintenance payments. However, the CSA or CMS will only cancel a deduction from earnings order if they are satisfied that it shouldn't have been made.
If the amount you pay changes, for example, because there has been a revision, or an appeal, the amount of the deduction from earnings order should also be adjusted. If this doesn’t happen, contact the CSA or CMS.
You can appeal against a deduction from earnings order to the sheriff court. You must do so within 28 days of it being imposed although you have 56 days if you aren’t resident in the UK. You can only appeal against a deduction from earnings order if:
- the order is defective. This means that an employer can’t follow the order because it doesn’t contain the correct information required, or
- the payments you get aren’t earnings, for example, a disability pension, or
- there is good reason not to use a deduction from earnings order.
If your employer becomes insolvent
If your employer goes out of business it’s your responsibility to get back any deductions that have been taken out of your wages but not yet paid to the CSA or CMS.
You must make a claim for wages owed from the liquidator or administrator who is dealing with the insolvency proceedings. You will need expert advice about this. An experienced adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help you do this. Even if you can’t get the money back in this way, you’re still responsible for making payments to the CSA or CMS.
In Scotland, where the employer goes out of business before handing over any deductions to the CSA or CMS, it’s the responsibility of the CSA or CMS to recover the money by making a claim in the insolvency proceedings.