Child maintenance deductions to be allowed from joint accounts

01 November 2017

New powers to stop parents avoiding paying child maintenance that they owe have been announced.

If a parent owes child maintenance, deductions to recover that debt can currently only be made from a bank or building society account held solely by them. So a small minority of parents are cheating their way out of supporting their children by putting their money into a joint account with a partner.

New laws will come into effect early next year to allow deductions to be made from joint accounts in order to recover child maintenance arrears.

Geographical extent – the new power will come into effect early in 2018 and will apply to England, Scotland and Wales.

The government’s response to a public consultation on joint account deductions has been published which sets out how deduction orders against joint accounts will work and the safeguards that will be in place to protect the other holder of the joint account. These include:

  • a deduction order only being imposed on a joint account when the paying parent does not have their own account, or there is not enough money in their own account
  • only funds belonging to the paying parent being targeted, as before a deduction order is made on a joint account, data on that bank account will be collected and bank statements examined to establish which money in the account belongs to the paying parent
  • existing safeguards already in place for deduction orders for child maintenance will apply to this new power, including the maximum deduction rate on regular orders being set at 40% of the paying parent’s weekly income
  • both account holders will be given the right to make their case before a deduction order is made.