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Welcome Review of the Enforcement of Child Maintenance Orders - Higgins

8th January 2024



Local Fine Gael TD for Dublin Mid West Emer Higgins has today welcomed Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Review of the Enforcement of Child Maintenance Orders. The review was carried out to examine how the current system can be improved and contains 26 recommendations.

 

Higgins stated “I'm well aware that many parents across our communities opt for their own child maintenance setups. But we all know situations can change, leaving some agreements unworkable. I really welcome the steps taken by Minister McEntee and Minister Humphreys to make our Child Maintenance System fairer and more effective. Child Maintenance payments are essential in ensuring security and stability for children and protecting the welfare of families.”

 

Commenting on its publication, Minister McEntee said: “Non-payment of child maintenance is a common problem and the current enforcement options available are limited in scope and impact. This is clearly unacceptable, given the critical source of income which it can represent. That is why, working with Minister Humphreys, I am determined to take action in this area to ensure that every child is properly supported.”

 

Referring to the content of the review, McEntee continued: “These recommendations are designed to deliver maximum compliance with child maintenance orders, and that is why I intend to commence the implementation process immediately. That will involve establishing an interdepartmental group to develop a set of child maintenance guidelines and I will do that without delay. At a later point, I will seek government approval for other recommendations which will require legislative change to ensure I do everything I can to ensure security and stability for children. Minister Humphreys is also looking at what actions she can take, and I welcome her intention to bring forward measures in the near future which will also help alleviate the risk of poverty for families in this situation.”

 

Minister Humphreys added: “I very much welcome these steps taken by Minister McEntee, which are designed to make our Child Maintenance System fairer and more effective. Child Maintenance payments are essential in ensuring security and stability for children and protecting the welfare of families. My own Department of Social Protection plays a key role in this regard and very shortly I will be announcing the legislative measures I am introducing to decouple social welfare from our Child Maintenance System in line with the recommendations of the Child Maintenance Review Group.”

 

The key recommendations of the review include:

 

  • Development of a set of child maintenance guidelines.

  • Strengthening attachment of earnings orders and exploring the possibility of attaching an order to a PPS number rather than employing entities, so that orders do not lapse when there is a change in employer.

  • Introduction of a single enforcement procedure when the receiving parent makes an enforcement application, allowing the judge to choose the most appropriate enforcement option based on the circumstances of the case. 

  • Simplification of the bench warrant process. 

  • Placing the onus on paying parents to pay costs associated with enforcement proceedings.

 

Allowing deductions from the paying parent’s bank accounts, from government grants and subsidies and the recovery of arrears from tax refunds. 

 

Making the point that the review has its place in the Family Justice Strategy 2022-2025 - that of ‘supporting children’, Minister McEntee continued: “I am aware that many parents make private child maintenance arrangements. However, there will always be circumstances in which private arrangements either break down or are not possible. In these circumstances, the courts are tasked with safeguarding the financial welfare of children and it is my firm intention that this review, along with the changes being progressed through the Family Justice Strategy will lead to a family justice system that is effective, efficient and that provides real justice.”

 

A copy of the Review of the Enforcement of Child Maintenance Orders can be accessed at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/de4f9-review-of-the-enforcement-of-child-maintenance-orders/

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