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A father who owes over £78,000 in unpaid child maintenance has been prevented from selling his house by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) to stop him from concealing the proceeds of the sale.
In the first case of its kind, the Commission applied for a freezing order after the man put his house on the market using a popular property advertising website. He has paid nothing to his former partner for almost twelve years while failing to respond to letters or phone calls from the Child Support Agency, the predecessor to CMEC.
In the first case to be brought under powers introduced by Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008, the High Court has now imposed an order preventing the sale. The reforms also allow the courts to reverse the sale or transfer of property by parents who have unpaid maintenance arrears.
"This case sends a clear message to all parents who have run up substantial maintenance arrears," said Dame Janet Paraskeva, Chair of the Child Maintenance Commission.
"Step-by-step the Commission is closing the escape routes for parents who think they can cheat their children out of money from which they are entitled to benefit. No longer can houses, cars and other valuable assets be sold off quickly to prevent the CSA taking possession of them. Those who cynically transfer the legal ownership of property into the names of their new partners risk having those transactions reversed."
To date CMEC has commenced Order for Sale proceedings against almost 500 properties around Britain which has resulted in the recovery of over £2 million in arrears but fewer than 15 properties have had to be taken into possession and sold off.
Lump Sum Deduction Orders forcing banks to hand over money held in the accounts of indebted parents have also been introduced. More than 400 orders have been imposed with sums of up to £40,000 being deducted in some cases.