Jail threat for child maintenance refusal

Liable relatives who consistently refuse to pay child maintenance could face prison under new proposals from Sinn Féin.

Jail threat for child maintenance refusal

The party’s spokesperson for employment affairs and social protection, TD John Brady, launched his proposal for a statutory Child Maintenance Service yesterday, based on the model which operates in the North.

As outlined in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, it allows three options for the provision of maintenance: parental arrangements, direct pay in which the CMS would set the level where the amount to be paid is disputed and, finally, collect and transfer.

The latter option would be used automatically in domestic abuse cases and the non-custodial parent would be penalised through a fee of 20% of the payment owed.

The proposal also includes strong links between the CMS and Revenue as well as tough enforcement powers, including the ability to deduct child maintenance from earnings, social welfare payments, and bank accounts.

The CMS would be able to instruct bailiffs to collect arrears or seize payments and even, as a last resort, seek to have the non-paying parent committed to prison.

“In this State, a person can be committed to prison for failing to pay fines including the television licence, and failure to pay child maintenance should be no different,” the proposal said.

Mr Brady denied the threat of jail was draconian and said the current maintenance regime was not fit for purpose. “We see it very much as a deterrent,” he said.

“We do not see it as draconian, we see it as something that will make non-custodial parents live up to their responsibilities.”

Sinn Féin said the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform was unable to provide an estimate as to the cost of the CMS but it would likely be a fraction of the cost of the equivalent body which operates in the UK.

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