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Father who owes £78,000 maintenance prevented from selling home

A father who owes £78,000 in unpaid maintenance has been prevented from selling his home.

It was feared that he wanted to stop the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) from taking the property to settle his debt.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has paid nothing to his former partner for nearly 12 years. He failed to respond to letters and phone calls from the Child Support Agency (CSA) which is now part of CMEC.

The case is the first to be brought under new powers introduced in the latest child maintenance legislation. CMEC applied to the High Court to impose an order preventing the sale.

The orders are designed to stop parents putting assets in the names of relatives and new partners as a way of avoiding their duty to provide for their children. The Chair of the CMEC, Dame Janet Paraskeva, said: "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."

The new powers have been welcomed by the family lawyers association, Resolution.

CMEC has also begun Order for Sale proceedings against 500 properties belonging to parents who have failed to pay maintenance despite repeated efforts to get them to do so. The prospect of losing a home has proved very effective in persuading indebted parents to settle.

So far, more than £2m has been recovered but fewer than 15 properties have actually been taken and sold.

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