Liability orders and child maintenance arrears
The CMS / CSA can apply to the court for a liability order to recover any unpaid child maintenance. There’s no ‘statute of limitations’, which means the claim could go back many years.
In rare cases, if you don't pay your arrears after a liability order, you could have your driving license revoked, or even be sent to prison.
Read our guide to dealing with child maintenance arrears
Liability orders and council tax arrears
If you’ve missed payments, the local authority can apply to the court for a liability order seven days after you’ve been issued with a reminder or final demand.
The liability order allows the council to take further action against you. You can't be sent to prison for not paying council tax in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. in England, the power to imprison still exists, but is rarely used.
Read our guide to dealing with council tax arrears.
Dealing with liability orders
What happens when a creditor applies for a liability order?
You’re issued with a court summons detailing:
- The time and place the court hearing will be held
- The amount of council tax or child maintenance you owe
- The period of time the arrears cover
- Details of how much you should pay
You need to check all the details in the summons are correct, and contact the creditor if you disagree with anything stated in the liability order.
It’s very important you respond to the court summons, whether you plan to attend the hearing or not. There will be a court form for you to respond with the summons letter.
How do I respond to a liability order court summons?
You don’t have to attend the court hearing. But if you do, you’ll have the opportunity to explain why you’ve not been able to pay.
At this point you’re normally obliged to pay the court costs. So it’s definitely better to make payment arrangements before you get to this stage.
What if I’m unable to pay?
The court will take into account valid reasons for not being able to pay. You’ll need to provide evidence in writing.
Tell the court and provide evidence about:
- Any problems you’ve had with the bank account used to pay the debt. You’ll need written evidence from the bank
- Being made redundant. You’ll need a letter from your former employer confirming the details of your redundancy
- Any medical problems that have affected your ability to pay what you owe. You’ll need to provide medical certificates