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Child maintenance excuses revealed

A hardcore of parents are trying to avoid paying child maintenance using "ridiculous" excuses - including a footballer earning £4,000 a week who said he could not pay off arrears because of the cost of keeping his Ferrari on the road, a government report revealed today.

The Child Support Agency released a list of the worst excuses, with some parents saying it was against their human rights to have pay deducted from their salaries.

One man said he had already bought his child some sweets so wasn't paying a penny more, hundreds blame dogs for eating CSA letters, while a father who had a sex change argued against paying because she was no longer the man who fathered the children.

Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller said: "Most parents do what's right for their children, but as these ridiculous excuses show, there is still a hardcore trying to avoid paying what they owe.

"Our reforms will support parents to make their own family-based arrangements and free up the state service to chase those who refuse to co-operate."

Latest figures showed almost 1,000 properties owned by parents with child maintenance debts have now been targeted for possible possession and sale.

It was also revealed that since 2009, £2 million has been deducted from the bank accounts of parents who have failed to pay the child maintenance they owe.

Courts imposed suspended prison sentences on more than 1,000 parents who refused to pay child maintenance in the last year, with an additional 165 receiving suspended driving disqualifications.

Ministers said that under tough new proposals, parents who fail to pay will be forced to contribute towards the cost of taking enforcement action against them.

Barnardo's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: "Thousands of parents who have been unable to reach family-based arrangements - including because of emotionally abusive ex-partners - are soon to face further difficulties getting the money that their children need under proposed reforms to the child maintenance system.

"Not only does the Government propose to charge the parent with care upfront fees of up to £100 (£50 for those on benefits), they will also be forced to pay a significant levy to the service for any support that they do actually receive. This risks leaving some disadvantaged families - many of whom live on just £13 per person per day - without adequate support for their children.

"Such vulnerable families have already been through enough and should not be punished further by having to choose between paying unreasonable amounts of money to access the statutory service or going without."