Absent fathers will be hit with up to £500 in fines for missing child support payments under tough new rules raising the cost of divorce.
Ministers plans to fine all parents if they have to be chased for at least two payments or pursued through the courts.
The fines come on top of controversial plans to charge parents extra fees for using the new Child Maintenance Service to settle their financial disputes after a break-up.
Under the new penalty system, parents will be contacted by the authorities within three days if they fail to make a single payment for their children.
If a second one is missed, they will have their salaries or bank accounts docked, plus a £200 fine.
A further £300 fine will be imposed if the Government has to take an absent parent to court to recover more money.
Maria Miller, a work and pensions minister, said the new system would offer “great fairness to the taxpayer” when it comes into force in October.
The Government currently spends £500 million per year chasing payments from absent parents – of whom more than 95 per cent are fathers.
Until now, it has been unable to impose fines on parents who break the terms of their financial settlements with their ex-partners.
The Department for Work and Pensions also confirmed it is pressing on with controversial plans to charge mothers and fathers for relying on the new Child Maintenance Service.
The new body will replace the much-criticised Child Support Agency, which has been accused of “failing children, parents and the taxpayer”.
Under new charges, absent parents will be charged an extra 20 per cent on top of their child maintenance for using the taxpayer-funded service.
Mothers owed payment by absent fathers will see the amount they receive docked by seven per cent for going through the Child Maintenance Service.
Ministers say the new rules are designed to encourage parents to make their own arrangements, rather than relying on the state to cover their costs.
Mrs Miller said the Government will provide an extra £20 million to pay for mediation, counselling and online advice for parents thinking of settling their disputes between themselves.
“The scheme will still be heavily subsidised for those who are unable to come to their own arrangements, but the changes we are proposing will offer greater fairness to the taxpayer and a financial incentive for parents to work together,” she said.
Fiona Weir, chief executive of single parent charity Gingerbread, said the service would penalise single parents for their ex-partner’s failure to pay up when it is “utterly out of their control”.