If you owe Child Support Arrears (CSA) or Child Maintenance Arrears (CMS) arrears you need to get immediate legal advice, failure to do so could mean your arrears will be finalised as part of the new Child Maintenance Service. CALL 01207 693966 now.
Are you owed CSA or CMS arrears you also need to get immediate legal advice, failure to do so could result in you losing out on their collection? CALL 01207 693965 now.
"I have received a letter about child support arrears what should I do?"
Since the beginning of 2014, the CSA has begun to audit every child support case to determine what arrears are owed, prior to preparing the case to be closed under the new child support reforms. If you have recently received a letter telling you your arrears have gone up or you are owed arrears you need to act now because if you don’t, you will end up either owing the arrears with no way of challenging them or losing out on arrears which are owed to you.
"Why now, after all this time?"
In 2006, the Child Support Agency was classified “unfit for purpose” by John Sutton, the then Secretary of State for the DWP. However, the problems with the CSA started in 1993 at its very beginning. Back then, when a parent reported a problem with their calculation or arrears balance, the caseworker’s response was often to say simply pay something and we’ll get back to you. This type of response inevitably led to arrears but because most of these arrears belonged to the Secretary of State, they were suspended until such times as the caseworker could get round to the file. As time went by, the number of cases with issues increased and the problems were never resolved. Suspended arrears didn’t appear on any account statement sent out so people assumed they were up to date.
Under the new reforms, each case needs to be audited before it can be closed. However, this audit does not involve reviewing the mistakes on the case, it is just a simple totting up of what should have been paid and what has been paid and if it is found that arrears are owed to the Secretary of State, they are to be collected i.e. all of the previously suspended arrears which were Secretary of State arrears are being reinstated onto the account and this is why many people are receiving letters concerning historic arrears they weren’t aware of.
As part of the closure programme, once the case has had an audit and then closed it cannot be revisited to have any arrears investigated or errors corrected so it’s important that parents at this stage become proactive the instant they suspect there is an issue over arrears. Here at DLS we have a dedicated team to investigate historic arrears so we can help.
Introduction to Child Support Arrears
CSA Arrears is one of the biggest single problems parents who use the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service face. Three types of arrears exist and each has different legislation to deal with them. If arrears are not dealt with in a proper manner relationships between parents can soon deteriorate and, more alarmingly, families can suffer real hardship. In order to understand how to deal with arrears correctly, you need to understand their nature and how they have been created.
Historic Arrears - These are very old arrears which have recently been identified due to the Child Support Agency conducting a full case audit prior to your case being closed. The main causes of this type of arrears are:-
Because of the time period involved and the many changes in legislation over the years, a real working knowledge of the Child Support Agency is needed. For instance, arrears from an old IMA (1993 -1995) can simply be written off if the correct procedure is followed.
Money paid directly to the Parent with Care (PWC) can also result in problems especially if the PWC denies ever receiving the payments and the paying parent (NRP) no longer has any proof of the payments. With the right procedures and legal advice this could be resolved.
Appeal Tribunal Arrears - Most, if not all, CSA Appeal hearings result in an over or under payment of child support arrears. Because of the time delay in hearing an appeal, arrears can be anything between £3000 - £17000. There is case law which the Tribunal needs to consider when determining arrears and this is one of the main reasons parents attending a Tribunal should always consider professional representation. Please see our All about CSA Appeal and Tribunal Representation page
Non-Compliant Arrears - When a paying parent (NRP) simply refuses to pay their weekly Child Maintenance the resulting arrears are known as non-compliant arrears.
There are many reasons why a paying parent fails to pay their weekly Child Maintenance payments such as:-
If you are a paying parent and you feel you have a genuine reason why you should not pay weekly payments, you should seek legal advice about your position. All our lawyers can explain the law and check your circumstances and where possible help both parents to resolve the issues that are preventing payments.
Arrears can also occur because of the time it takes for the Agency to make a decision. In most cases the delay has nothing to do with either parent but often results in arrears of some sort. It is a perfectly natural feeling when this happens for parents to feel this is unfair.
Sometimes, because parents have not heard from the CSA in years, they go away and arrange private agreements with each other then years later and out of the blue, they receive letters saying they owe tens of thousands of pounds. When they contact the CSA to tell them they have an agreement they are told they still owe the Secretary of State money or the PWC has denied ever reaching any agreement.
If you are the Paying Parent and have arrears you don't understand or disagree with, let us help you through our data file review and report service. We can obtain your information and prepare you a report about your overall case. You then get a telephone advice appointment to discuss what can be done with one of our specialist, fully-qualified, child support lawyers. As part of our case management service, we can also advise on enforcement action and help you set up payment plans.
Durham Legal Services has helped both PWCs and NRPs with their arrears problems. We have a specialist team who can negotiate the discharge of arrears either with the other parent or the Child Support Agency itself.
Full and Final Payment Scheme
With over £3 billion in uncollected CSA arrears and following our recent trial, we have now decided to formally introduce a CSA Full and Final Arrears Service. We believe this is the only realistic way of resolving Child Support Agency (only) arrears problems without waiting years to either pay off or receive child support arrears. The system works by a member of our team negotiating a final and full settlement of CSA Arrears with the other parent on behalf of the parent who wishes to try and resolve the issue.
Following our trials, we have identified that where parents have a realistic expectation, we have been able to recover a full and final settlement. I do emphasize there needs to be a realistic expectation. Some parents will think, “I am owed £4000 and that’s how much I want.” Sadly, if this is your position on outstanding arrears then as we have no room to negotiate, this service will not be for you and you should simply plod on with CSA enforcement. However, if you are a “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” type of person who has a real expectation about arrears recovery, we would love to hear from you.
We have been representing parents since 1996 and we know that a lot of the £3 billion in outstanding Child Support Agency arrears is not owed. Back in 1996, the CSA introduced deferred debt agreements then in 2003 when the system failed to transfer old cases and became stuck, or as the CSA called them clerical cases, the instruction to parents was just keep on paying what you are. The problem then was that clerical cases were filed away and never sorted out because the computer system couldn’t cope with them so excuse after excuse has allowed this build up of arrears.
The more worrying part of CSA arrears is that two thirds of the total is owed to the Government and they want it back regardless if it’s their fault or not. We work to establish if the debt is owed and who it may be owed to. If it’s owed, we can help you come to some agreement but if it’s not we can help you challenge it. All debt incurred under the CMS system will be owed to the other parent but as at May 2016 there are £350 million in outstanding arrears so collection fees already add up to £84 million going straight back to the Government.
Of course, neither the CSA nor CMS are going to roll over easily and sort out the mess to reduce a debt. It takes expertise, skill and legal knowledge like ours to go back over the years to work out if the debt is actually owed and if it can be challenged.
CLICK HERE TO ARRANGE YOUR APPOINTMENT TODAY or Call 01207 693966