Thank you for dropping in on us. We are Durham Legal Services the UK's leading independent provider of Child Maintenance Advice.
If you have a question which needs an answer we are happy to help. Simply use this MY QUESTION IS LINK to ask away.
1. I'm in London and you're in Durham / I live abroad, can you help me?
Based in Consett, Co Durham we represent thousands of paying and receiving parents throughout the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland with all manner of child maintenance problems. We are totally independent and not connected in any way to either the Child Support Agency or the Child Maintenance Service.
The volume and variety of our child support cases make us unique among other organisations dealing with this area of law. We use our expertise to fast track cases through the child support system. This means the correct amount of maintenance or arrears is in payment at the earliest opportunity. If you have a CSA or CMS problem WE CAN HELP.
2. My hearing is next week, can you help me?
Unless we're already booked out to be somewhere else, we should be able to help you, but if you know you have a hearing coming up, it is always better to give us as much time as you can
3. How much will it cost?
Contact us with your appeal details and we'll be in touch. We offer fixed fees for the work required so you'll know where you stand. Unfortunately, no Legal Aid is available. Free debt advice is available from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Money Advice Service.
4. If you're representing me, do I need to go to my hearing?
That depends on what the appeal is about but, whatever it is, we'll help you through.
5. I need to complete an appeal application form, can you do that for me?
We can complete the appeal application for you as part of the appeals representation work.
6. I would like a face to face meeting, can I have one?
Yes, you can. As part of our commitment to you in dealing with your appeal representation, we can make arrangements for you to come to our offices in Durham and you are welcome to visit us to go over your case. In any event, your representative will usually meet you before any hearing to go over what to expect.
7. Will I still need to send lots of stuff to the Tribunal?
Yes and No! If we're helping you, you will still need to supply the evidence but you can send it to us in a way that suits you and we will check it's good to go and send it to the TS in an accceptable fashion. We will also help you to keep track of what's gone in and what still needs to be supplied. We will also check that the Directions ask for things which are relevant and question the Direction if we don't think they are.
8. How do I know I can trust a company I've found on the internet?
a) We're not ringing you up at 8:30pm telling you we're a new Government initiative - you're free to call us or not.
b) If we wanted to run a scam company there are many easier ways to do it than going to University to take a law degree and learning twenty years' of child support legislation.
c) Look up Upper Tribunal decision GR vs CMEC 2011 UKUT 101 AAT which now gives us the legal definition of a person with care - that;s our Mike Smith in there.
9. Will you help with a private agreement?
On the day of the hearing, if it's appropriate, we will always attemp to reach a settlement with the other party if that's in the best interest of the children. This can include an arrears recovery agreement.
If you need a CMS calculator, we suggest you use our Footprint CMA Calculator app at a cost of £0.99p.
If you have a low income and live in Scotland you could qualify for Legal Aid. Sadly in England and Wales you cannot get legal aid for child maintenance matters. Free legal advice is almost impossible to find. All major organisations dealing with child maintenance problems charge a fee although here at DLS we offer a legal fee guarantee. Please see our home page for details.
The governing factor which determines when child maintenance stops is the existence of a qualified child. A qualifying child is a child who is under the age of 20 in full time non-advanced education, who does not live full time with one of their natural parents.
Charges are only applicable on CS3 and again you will only pay a surcharge fee if you fail to make your regular maintenance. If you have arrears prior to moving to the new scheme you will be given a chance to put an arrangement in place that allows you to pay direct to the PWC. The reason for this is all old arrears owed to the SOS (Sec of State) will be recovered before old PWC arrears.
Under CS3 if you have 50/50 shared care no child maintenance payments are due.
Under CS3 income details come direct from HMRC. The Child Maintenance Service are required in law to accept that income. If you suspect that the paying parent is hiding income you will need legal advice on your options.
Under CS3 you can no longer apply for a Variation Order on this ground. If you feel that the paying parent's lifestyle is inconsistent with their declared income you will need legal advice on your options.
All existing Variation Orders or Departure Directions will be cancelled once your CS1 or CS2 case is closed. They will not transfer on to any new CS3 case that is opened. Asset and Lifestyle Variations will no longer be available.