The Child Maintenance Service Financial Investigation Unit is a serious throwback to the days when the Child Support Agency was described as unfit for purpose. There are one or two investigators who do get it right but most of the rest cause serious problems between parents which is pretty poor considering the new 2012 legislation was based upon social policy of helping separated parents to resolve their own maintenance issues.
There are parents who simply will not pay and there is appropriate legislation in place to deal with them. However, if you are self-employed, a partner in a business or are an owner / Director of your own company and your historic income is disputed by the Receiving Parent, an FIU action will, in all probability, be instigated.
One of the most worrying things about the FIU is the ease with which they will take on a case. A sceptic would even say it existence is nothing to do with fairness in pursuit of the correct child maintenance payments but is more about employing former CSA staff as the statutory service switches from CSA to CMS.
Most FIU investigations centre around diversion of income which could be anything from paying a partner a salary and dividend payments; Directors Loan Account or Retained Profits under Regulations 69 and 71 of the Child Support and Maintenance Calculations Regulation 2012. In the last 12 months we have represented 32 clients at Appeals Tribunals, solely because of wrong findings following a CMS FIU action.
For us, most of the cases have been based on the FIU adding retained company profits to an assessment, the remaining cases have involved the totalling up of bank accounts and using that figure as income without even considering allowable expenses. In any event, both approaches are wrong in law and are compounded by the FIU not contacting the paying parent to obtain opinion or explanations about the “income” the CMS then goes on to use. When we have a FIU case like this we have now started to go after the Child Maintenance Service to pay the legal costs to put it right.
If you receive a letter about a FIU investigation, you need to act as soon as possible and we strongly recommend you speak to one of our legal team via our legal advice appointment service.
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