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CSA Advice ~ CSA Appeals ~ CSA Tribunals ~ CSA Arrears

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If you owe CSA or 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. 

Act Now

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:-

  • Parents who in past have experienced very poor service from the CSA and decide to create their own agreement but fail to tell the CSA of this arrangement.
  • Suspended Child Support Arrears owed to the Child Support Agency from 1993 - 2010

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:-

  • A belief they don't need to because the PWC stops child contact.
  • A belief the PWC doesn't use any payments made for the benefit of the child.
  • The paying parent basic outgoings means they can't make the payment.

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. 

See what a few of our clients think about CSA arrears service and how we have helped them.

Paul Price “I lost my job and I informed the CSA about it.  Three months later I got a new job and started to put 15% of my income to one side.   I called and called the CSA to ask what was happing about my new assessment. After nine months they contacted me and told me I needed to pay the original amount because I had not informed them I had been made unemployed I now had just under £3500.00 worth of arrears.  Durham Legal got involved and after a threat of legal action against the agency all of a sudden found reference to my original phone call and recalculated the correct payment”. 

Heather and Kevin Pritchard “I made a claim to the CSA in 2005 after not hearing anything from them I asked Kevin if he wanted to come to a private agreement which he did.  In March 2014 Kevin received a letter from the CSA saying he owed £22k in arrears.  Kevin told the CSA that we had an agreement and they told him they had spoken to me and I had said he had not paid anything this was a big fat lie no one had spoken to me.  My dad contacted Durham Legal Services for me as Kevin was at his wits ends.   Within three weeks they had closed my case and told Kevin he did not owe any arrears. A big thanks to Vaila for all her help”.

Robert Carr   “I received a letter from the CSA saying I owed £32,000, I accepted that I owed something because I did bury my head. I know I was wrong to do that but it was very stressful dealing with the CSA.  I got Durham Legal Services to look at my case to see if they could help.  The looked at my whole file and found a number of things that were wrong with my case in the end it turned out I only owed the CSA £7,000 Thank you DLS”.

 

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Mr & Mrs S Moody, London

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