How I Got Over £2000 In Child Support Arrears

Click on the picture to read how I finally received more than £2000 in Child Support Agency arrears.

I’ve just received £2072.63 in child support arrears.

It’s taken ten years, but I’ve finally received a child maintenance payment!

I want to share this with you to encourage you if you’re in the same situation as I am: fighting to get child maintenance when your ex refuses to pay. I can’t guarantee that by doing everything I’ve done that you’ll be able to receive the payment you’re due, but I know that hearing about a success story, no matter how small, can be helpful when you’re feeling helpless.

Why has it taken so long?

I wrote about my story in this post called the Child Maintenance Saga. In short, my ex-husband spent many years coming up with a series of excuses for the CSA as to why he wasn’t eligible to pay maintenance: in the end, he stuck with saying that he had a wealthy partner who supported him, and that he wasn’t working.

Eventually, I gave up out of frustration as so many do. He was openly working for his partner’s firm, but I contented myself with the moral high ground, as the one who brought up her son on her own. Yet, this didn’t satisfy my sense of justice, and it surely didn’t help me financially; I’ve never earned much and knowing that my son had to do without just because of the CSA loopholes was an insult.

I did reopen my case in 2013 and faced the same brick wall, but this time, I kept going… and found weak spots in the wall, as he had been paying himself a nominal income as a managing director and diverting it back into his company.

Child Support Agency arrears payment.

How did I get this?

I started this process in late 2013.  The major development in my case came at an appeal at a tribunal in mid 2015. That’s right – this payment  in 2017 is largely the result of things I did two years ago, for a case I started three and a half years ago.

At the end of 2015 I was told the case was moving to the enforcement team – I kept on hearing that for over a year. The system moves painfully slowly if you leave it alone, but I learned that if you do certain things to keep the heat up, it can move more quickly.

What specifically worked?

Who knows exactly – 3 and a half years of pressure, with the last year being sustained and constant pressure; the recent involvement of the CMS’s Financial (or Fraud) Investigation Unit; the threat of a liability order; worrying about negative publicity for his business and public position should the press get wind; or perhaps knowing that this amount is actually a bargain for him to get away with.

I may never know exactly.

What should you do?
  • Call every week and request updates. I used to call only when I had to – now I make it a matter of routine to call each week. Making it a regular formality takes away a lot of the stress that inevitably comes from it.
  • Challenge decisions that are too low by requesting a variation, and if/when that is turned down as it usually is, appeal to a tribunal that actually has more powers. Insist on a financially qualified professional being present.
  • Keep good notes and records of calls, letters and any evidence of earnings you find.
  • You’ll have to become your own private investigator in a lot of cases – there’s too much to cover here, but I will write more about principles of investigation that will help uncover evidence. (See my previous post mentioned above for some places to start, and leave questions in the comments for more specific help.)
  • If you have to go to a tribunal, remember that you are not the one being scrutinised; there’s no need to be nervous. However, you have to do your preparation. Whether it’s welcomed or not, I always write letters to judges ahead of any hearings laying out my argument and lines of evidence.
  • Write to your MP asking for help with your situation. Write to the Minister in charge of the CMS to ask for help with your situation. Write to the CMS and HMRC with new information. Write letters to everyone! (See this article for help with writing formal letters.) I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to get your MP involved – it is unfair that it has to be this way, but until the system is changed, that’s what you have to do.

Waiting it out

Even after finding out that a payment had been made, I had to wait 5 working days for it to arrive. When it still wasn’t paid after a week, I called to chase it up, and was told that it had been sent to me on that day and would take up to 5 working days to arrive.

Yes, a week from receiving a payment just to process it, and then a week to actually receive it. Patience is something you desperately need to cultivate when dealing with the Child Maintenance Service, even when things are going right.

A screenshot of confirmation of my first Child Maintenance Service payment.

Advice from a pro

I was fortunate enough (as a direct result of writing about my child maintenance story on this blog) to be put in touch with a financial professional who has dealt with many CSA cases over the years. There wasn’t much he could do for me beyond the point I’d already gotten to, but he gave me some advice for carrying on that I’ll paraphrase for you.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so you have to squeak so loudly that fixing your problem is less of a hassle than ignoring you. Stop worrying about being the nice guy – you have to be a pain.

Advice from me

This journey is long, difficult and far from over for me. What helps is treating it like another job, not a personal failure.

I know that I have to call every week, and I’ll jot down the notes and the name of the person I spoke to in my planner. I know that for a set period of time each week and no more, I’ll do a bit of research to help my case. Doing it this way means that I experience less frustration. That doesn’t mean no frustration at all, but a lot less.

Of course, I would love to guarantee you success, but I can’t. I can’t guarantee my own continued success, but there is no way I’m going to give up either!

The only way to guarantee that you won’t succeed, however, is not to try at all.

What I will do is celebrate whatever successes I do have, whether it’s finally getting some of the arrears we’re owed or just getting through my weekly call without losing my temper.

After ten years, I've finally received a child maintenance payment of over £2000. Here's how I managed it when my ex refused to pay.

Next step?

The next stage is the collection of over £1000 for which a liability order has already been granted, as well as the ongoing payments which are not being made (and assessed at only £6 per week). The threat of the liability order seemed to do the trick for the CSA arrears but the new CMS arrears are being ignored, strangely.

My ex-husband has folded his business and started another, but is claiming not to be working. If he claims to be working for his partner for free, this is diversion of income. He’s currently being investigated by the Financial Investigation Unit, so discrepancies like this won’t be as easy to brush away (not if I have anything to do with it at least). There are several avenues open to me from here on, so I’m staying positive and I’ll continue to update my story here.

Although this is an amazing development for my family, think of this – this amounts to less than £5 per week over the last 10 years. It’s progress, but it’s nothing compared to the true cost of raising a child. I’ll be saving the money, earning interest on it and using it wisely, just like I use the rest of our income.

Principles of home private investigation

Read this post for a few tips on getting started with uncovering information that could lead to hidden income.

My Child Maintenance story

For a while now, I’ve been hoping to write about something that’s simultaneously personal and political, important and contentious. It’s the subject of child maintenance, or child support, as it’s more commonly referred to in the US. This is the story of how I overturned a decision that enabled my son’s father to legally avoid paying child maintenance for years.

Saying “Child Maintenance” brings out the trolls.

I’ve spent (for reasons that will become clear) quite some time researching child maintenance in the UK, and what has particularly struck me is the vitriol smeared all over the comments of most articles and blogs I’ve read.

Although it’s necessary to acknowledge that there are women as well as men who are non-resident parents (NRPs) or paying parents (PPs), the majority of NRPs/PPs are fathers. Most comments I have read have been deeply misogynistic rants by disgruntled fathers or their new partners, painting the mothers involved as money-grubbing, bitter and materialistic.

Whilst I will acknowledge that there are both women and men who abuse the system, I won’t tolerate abusive tirades, nor will I abide misogyny in comments on this blog.

Why I’m sharing this

I have no interest in assisting anyone, whether male or female, to cheat their way out of their financial obligations towards their children, or to punish their former spouse/partner financially. My intention is to share the information that’s been most helpful to me in my journey so far, and to keep the story updated, as I’ve read a few helpful, compelling stories online that have been sadly left without an outcome. What happened next, I wondered?

Well, here’s my story.

First Tier Tribunal decision notice.

My story

First – as of the time of writing I receive no child maintenance for my son, Little Balders, who is 11 years old. His father, whom I shall refer to here as Odd Socks, departed when he was 2. I received nothing until I got the Child Support Agency (CSA) involved; it took about a year and a half before I received about £200. And that was it. Why? Mr Socks said he had a few reasons for not paying – the last was being self-employed and skint. Well, I didn’t believe it. (And no, I didn’t stop him from having contact with our son.) By making these claims, he legally reduced his maintenance liability to nil.

At the time, I was a single mother of a toddler living on income support and savings, trying to build a business, get over a divorce and raise a happy boy. I didn’t want to be involved with my ex’s life. I knew he’d try his hardest to wriggle out of paying anything, and I had enough on my plate. So I left it – for 5 years.

In that time I was never asked how I managed to provide food, shelter and heating; it was a given that I would take good care of my son. I went to uni, worked hard and got a 1st class Bachelor’s degree, found part-time work in a big city and did an MA. However, Mr Odd Socks became Mr Angry Pants when I decided to get married again – after years without complaint he said that I was a bad mother, amongst other things.

Being called a bad mother hurt my feelings, of course, but more importantly, it made me seriously review the years I’d spent raising my son, and how unfairly Odd Socks had treated both of us. Well, I went back to the CSA.

By now, you’ll have figured out that someone who is content to pay nothing in maintenance for years probably thinks it to be their God-given right to do so, and would not give up that ‘right’ for anything. Despite being the managing director of a London-based limited company, he said that he made… £0. Because he put all of his income back into his company.

So, what do you do when you know that the other parent just won’t pay?

Here’s what I did.

1. I became a PI.

I gathered information from Companies House, the Land Registry and scoured the internet. The information has to be relevant to their company/companies, investments, lifestyle and assets. It’s astounding how much people will divulge about their lifestyles and assets on Twitter, Facebook and in interviews when they’re trying to impress the world, even when they have things they’d rather hide.

The paperwork that can come with mounting a case against the CMS and a non-paying parent can feel like a lead weight.

Unfortunately, the system requires that the resident/receiving parent provide information about the other parent’s income and assets that they really have no recourse to, so leaving it to the parents to provide this information is ridiculous, to put it mildly. If you’re in this position you’ll have to become handy with search engines – see this article on tips to become your own private investigator.

2. I requested a variation.

The ‘variation’ meant that I disagreed with the amount that had been decided on – £0. I wanted to take into account the fact that as a company director, my ex could receive dividends as part of his income, as well as control his own income. I also wanted to take evidence of his lifestyle into account as what was shown to me was out of keeping with an income of £0 per week.

I requested the variation knowing that it would be rejected. It had to be rejected, in order that I could take it over the heads of the CSA to the ones who could actually do something about it. I’m reluctant to go into too much detail, simply because the CSA no longer exists, and the procedure has changed somewhat. Here’s a link to a useful PDF by Guildford Chambers on the changes. After the formality of the variation and its rejection…

3. I appealed to a tribunal.

The next step was to appeal to the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal. I did my homework. I read over all of the forms and repeatedly wrote to the Tribunal about everything I could foresee arising, enclosing evidence, and I requested evidence in the form of bank statements and company accounts from my ex’s solicitors. I wanted to be as prepared as possible, because I represented myself. On the day, I kept notes and asked targeted questions during the hearing.

Was I nervous? Of course! But I wasn’t the one having to defend myself. After spending hundreds or perhaps even more on solicitors and barristers to avoid paying maintenance, I knew that my ex would be even more nervous than I was.

If you are in this situation, you’ll probably be nervous as well, but you can present your case clearly and confidently if you take time to prepare, and remember that you’re not the only one having to go through this.

4. I won.

Happy days! Are you thinking that Mr Socks finally saw the importance of paying maintenance for his firstborn because a judge told him to?
Of course not! He still hasn’t paid a penny, and as long as he can bury his head in the sand, he won’t. But… I’m not worried. Little Balders will always be well provided for, as long as Lord Balders and I are here to see to it.

What’s next?

The CSA is no more but the CMS has risen from its ashes, and after years of being told that has Mr Socks was legally entitled to pay no child support, the CMS has his details in its beak. I’m currently waiting on the enforcement team to actually do something about the arrears. Finally, I don’t have to be the one personally knocking on the door, and it’s a relief.
CMS arrears letter.

Mr Socks is now thousands of pounds in arrears, but this, of course, is nothing compared to what he should have paid towards his son’s upkeep over the years. To me, it’s more about the injustice than the money. The legal loopholes that determined maintenance avoiders exploit have been around for a long time, and I’ll bet there will be many reading this in order to figure out how to join that club (classy, you lot).

Still, I’m not going to give up just because it’s difficult for me. Until councillors, MPs and others in power stand up for parents and children who are being defrauded, those parents will have to stand up for themselves.

What to do if your ex refuses to pay maintenance

My advice is for those in my situation is to stick with it, but don’t let it be a full-time pursuit; treat it as a hobby. It can become draining otherwise. Don’t become obsessed with your ex. Make sure that your current life is happy and fulfilled, and build yourself up for the work that comes with having to do the paperwork and research required.

I’ll try to add developments as they occur, in the hope that someone who needs the encouragement might stumble across this and take something useful from my journey.


What happened next? Read this post to find out some good news!

I’ve created a printable Child Maintenance planner to help everyone who finds themselves in this situation. We all need a support network, and I want to share what’s helped me, not just my own story. If you’re interested, sign up to my CMS help newsletter below.

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  1. It’s such a shame getting the money you are owed was made so difficult for you but I’m so glad you persevered and have finally got what your child is entitled to. I’m sure this post will be so helpful to many out there in the same position,

  2. Hi there, Please keep blogging I too am going through the same thing with my Ex partner, he’s never paid a penny when it went through the CSA. My case is now with CMS and although small payments started when I done the ‘variation’ the payment tripled and since then have now had a payment and so I am constantly chasing ……so frustrating!!!

    1. Hi, thanks so much for commenting and sharing your story – it really is one of the most frustrating things to go through isn’t it? At least we can encourage other people going through the same thing, I definitely feel encouraged when I hear about how you keep going 🙂 All the best with your case!

  3. I requested a tribunal 4 months ago and am waiting on a date as the CMS have not provided the required paperwork in the requested time scales and my ex has moved house again! In addition he has recently changed his company details so that his partner is now director and he is tooling engineer, do you think this will have an affect? I’m thinking perhaps she gets paid instead of him for his consultancy work but who knows!! What information am I allowed to request about him and have access to? Thank you!

    1. The change of job may have an effect as non-payers rarely make changes that don’t work in their favour. Still, you can request bank statements, company accounts, payslips, director’s loan details, details of all benefits in kind and expenses claimed. Make sure you ask for a financial professional to sit on the tribunal as well. If you haven’t yet, you would do well to make a formal complaint about the time it’s taken the CMS as well, and do it through your MP!

  4. I just stumbled across your blog – you give me hope (sort of!) I’ve been battling for 6 years and currently arrears stand at £10k. I’ve been to 2 tribunals through that time, delt with bailiffs(useless – they take less than than the weekly maintenance!) and now moved over to the CMS. I had a call this morning from the fraud investigations team there which seemed a little more thorough but I won’t hold my breath! My ex partner sets up limited companies and closes them before tax returns are due. Only to open up new companies with slightly different names. I hope the fraud team are able to find something and help. My daughter wants for nothing though and she’s been brought up to understand the importance of hard work to have the things you want in life. His 10k won’t buy back the time he’s missed with her that’s for sure!

    1. Hey Lucy, I really hope the blog helps in some way. I just wish we could get a real change in the system to close the loopholes! But what you said is right – the money they fight so hard to hide won’t pay for the damage they cause in their relationships with their children; it’s the worst false economy.

  5. I too have been ‘fighting’ with the CSA for many years. My ex-husband has never attended any of our many tribunals and has sent in ‘incomplete’ income and housing information to try to confuse matters. At the last tribunal the Judge gave my ex one more chance to turn up and explain things he did not show. My case migrated to the CMS last week and the arrears are over £46,000 needless to say he is now saying he can’t pay anything as he only earns £5k a year (he is a Director at a well known large company). I am hoping the CMS will see through him and I will finally

  6. My variation has been closed and is now being dealt with by FIU, but no one at the CMS can tell me any time scale to how long this will take! On the last phone call the guy was quite evasive or simply didn’t know what will happen next. Your blog has given me hope though so thanks.

    1. I’m glad the blog’s been encouraging, Leigh, and I really hope the FIU helps to progress your case. Don’t forget to keep pestering the CMS as well as your MP!

    1. Hi Donna, when I wrote to my MP I specifically requested that he pushed for the case to be referred to the FIU. It isn’t an automatic procedure; you have to be insistent that you want the FIU involved.

  7. If love to know if anyone has had issues with an enforcement of earnings being deducted but the employer not paying it …… I am currently due £2106, which the employer has taken from my ex’s wage but never passed on its meant to be with fraud but they have never been in touch and when I call every other day I am informed there’s no notes fraud team don’t speak to clients direct and for the past 2 weeks my investigator has been in training ….. at what point does someone accept responsibility for there failings there is currently 5 people with that employer being affected by this ?

  8. Ive been fighting 9 yrs for my ex to pay. Finally the FIU took up my case with a nudge from my MP. I have had to be the private investigator and gather enough evidence for the FIU to open a case. Yesterday I recieved a call from the investigating officer. She informed me that there were ‘ significant number of ‘red flags’ against my ex declared income he gave HMRC. Ex now has been invited ti interview to explain his income thats significantly higher than his declared one.
    Im confident he wont attend. I will post when i have more info. However, the FIU have had my case for 15 months but it would appear have been very thorough. Fingers crossed. This is also a case of my ex robbing the public purse to avoid payibg fair tax. Hope HMRC get him too.

  9. I have well over 10k in arrears and 2 court orders via the CSA and the CMS. My ex was so rude and aggressive to the people at the CMS that he finally annoyed a lady so much she automatically referred my case to the FIU. The have been really great, 5 months and they’ve already found enough evidence to call him in for an interview. Has anyone got this far and if so what happens now?

    1. Responding to Sarah & Lorna….I too have the FIU inviting my ex in for interview. This has also been a 15 month journey to get to this point. My frustrations are that just when I feel I am getting to the finishing line, the FIU process seems to have ground to a halt. they wrote to ex on 9th May inviting him for interview with a time limit of 20th May for response. They informed me that if no response, then they will action their findings. I contacted them after the 20th May, only to be told as he had not responded, they have to send out another letter in case he never received the first. I was told he would be given until 18th June to respond. I phoned on the 19th June, only to be told that they had the 18th June marked as a review date and had not sent 2nd letter. after I complained bitterly, they sed out 2nd letter with 30th June deadline. I phoned after the 30th June, to be told that they need to write a closure report and submit for case conference. in amongst these dates, my caseworker has had lots of ‘annual leave’. I have tried calling them again over last few days but goes straight to ansaphone. to say I am frustrated is an understatement. I would like to call the team manager to complain but cannot find a telephone number to call. does anyone have a direct number for FIU? I only have my case workers number, which as I said, goes straight to ansaphone.

  10. I came across your blog whilst researching and preparing for a CMS Tribunal. I can’t thank you enough for this, because it gave me the confidence to go into the court (as prepared as I could have been) and finally watch my ex get the grilling he deserved. There was a forensic accountant on the panel and he rather expertly took my ex’s accounts apart with a fine-toothed comb and quizzed him on the need to keep several hundred thousand pounds within his company over the past 2 years!

    You were absolutely right that you do not need to employ a solicitor to fight your case. The judge and the accountant did all the hard work. Having said that I have spent many hours tracking down information from companies house, on LinkedIn and YouTube to provide evidence of significant diversion of income.

    I now await a decision, but the CMS representative who I spoke to thinks it likely that this will be in my favour. And it turns out they have significant powers to force payment. Firstly a CMS liability order which impacts on credit score. They can ask for Bailiffs to seize assets, place a charge on a property and even force the sale of a property. And now removing passports and driving licences.

    So to anyone who has found this blog, please read it and follow the advice here. It’s a long road (3 years so far for me), but it’s worth it.

  11. My x husband works for one of the top banks in the country and is in receipt of £5000 per month after tax. For the past 2 years he contributed 0penny to my daughter and the court swallows his rubbish excuses and he still is not paying anything towards her cost.

  12. As your husband is likely to be subject to PAYE his employer will have given him a P60( gives annual detail of pay and tax) . The CMS can access HMRC systems and should therefore be able to view the P60 details, if he submits an Icome Tax Return this will be on line also( husband will no doubt be in receipt of benefits (BIK),which all go toward the figure assessable for maintenance)
    Failing that head down tribunal route and specifically request P60 and BIKdetsils for each year. Good luck
    I did manage to get a lump sum of £12k in unpaid maintenance, so keep going you can do this

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