I was wondering what other peoples'' experiences have been when it comes to solicitors'' knowledge of the Child Support Agency and how they work.
I have been through two years of family court proceedings finally ending in an agreed shared care arrangement.
My ex and I recently agreed a full and final settlement on financial matters. I agreed a high figure which will leave me in a precarious position at the end of each month but the alternative was to continue fighting in court and racking up another 25k in legal fees.
My ex is now intending to make a claim for child maintenance through the CSA. I had not even considered that, as we share care, they would become involved. My solicitors never mentioned the CSA and when I questioned this they said they didn''t get involved with CSA matters. I feel that they should at least have alerted me to the possibility that my ex may be able to make a claim but it was never mentioned.
Please be aware that this is nothing to do with trying to avoid paying for the needs of my children as I always have and always will do that. It is about trying to find out whether solicitors generally advise or mention the potential cost of a CSA ruling when dealing with separation.
There was no court order. We agreed a settlement figure which included a lump sum for spousal maintenance. We are waiting to submit this agreement to the court for approval. As we share care of the children I never even considered that I would have to pay child maintenance. I calculated the lump sum settlement was just about affordable on my current income. Any further payment is simply not affordable. She is making a claim because she can, based on the fact that she receives the child benefit - something I agreed to as it gave her more income while we were sorting things out. I also paid maintenance pending suit. That, along with legal fees, and the settlement amount has left me broke and in debt. I cannot afford any more. If I had known that the CSA could order child maintenance then I would have taken this into account when agreeing a settlement to make sure I could afford it. I thought the CSA was there to chase parents who wouldn''t pay not those who provide for them already. The main concern is that the solicitors made no mention of it even though they were fully aware of my financial position. I think they should have made me at least aware so I could do my own research.
No, child maintenance was never mentioned. I had sole care of the kids for almost a year. We eventually agreed shared care as the best thing for the children.I provided for most things on an ad hoc basis and she retained the child benefit and tax credits mainly because she was able to claim a relatively high amount as a single person on a low income (they don''t count interim maintenance payments).
Solicitors never mentioned child maintenance through the CSA throughout 18 months of family court and financial proceedings. In fact it was always implied that as we had shared care it would not be an issue. When I realised it was an issue I mentioned it to the solicitor who told me the following in writing:
If (x) wants to seek money from you then she has to go to the CSA. You will then argue that you share time with the children equally etc. I suggest that in order to get the Consent Order* filed at court, we hold off engaging on that issue for now.
The solicitor clearly had no knowledge of the assessment criteria the CSA and assumed that shared care meant shared financial responsibility which it presently doesn''t. The CSA see the person in receipt of child benefit as the parent with care. I didn''t know that and it only took me 5 minutes to find out. A family lawyer should know.
Had I paid the lump sum and should the CSA have ordered child maintenance at any level then I would have almost certainly lost my house and the business attached to it. My ex doesn''t see this. She only sees pound notes.
This is not a post about whether I should or shouldn''t pay maintenance. I look after my children and abide by the rules. It is about whether I should have expected more from my solicitors and whether I have been badly advised.
You need to be very careful dad1011 that you have your exes full agreement with the shared care. If she has registered with the CSA she can backdate it any time she wishes.
The fact that you have shared care of your children will cut no ice if she chooses to deny it - she is the parent with care and the CSA can only abide by the law as it stands - that it is the right of the parent with care to backdate a claim for child maintenance. She need not accept shared care in lieu of maintenance if she does not choose to.