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To think that not paying child maintaince should be a criminal offence like tax evasion

(276 Posts)
ReallyTired Sun 30-Dec-12 21:12:27

One of ds's friends has a father who is extremely well off, but has been terrible about paying maintaince. The man has taken no interest in his child, and the mother has found getting maintaince out of her ex is like getting blood out of a stone. The little girl is living in adject poverty because her father owes thousands. The man is able to afford a whole host of foreign holidays and can easily afford to support his daughter.

I feel that men who hide their income for maintaince purposes should be jailed. Even if they have second families.

LadyMaryChristmas Sun 06-Jan-13 21:10:53

I agree with that. The threads on here do show that the CSA is incompetent. The penalties only take effect once a court order has been breached. If a court order hasn't been granted in the first place then any punishments are irrelevant.

flow4 Sun 06-Jan-13 21:07:56

My DS's dad has gone to live in a country where there is no reciprocal arrangement, so we're stuffed... He wrote to me to tell me I had 'forced' him out of the country by involving the CSA. hmm angry

Not paying for your TV licence is a criminal offence, but not paying for your child is just a civil one... Jus' sayin'...

ChocHobNob Sun 06-Jan-13 21:02:14

There are the same penalties. Fines, imprisonment etc. In fact there are more penalties than those for abuse when you factor in seizure of assets, the force of sale of their houses and removing their passports.

It is also a criminal offence to provide incorrect information to the CSA.

There are two issues. The CSA not doing what they can. Those non paying parents (not always Dads) who find a way around paying.

LadyMaryChristmas Sun 06-Jan-13 20:57:28

I'm thinking about this. It should be a criminal offence rather than a civil one as it is, technically, abuse. To with hold money like this is detrimental to a child's welfare and forces that child into poverty, so it should have the same criminal penalties as other types of abuse. If they leave the UK and stop paying they should be brought back.

The problem I have is that ds's father isn't in the UK so I have to go through REMO. I can't get any help with this as he's out of the UK jurisdiction and legal aid doesn't cover it. He's using all sorts of excuses not to pay, the latest is that he doesn't feel appreciated hmm (I've raised ds from birth by myself and have never had so much as a mother's day card from him, nor do I expect one). He's refused to contact ds until ds apologises for correcting his grammar and asking about his maintenance (ds is 13, I can't hide this from him now). Ds has apologised, but he's still not paying or contacting him.

flow4 Sun 06-Jan-13 20:54:43

I know, I know... :-(

But it does seem unfair that the CSA can fail to take any action at all for a decade (in my own case), so that I lost tens of thousands of pounds... And yet only have to give me £400 in compensation. I would like to have some way of, um, focussing their minds on doing their feckin' job!

ChocHobNob Sun 06-Jan-13 20:51:48

Good in theory, only that money would have to come from the tax payer.

flow4 Sun 06-Jan-13 20:49:46

I personally would like to see the CSA itself liable to pay any maintainance they fail to recover! But I know there is not a snowball's chance in hell of that happening... hmm

ChocHobNob Sun 06-Jan-13 20:39:46

Sorry, yes it is a civil offence. But an offence none the less. One which can result in seizure of assets, seizure of driving licences and passports and in extreme cases imprisonment.

Which is what the OP said they wanted, for non payers to be imprisoned. They already can be if the CSA try to take it that far.

So a petition wouldn't work on those grounds.

flow4 Sun 06-Jan-13 19:40:53

Info about how to start an online petition here, LadyMary:

But Choc is right: the wording of any petition is crucial: it won't get approved if you ask for something that already exists, and it won't get support if it isn't crystal-clear to everyone who reads it.

However, Choc, you're wrong about non-payment being a criminal offence already: it isn't, it's a civil offence...

ChocHobNob Sun 06-Jan-13 18:22:41

What would you start a petition for though? It already is a criminal offence to not pay child support when the CSA have assessed and ordered it. They have the powers to take you to court, to take your driving licence and passport off of you and to withdraw money from bank accounts without permission.

The problem isn't that the ability to do all of those things aren't there, it's that the CSA don't do it!

But they are making changes. For example they are bringing in the Gross Income Scheme which means assessments are made on last year's end of year income figures provided by HMRC, so there will be no need to request income details from the Non Resident Parent ... hopefully speeding up assessments and speeding up payments starting. They will get the figures, do the assessment, ask for payment and if nothing take it directly from the employers of PAYE workers.

It wont tackle those who leave the country. But if they go to a country covered by REMO there are means to try and claim child maintenance. If not though, that needs tackling.

It wont tackle self employed, who cook the books. That needs tackling.

It wont tackle those who have no income. But then you cannot take money from people who have none. But that is another argument, one where it needs to be argued that parents SHOULD be made to work to support their children when they can ... not that it should be against the law, because it already is.

A petition to make it a criminal offence to not pay child support would be fruitless because it already is.

LadyMaryChristmas Sun 06-Jan-13 17:34:35

So, how do you start a petition?

flow4 Thu 03-Jan-13 22:34:01

He is very, very unlikely to have any estate when he dies Choc - so I reckon the money is lost forever.

I got the compensation a long time ago (about a decade) so I can't remember why the max was £400, but it was. It was a statutory maximum liability as I remember - i.e. the CSA regulations said no more could be claimed. There was no assessment made, so no way of working out how much DS's dad would have been liable for, and therefore how much I had lost, perhaps...?

ChocHobNob Thu 03-Jan-13 17:32:28

Why was the "maximum compensation" only £400. If they admitted liability and were at fault for not contacting him to conduct the assessment, they should have been liable for the whole loss to you.

It's a very small consolation, but that debt will always be owed and you can make a claim to his estate when he dies.

ivykaty44 Thu 03-Jan-13 17:22:47

Thanks flow for that - the cases I was thinking about were before 1991 so this of course makes sense. I knew married spouse could claim but it never dawned on me the rules were then different for unmarried spouses sad

flow4 Thu 03-Jan-13 17:01:06

ivyk - Yes, sadly I am sure. The 1991 Child Support Act that created the CSA also took away an unmarried parent's right to pursue the NRP for maintainance through the courts; it is only possible to make a private arrangement or go through the CSA sad
(Here are a couple of sources for anyone who's interested: a and b )

Choc - Yes, initially it was entirely down to the incompetence of the CSA. When they had failed to take any action - and had not even made an assessment so he was not actually liable to pay anything and I had therefore lost thousands - they acknowledged their fault and paid me maximum compensation. However, this was a paltry £400, which represented around 10% of what I had lost. Yes, I contacted my MP; but there was nothing more they could do, since I had already had maximum compensation.

After this, the CSA made an assessment and began to take some action, but slowly and incompetently. It became clear that DS's father had no intention to pay anyway. He left two jobs at the point the CSA contacted his employer. Finally, around 10 years after I had first contacted the CSA, he left the UK to work abroad in a country where there is no 'reciprocal arrangement' so he cannot be pursued there. He has now been there for about 4 years. All in all, it is about 14-15 years since I first made a claim for maintenance, and I have not received a single penny.

Last time I checked, he owed around £25K in assessed arrears, but that was a few years ago. Tbh I stopped asking, because I found it so incredibly frustrating to be told again and again that he had paid nothing and there was nothing I could do. sad angry

We have done OK. We (well, I!) 'cut our cloth according to our means' and we live modestly but quite comfortably. I work and I own my own house. I am proud to support my children by myself... But as DS1 has started to talk about perhaps going to university, I have started to think about the fact that I will not be able to help him out much, and that that £25K we haven't had - and will probably never get - would have gone a long way towards paying his fees... sad

The CSA is not fit for purpose. Frankly, given the appalling way in which so many families have been let down, I think someone's head should roll. But whoever is in charge will probably get a knighthood instead. hmm

ChocHobNob Thu 03-Jan-13 15:53:56

Why can't they get any money off of him Flow? Is it down to their incompetence? Have you contacted a local MP to try and push them to do more.

ivykaty44 Thu 03-Jan-13 12:07:31

flow - are you sure that you can't go to court to seek maintenance for your children due to not having been married to your spouse?

As you used to be able to take a man to court for maintenance even if you were not married - what happened to change this?

flow4 Wed 02-Jan-13 13:15:12

sashh one of the biggest problems with the CSA (IMO) is that non-married parents do not have the right/power to pursue a NRP through the courts for maintenance: only the CSA has the power to do that on their behalf, and generally they don't bother.

So - just to spell it out and be absolutely clear because I don't think most people realise this - because we were not married, I cannot take my DS's dad to court for maintenance, I can only ask the CSA to do it for me. He owes me over £25,000 in unpaid arrears, but I cannot pursue this: only the CSA can. I can't ask the court to send bailiffs, or take out an attachment of earnings; only the CSA can. I have no right to take any direct legal action against my DS's dad.

It took the CSA over a decade to do anything, and they weren't successful in anything they did, so I have had nothing. And there is nothing I can do about it. This is why so many parents are so frustrated. angry sad

IneedAsockamnesty Wed 02-Jan-13 12:13:18

Tinks, her having a partner would make no difference to any maintainance liabilities.

And if she's on benefits the change now happens when the youngest is 5 not 7 ( they switch from is to Jsa)

If she receives any personal benefit income then she's liable for the £5 pw student or not.

It may be worth another call to the csa.

mumandboys123 Wed 02-Jan-13 11:06:05

tinksmama - I have been a student as a single parent and it isn't financially lucrative. She will get money on top of her student loans to help with living expenses but that's it - it doesn't amount to much, believe me. If she's doing it to avoid maintenance then life won't be any better for her than if she had worked in a minimum wage job and paid maintenance - probably worse.

bigkidsdidit Wed 02-Jan-13 11:04:26

this should be a big MN campaign before the next election.

I am happily married to DS's dad but my own dad left my SAH mother when she had been at home for 10 years and evaded paying maintenance for years. It is a hugely important issue

TinksMama Wed 02-Jan-13 10:50:16

My DSD is 11yo now and her mother has stopped making any financial contribution. She's just decided to go to uni (rather than getting an actual JOB, but she hasn't had one of those since 2001 so why change now) as the status of being a student will have some effect on whether her benefits are cut when her youngest child turns 7 next year.

But, basically, she gets financial aid from uni as she is a "single mum" (she's been dating someone for over a year but benefits agency aren't interested in pursuing it) and because she doesn't technically have an income she has no financial obligation to pay anything for her child.

We has told us that she is much better off being at uni as she can have an overdraft and there are financial benefits to it but says that because CSA have said she doesn't have to pay she won't pay a single penny.

It's not just fathers out there who don't pay. And it's not just the big earners who refuse to pay either.

Ooh I feel so angry, need another coffee to calm down!

izzyhasanewchangeling Wed 02-Jan-13 10:35:27

I like the idea of it being deducted at source - we then wouldn't have been subjected to youngest sc begging US not to take money from her mum for older SC.

And then when older SC grown DH would have had maint for younger sc taken.

Only issue in complex cases like ours is potentially if DH had had younger scs maintenance deducted but ex did not Have older scs deducted.

There is I think no one size fits all solution.

I also take issue with the way final settlements can be over ridden - so a friend of mine signed over fmh and got loan so it was completely mortgage free.

This was to be instead of ongoing maintenance plus about a 35% contact pattern with each parent covering costs and half school expenses. this worked for about 5 years until a row over something trivial got blown out of proportion when ex went to csa and the £100, 000 plus settlement on divorce was ignored by csa.

Life isn't black and white all the time - its such a complex and emotive area.

sashh Wed 02-Jan-13 08:40:14


If you have a court order (assuming you do if bailiffs have been sent round) and he owes more then £750 then you can bypass the bailifs and apply for your ex to be made bankrupt.

If you are on a low income it won't even cost you anything.

You can also get the court to order him to appear and explain his financed to the court.

BoffinMum Wed 02-Jan-13 08:28:21

I think non payers see the money as a gift to the ex, not maintenance for the children.

I am quite shocked someone would reduce payments in order to buy an engagement ring though. What planet are they on????? They probably need sending off to budget boot camp and made to assess their earning power and priorities.

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