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Appealing a Child Benefit Decision

(18 Posts)
Sidecarsister Wed 18-May-16 20:54:39

Hi, I really need some help or advice from anyone who has experienced a similar situation. This is on behalf of a friend - i'll call her Beth. Beth is separated from her partner. She shares the care of her son 50/50 with ex. She used to be in receipt of the Child Benefit but surrendered it some years ago (long story - bullying/harassment). Since that time a long and protracted battle over custody has ensued and there is now a court order in place stating that she shares care of her son equally with ex. Ex refuses to give Beth the Child Benefit even though he is very comfortably well off, owns his own 5 bed house etc. Beth is on disability allowance and is currently in a 2 bed assisted housing place but cannot claim the full rent unless she is receipt of the CB. In short, she will lose the 2 bed place for her and son if not receiving the CB. HMRC has decided that the ex should remain in receipt of the CB. At first they gave the reason as being because neither parent has 'greater responsibility' then it remains with the current claimant - i.e. she has no grounds for it to be switched to her. She applied for a reconsideration, and then the second letter came back stating that they have worked out that ex has slightly more hours a week and therefore this is the determining factor - despite her desperate financial situation. I am now helping Beth take this to a tribunal. Please can anyone share their experiences of a CB tribunal, good or bad? Has anyone actually managed to overturn an HMRC decision on who gets the child benefit? The situation is so messed up. Isn't our benefits system there to protect those that need it the most?? Thanks in advance.

Rockchick1984 Thu 19-May-16 11:48:21

Whose address is used by school, Drs surgery etc for the children? That will usually be considered to be the child's primary carer.

The benefits system is there to protect those who need it most however the child benefit is entirely there for the child, the parent's financial situation is irrelevant.

She (presumably) receives housing benefit to pay part of her rent, she can also apply to her local council for a discretionary housing payment to top up the HB if she can show them that she needs to be in the 2 bed property. How many nights per week does she have their son? If she needs to be in assisted housing, would it be possible to move her to a 1 bed property, or is 2 bed the only size available?

AnchorDownDeepBreath Thu 19-May-16 11:57:45

It doesn't sound like HMRC have made an error here. You could take it to tribunal but that may cause more stress for your friend, especially if it doesn't change anything.

They are correct that if care is equally shared, the CB gets paid to the same person as currently claims it. This usually means the primary carer.

Did he keep the family home? Are they registered with school/doctors etc there? That seems likely from what you've said and as he also has them slightly over 50% of the time, he should be paid the CB according to the rules i believe.

Unfortunately CB is paid for the child and not the parent so her financial situation won't come into this.

Did she report his harassment/bullying? Was there evidence? Did she press charges if so? I'm not sure how much it would help even if she did but it might open an avenue.

Sidecarsister Thu 19-May-16 12:56:01

Thank you both so much for your responses. To answer the questions, they are both down as contacts at the school, doctors etc. Yes, he kept the family home (but then sold up and moved them) but her son also has belongings etc at hers and will stay with her if falling ill while there. The care arrangement works on a 2 week cycle so that out of 14 nights, she has him for 7. It is genuinely dow the line 50:50 in terms of the care - I have no idea how they came to the decision that he has more hours and this is what we will try and dispute at the tribunal.
She is on housing benefit and got the discretionary allowance to move from a 1 to a 2 bed flat, but this has now run out and without the CB she is having to top the rent up and can't afford to do so. So looks like she will have to move back to a 1 bed. I totally appreciate that CB is for the child but this has far reaching consequences for the child, as if she cannot claim CB and has to move to a 1 bed, he will be spending 50% of his time in a 1 bed flat with his mum. He is a teenage boy!
Yes, there is a long history of evidence regarding the abuse (incl. a stay in a women's shelter when son was a baby) but like you say, I don't think this can or will be considered in the CB decision.
I thought that where there is no clear person who has the 'main' care then the financial implications of not receiving the benefit will be taken in to account? Am I wrong?
Thanks again for taking the time to reply.

Babyroobs Thu 19-May-16 13:02:24

Has she tried to claim Tax credits for the child? It is likely that her ex's earnings will be too high for him to claim them so she could try to. As with CB only one parent can claim. i don't know whether putting in a successful child tax creidt claim would help with the housing benefit.

Sidecarsister Thu 19-May-16 13:13:49

Thanks Babyroobs. She is not currently working so couldn't at the moment. Plus I think that amount is greatly affected if you are the 'main carer' of a child under 16. And guess what they use as proof of 'main carer'?!

AnchorDownDeepBreath Thu 19-May-16 13:26:01

HMRC use a priority framework to decide who gets the child benefit if the parents themselves can't decide. This was legally challenged in 2012, along with whether it was fair that HMRC won't split the payments - HMRC won.

1 - Who gets the benefit now. Where a person makes a claim for a child or qualifying young person and an award has already been made to another person for that child, the person with the existing award has priority.

2 - Person having a child living with them. The person who has the child living with them has priority over any persons who contribute to the cost of raising a young person but does not have the child living with them.

3 - Husband and wife. In cases where a husband and wife reside together, the wife has priority if there is no other deciding factors.

4 - Parents. In cases where one claimant is a parent and the other is not, the parent shall have priority.

5 - Unmarried couples. In cases where the parents reside together but are not married, the mother has priority of entitlement.

If none of those apply, Child Benefit will be paid to the person who was primarily jointly elected by those who are eligible - the holder of the existing or previous claim. If no agreement can be reached, HMRC will maintain the status quo.

The manual doesn't mention any relevance of either parent's financial situation. Infact it advises that any information regarding to finance is removed before the case is assessed, so that it does not prejudice the case.

How long has the claim been in his name? I think that's her only avenue, really. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Sidecarsister Thu 19-May-16 13:42:10

Thank you. Where is this priority framework published please? Really helpful. The confusing thing for me is that in the original letter turning down her claim is says:
"When making their decision the officer acting for the Commisioners for HM Revenue & Customs looks at:
the pattern care and living arrangements for the child
any court orders in force covering arrangements for the childs care
the child's official address
where the child's personal possessions are kept
where the child would stay if they were ill
if it is not sufficiently clear that one person has the main responsibility, the effect on the level of financial support from other state benefits for the children if the Child Benefit claim was disallowed.
It goes on to say:
"We have decided that you both have care and responsibility for *. We have decided based on the information you have provided that you do not have the greater amount of care for *. CB will remain with Mr **"
So - this is at odds with the framework above... It's so bloody confusing!!!

Sidecarsister Thu 19-May-16 13:44:06

PS The CB has been in his name for several years now :-(

lougle Thu 19-May-16 14:03:22

She doesn't have to be working to claim Child tax credits. Only working tax credits.

Sidecarsister Thu 19-May-16 14:08:16

Thank you. Does she need to be in receipt of Child Benefit in order to claim Child Tax?

Kanga59 Thu 19-May-16 16:09:37

Can she use the maintenance payments that her ex gives her, for the child, towards the rent? The additional rent is for his benefit

Sidecarsister Thu 19-May-16 16:45:33

She has never received a single maintenance payment from the ex. It was an extremely bitter separation and custody battle resulting in a person that will go out of his way to destroy his ex partner, emotionally, financially. The history is too complicated to explain. Basically I feel that she desperately needs this Child Benefit to gain some kind of financial stability and help that she needs to look after her son. The Child Benefit is a gateway benefit to lots more support that she won't get as a 'single person'. This has repercussions for her son, not just her!

Sidecarsister Thu 19-May-16 16:46:32

I am also concerned that his plan is to make her pay maintenance to him! It wouldn't surprise me...

AnchorDownDeepBreath Thu 19-May-16 16:47:52

It's on the intranet here but it should be online too - you need the version updated in Feb 2016. I'll try and find a link later if you haven't already got one.

From what you've said, it's been payable to him for too long to be able to argue that it was a mistake really. Do they just have one child together?

Babyroobs Thu 19-May-16 16:50:10

If there is roughly 50:50 shared care, there is no need for her ex to pay maintainence. Child benefit is only worth around £20 a week which whilst helpful is nothing compared to what she could claim in child tax credits. I'm unsure whether she needs to be claiming child benefit to claim tax credits, but she should look into it.

Sidecarsister Thu 19-May-16 22:27:40

Anchor I'd really appreciate that link as I can't find it... Thanks all for your help - will def tell friend to look in to child tax.

Rockchick1984 Sat 21-May-16 07:55:18

Unfortunately she needs to be claiming the child benefit in order to claim child tax credits. I understand that Drs, school etc have both parents down as contacts but which address do they have registered as where the child resides? As that can potentially be used as proof of who is the primary carer.

It's likely that she will need to look into options eg sofa bed in the living room for the 1 bed flat. Is she currently claiming everything for herself that she is eligible for?

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