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A Flawed System.
CSA Child Support Agency
Member Name: Diana43
CSA Child Support Agency
Advantages: They Get Results eventually
Disadvantages: Still Not Enough Power.
My experiences with the CSA are different to the other reviews I have read and I wanted to give a more positive angle on this government run body. It hasn't let me down on the contrary it has supported me and offered invaluable help in securing maintenance for my children.
The CSA or Child Support Agency is part of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission. They will chase up, find and collect money from non-supportive, non-resident parents. In other word those parents who bring a child into the world but do not want to help the child financially. It recognises that parents have a duty to provide for their children. The CSA have enforcement powers that allow deductions from earnings and will even prosecute a defaulter.
My ex was a very high earner having worked in the City all of his life. He threatened to give up work when we were separating because he said that he would never support us. He was eventually made redundant as a result of poor performance. He has since worked abroad to dodge maintenance. I do not want to take him to court because I don't want the contact with him, although I would be better off. I contacted the CSA when I found out he had been working back in the City for some time. My ex hasn't given me a penny for the children for three years. They are teenagers and I think it is just that he should be giving them something to make their lives easier.
The CSA is without doubt a seriously flawed system. It needs to be straightened out immediately. It needs to listen to those who have used the system and have experienced its failing's first-hand and it needs to learn from their experiences. It does however have some very caring people running the operation, these people are as frustrated by the procedures as the users. I have encountered many helpful people who have made my journey easier. I have been handled with care and have been kept abreast of the numerous developments that my ex has instigated.
The first huge flaw in the system is that a parent doesn't have to volunteer to pay child maintenance; it is the burden of the resident parent to find out if the other parent is working and then inform the CSA or take the case to court. There are a few parents who volunteer to support their children and contact the agency themselves, I admire those few. If the parent has been working for years you cannot claim back maintenance because you failed to notify them. What a fantastic system we have! It is the children who suffer and something should be done to amend this ridiculous rule. Both parents have a responsibility to their children. We should be supporting our children not making it okay for parents to dodge their financial responsibilities. There must be a new law put in place that enforces this. As a mother and a foster carer I know the cost of picking up the pieces financially and emotionally.
The second rule which I found ludicrous was that the CSA has up to six weeks to enter the case into the system. I was lucky I was told because my case only took just over two weeks. The non-paying parent is then contacted. In my case he pretended that he wasn't the person they were looking for, he tried to delay the initial contact which didn't work because the calls are recorded, so when he did finally admit he was who they were looking for, they had recording to verify they had notified him months before.
If you think the calculation is unfair, you have the right to oppose this decision; the appeal will go forward and be reviewed in a court of law. If your circumstances change you have an obligation to notify the CSA, this however isn't a legal obligation. When an assessment is made of their earnings it only takes into account the earnings over the last year or however long they have been in that employment if shorter. If they are paid out dividends or bonuses this won't show immediately and won't be calculated. Again it is your duty to ask the CSA to do an update on earnings. I was advised to do this annually. They say it is a criminal offence if someone fails to give the CSA information or gives information that they know is false. Realistically they are not going to chase all parents up or check their salaries. It should be a legal requirement although the CSA will take them to court if they found out and the parent could be fined up to £1,000. They say they are successful in around 95% of these cases. In my ex-husbands case £1000 is nothing, what does he have to loose? nothing! and the financial gains are substantial if he keeps quite about his substantial bonus.
There is a nice little loophole in the calculations, if you pay into a pension this can't be calculated towards maintenance. My very clever ex-husband discovered this and immediately dissolved half of his salary into his pension fund. I am fortunate that I was made aware of this and I am now appealing. I have been told that because it is an unreasonable amount that he will not be allowed to continue to do so and the pension will be included in the calculations. I have the CSA to thank for advising me and sending me a variation of assets form. I am appealing against this decision and hope for my children's sake that it will be upheld.
I am fortunate that the people I talked to at the CSA were supportive and very helpful. I felt that they were all against the rules and red tape that govern them. They went out of their way to patiently explain and guide me through the process. Five months later I have had my first payment, it was taken directly from his earnings, and without the CSA I wouldn't have seen a penny.
My conclusion is, fight for your children. I let them down by not doing anything sooner. It is both parents right to support their children. We have a government body that will help us do that. It isn't perfect but there are kind, warm caring people on the other end of the phone. I had heard many stories over the years, completely annihilating the CSA. Don't be deterred as I was. They care and I was dealt with, with respect and dignity.
I am giving this a 4 star for the lovely, helpful staff that I encountered and not for the system.
Summary: We are letting our children down with a flawed system.
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