My original maintenance claim
When S’s father (aka Twunty) first left us, we agreed he would pay maintenance directly into my bank account. That didn’t last very long, and eventually I contacted the CSA. I knew when they had contacted him, because I received a text message telling me I shouldn’t have gone to them; now I would suffer because they would definitely say I was entitled to less than he would have given me, and I would have to wait at least a month for them to sort everything out, during which time he wouldn’t send any money.
The amount I was awarded by the CSA was indeed less than the single maintenance payment I had previously received; but I figured at least it would actually turn up without my having to have any contact with him. Over the course of the last four years, maintenance payments have fluctuated, until eventually for the last year or so I was receiving £20 per month – when it turned up.
I ended up having to call the CSA every couple of months to chase my payments. Twunty had opted to pay his maintenance as an attachment of earnings, meaning that his employer would remove it from his pay before he received it (rather than making the payment himself). In a large organisation, that would work perfectly; large organisations are professional and deal with attachment of earnings orders on a regular basis. They just make the payments to the CSA as a matter of course. But Twunty doesn’t work in a large, professional organisation. He works for a small company, and his boss is his friend. I never went more than two months without a maintenance payment being missed. Since the payments were only £20 per month and the phone calls were usually long and involved a lot of hold music, I ended up leaving it a few months at a time before I bothered to call up and chase.
The CSA were not terribly good at chasing payments; to my knowledge, they never chased without my first chasing them. On more than one occasion they came back to me and said they couldn’t call the employer to chase because they didn’t know the phone number – at which point I Googled the company while on the phone, and told them the number. It often took long enough for another payment to be missed, while they did whatever they consider to be chasing.
The CSA is becoming the CMS.
The CSA has now begun the process of changing over to the CMS. More than just a change in lettering, the CMS has different options when it comes to maintenance. With the CSA, there was only the option of calling them and giving the absent parent’s details; then they would contact them, decide how much you were due, and arrange taking that payment from the absent payment and paying it to you.
With the CMS there are three options. The main difference is that they are now charging for their “services” and want to encourage those parents who are on speaking terms, to agree maintenance details on their own. I can see why they would do this; a lot of people will probably have chosen this option, and it means less work for the CMS.
The second option is that you pay the CMS a one-off fee of £20, for which they will calculate how much maintenance payments should be; then you go away and arrange those payments among yourselves, without the CMS being involved any further – except for an annual review. I can see why people would choose this option too; having an impartial third party calculate maintenance can help to alleviate tension in a stressful situation.
The third option is for people like me, who cannot have any contact with the absent parent. With this, you pay a one-off fee of £20 (which is not applicable if you’ve experienced domestic violence or you’re under 18). The CMS then calculates the maintenance amount. The absent parent must then pay a fee of 20% of each payment made, and the maintenance you receive is reduced by 4%.
My maintenance arrangement has ended.
They are moving people over to the CMS over a period of time, and a few months ago I received a letter to say my CSA arrangement would end and I would need to reapply and move over to CMS. The reasons they chose that point to move me over were detailed in the letter. In my case, there were two: firstly, Twunty has been named in another maintenance claim, so they would need to recalculate everything any way. Secondly, the person he lives with has also been named in a maintenance claim. So that will also play a part when they calculate how much maintenance is paid out by the household as a whole. (NB I actually found out much later that Twunty was never “named in another claim” – he had called the CSA and told them that he had made a maintenance arrangement with his newest ex-girlfriend. The first she heard of this “agreement” was a year later when they contacted her to ask how it was going – he never paid her a penny and had lied to the CSA!)
I have not contacted the CSA/CMS to renew my claim.
Here are my reasons:
Firstly, with that many maintenance claims already going on in that household, I’m fairly sure the £20 a month I was receiving would reduce to the minimum payment which is something like £8 per month.
Secondly, having to constantly call the CSA to chase payment over the last few years has just kept things dragging on. It kept bringing things up; I kept getting cross at the fact my child was only deemed to be worth £20 per month; I became even more cross when that £20 never materialised without my having to chase it.
I can do without the negativity, and we will do without that £20.