What follows below is a short example of a few cases where we have acted upon the behalf of non-resident parents to successfully challenge CSA / CMS decisions. This represents just a small number of the successful cases but each client here has consented to their case details being reproduced in this way.
Mr M S
Arrears alleged £50,000, assessments at over £127 per week. The CSA / CMS had not served him properly, all arrears written off. Assessment for the future halved.
Mr G B
Client consulted us with an assessment of over £100 per week. He had two children by two different parent with cares. The CSA / CMS refused to assess the other parent with care. The CSA’s / CMS’s assessment was wrong mathematically. We advised client to make an application for child support against himself. This then reduced the assessment to £35 per week for the one child and for the second child that had previously not been counted to nil. Arrears of £5,000 were remitted.
Mr M J
When client consulted me his assessment was approximately £130 per week and the CSA / CMS was taking £800 per month from his salary. The CSA / CMS were pursuing arrears of some £40,000. We managed to obtain the lifting of the Deduction from Earnings Order, the cancellation of the arrears and a refund for client amounting to some £1,800.
Mr M H
When client consulted us he had arrears owing to the CSA / CMS of some £15,000 and the Inland Revenue in a similar sum. Although we are not experts in Inland Revenue, sorting out the CSA / CMS had several similarities with the Inland Revenue and therefore we volunteered to sort out both. Client was not liable for child support because he was out of the UK for several years during the mid-1990’s. The CSA / CMS stated that since client did not tell them at the time he left the country the CSA / CMS were entitled to charge until he came back. I explained the provisions of the Child Support Act and appropriate jurisdiction regulations and the CSA / CMS refused to reconsider their decision. An appeal therefore was put forward to The Tribunal Service and shortly before the Tribunal hearing the CSA / CMS abandoned their position, closed the case and remitted all arrears. The Inland Revenue, being much more sensible had long before admitted we were correct and had also remitted all of their arrears.
Mr S C
Client came to see us with arrears of £40,000. Investigations revealed that the CSA / CMS had issued critical papers incorrectly and as a result their assessments were unlawful. The case was closed and all arrears written off. The CSA / CMS were unable to pursue any further assessment.
Mr G P
Consulted by client with an assessment of almost £100 per week and arrears in excess of £10,000. Client life with the CSA / CMS had been an absolute nightmare with almost daily correspondence and innumerate threats, letters and assessments constantly changing. As a result of enquires we found outstanding assessments which had not been completed which then had a knock on effect with later assessments.
We advised client to make applications in relation to his capital settlement with his former wife and made a complaint to the Independent Case Examiner concerning the Agency’s constant failure to move the matter forward.
After substantive litigation all assessments made in the case going back to 1994 were revised as a result of which every single one was reduced. Clients Deduction from Earnings Order was cancelled, all arrears were written off and client received total refunds in excess of £1,000.
Mr F C
Client came to see me with arrears of £18,000 and an assessment of £90 per week. Enquiries with the Agency revealed that CSA / CMS had been charging client for the periods when he was not in the United Kingdom and that the CSA / CMS had been made aware of the situation but had simply pursued matters regardless. Under those circumstances this meant the CSA’s / CMS’s action were unlawful and we were able to lift the child maintenance assessment and have all arrears remitted. Client then received a refund from the CSA / CMS in the sum of £7,730.03 by giro cheque.
Mr G R
Consulted by client who had a £30,000 Charging Order against his house and even larger arrears owed to the CSA / CMS which they were enforcing. We managed to prove that the CSA / CMS figures had been unreliable and all assessments were recalculated as a result of which all arrears except £2,000 were written off.
Mr C B
Client came to see us with £91,000 of arrears. When we looked at this we identified that it was not algebraic possible to create the maintenance assessment put forward by the Child Support Agency and therefore advised further investigation which led us to find that the Agency had been charging for two children even though one child was not his. Although we were ten years out of time to appeal, we put forward the case on the basis of a Secretary of State error which had to be corrected. The Child Support Agency then corrected the error and we appealed against the correction on the grounds that the entire assessment process was void from the beginning due to the error of assessing two children instead of one. We advised our client that this was a risky strategy but as he had already saved £50,000 and could possible save the other £40,000 client was content to put forward the strategy. We advised that the Lower Tribunal was very unlikely to allow the appeal instead therefore it would be a matter that would have to go up to the Upper Tribunal. The matter duly became before the First Tier Tribunal which after listening very carefully to the complex submissions we made upon our clients behalf duly as expected rejected the appeal but indicate their interest. As a result we then requested a Statement of Reasons and the Child Support Agency carried out a further assessment which reduced the arrears down by a further £25,000 leaving client with £15,000 of arrears. At this point the client decided that this was an acceptable outcome and decided not to go ahead with the very risky Upper Tribunal appeal. As a result of these appeals therefore clients arrears were reduced by £75,000.
Mr R B
Consulted by client and arrears stood at £40,000.00. It transpired that the CSA had an assessment from November 1993 however investigations reveal that the Agency may not have served him properly. The CSA initially carried out reassessments and arrears were reduced to £20,000.00. This was not acceptable and further work was done by the CSA on the case which reduced the arrears to £8,000.00. This was still not acceptable but the CSA refused to budge further. We took the matter to an Appeal Tribunal and succeeded. Arrears were reduced by a further £7,500.00 down to £500.00 only.
Mr P C
Client to came me with arrears of £20,000 having been referred to me after his solicitors he had previously appointed went bust. The previous solicitor had submitted an appeal which the Agency had determined as out of time but upon perusal of the file I noted a conversation of client with Agency suggesting an appeal against an assessment. This was very important as it concerned the residence of one of the three qualifying children. We were able to persuade the Tribunal that the telephone conversation was in fact an “in time” appeal made orally by telephone against a Child Support Agency decision which remained open. The Tribunal were then convinced that the residence of the child was other than the Child Support Agency had found it, and on the basis of that we were able to persuade the Tribunal to reconsider our clients financial circumstances. The net result was that following a successful trial of the £17,586 arrears, £17,100 was written off.
A few months later I was reconsulted by my client after the Child Support Agency erroneously issued a Deduction from Earnings Order to collect the entirety of the £17,000 that had been written off by the Tribunal. An angry exchange of correspondence led to the Child Support Agency issuing the most debased apology for their wholly unlawful actions and rebating the excessive deduction with interest and compensation.
Mr R D
Client consulted us with arrears of some £25,000.00 and an assessment made in 1994. The assessments were between £19.00 to £110.00 per week. We appealed against the assessment and reduced the earlier assessments by over £90.00 per week and halved the later assessments. As a result it was found that client had actually overpaid the Agency and the CSA accordingly refunded over £700.00 and wrote-off arrears.
Mr W E
Client consulted us on 29th September 2010. His case in relation to his son was closed down because his son had achieved the age of 18 years. However, the Agency have looked at the past and found that client owed £5,000 from 1995 which they now wanted him to pay.
We advise him about his rights concerning the situation and to contact the Child Support Agency. We provided client with a script of things to say. As a result of speaking with the Agency they returned to client indicating the case was now closed and the debt deleted.
Mr P G
This case actually represents a double success. We were first of all consulted by our client when the Agency had made a penalty assessment against him that was completely without foundation. This penalty assessment generated arrears totalling £10,000 and we appealed these upon this behalf. This was completed successfully and all arrears were cancelled.
Three years later we were consulted by the same client as the Agency had made formal assessments against him and backdated them two years. They had included a second child by a second mother but had not correctly followed the regulations for doing so. Unfortunately our client had been handling the matter himself during those two years and the Agency had obtained a liability order upon which he had paid over £4,000. By the time client had re-consulted us the arrears stood at £8,000. We found that the Child Support Agency had not technically followed the correct procedure to bring in the second mother and the second child and therefore all of the assessments carried out were illegal and had to be returned to a zero assessment. Furthermore, the result of this successful appeal pulled his case over to the new legal situation dramatically reducing the child maintenance assessment for the future. As a result all arrears were written off (again) and all payments made by our client were refunded by the Agency. Compensation for this series of errors is currently being sought.
Mr S H
Client came in with arrears of £50,000.00 and assessments of £90.00 per week from 1995. Although on the surface the assessments appear to be legally binding and in fact found that assessments between 1995 and 2001 had doubtful legality. We were able to have these reviewed down to £10.00 per week as a result of which clients arrears reduced by £33,000.00. We also took the view that whilst the £91.00 assessment was correct from 2001 it was by 2004 no longer appropriate and secured a reduction down to £5.60 wiping out a further £3,000.00 of arrears.
Mrs D J
Client initially contacted her divorce Solicitor. She was the non-resident parent and had been representing herself, a Tribunal sitting in 2012 had decided that she was incorrectly assessed and her maintenance of £5 per week was put up to £121 per week backdated to July 2009. The result of this decision placed client in arrears totalling about £15,000. Furthermore, it put her in a position of having to pay maintenance for the future of £120 per week as well.
Her Solicitors duly instructed a Barrister for an opinion on the decision and the opinion was “I would advise those instructing me contact Mr Bob Pape at Child Support Solutions… he is based in Timperley, Altrincham and has very considerable experience of dealing with these type of applications… he has been known to spot other technical errors and defects in the process that others may have missed or overlooked!”.
It was on this recommendation that her Solicitors consulted me. I looked at the application and found that the Judge’s decision had been made correctly in all the legal circumstances. The time for appealing against the decision had in any event expired, however from the documentation I found that there was an assessment made in October 2009, a mere four months after the decision at £120 per week took effect, which appeared to be “open”. Consultation with client revealed that she had written a letter to the Agency concerning that assessment and my advice was to investigate this further. Investigations revealed that the Agency had not responded to our client’s request to look again at that decision from October 2009 and as that decision was not before the Tribunal in their decision made in 2012 it therefore enabled us to issue an appeal against that decision. This was a lengthy process, the appeal against the June 2009 decision had been finalised in July 2012. The appeal went in, in January 2013. Technical arguments had to be heard and argued about the lateness of the appeal but eventually it was given permission to proceed and as a result the matter was finally heard in December 2015 when the maintenance assessment was backdated to October 2012 was backdated to take into account her new job (which is what she had notified them about in October 2012) and set aside the departure decisions that had been made by the previous Tribunal. By the time the matter was heard the total amount saved against the previous Tribunal’s decision exceeded £17,500.
This is by no means the largest of the decisions that we have obtained but it illustrates the regard with which the company is held in the legal profession generally and the work that is frequently necessary to overturn an incorrect decision where rights of appeal no longer exist.
Mr G L 2
Consulted by client, the Child Support Agency said they were passing over to the Child Maintenance Service £22,000 to collect. Client was represented by this company 10 years earlier where assessments made by the Agency and where we were successful in dramatically reducing backdated assessments made by the Agency. As I result we were able to obtain our own file papers and working through this and later assessments our client produced to us we were able to calculate the total amount of maintenance due during the entirety of the case, only to find that the total amount our client was due to pay was less than the arrears and our client swore that he had paid at least £10,000 over the years of liability. Lengthy correspondence with the CMS utilising the old paperwork from our file of 10 years earlier enabled us to successfully argue that the arrears figure was probably wrong. When the Child Maintenance Service finally carried out a comprehensive case review having obtained all the information from the Child Support Agency (a mammoth task from their point of view) this finally revealed that arrears were in fact less than half those put forward, approximately at £9,000. This case is important as the Child Maintenance Service is insisting that there must be some kind of demonstration that the maintenance arrears could be wrong before they will carry out Clerical Account Breakdowns because they are a gargantuan task, but the reality is that the errors handed over by the Child Support Agency to the Child Maintenance Service were such that they CSA handed over arrears that were more than double what they actually were. This case demonstrates the point that the CMS should be demanded to produce a Clerical Account Breakdown where they have received arrears from the CSA and the client does not believe they are correct.
This is by no means the largest of the decisions that we have obtained but it illustrates the regard with which the company is held in the legal profession generally and the work that is frequently necessary to overturn an incorrect decision where rights of appeal no longer exist.
Mr N R
Here I was appointed by a solicitor to act upon the behalf of her boyfriend. She had taken the case all the way up to a week before a Tribunal but the CSA’s submission appeared strong in law and she took the view that her boyfriends case was likely to be lost. She was looking for a final opinion and if there was even the remotest possibility of success, representation at a Tribunal for him. Careful consideration of the law quoted by the CSA revealed it to be fundamentally flawed. On this basis therefore we attended the Tribunal upon clients behalf and proved our case. Accordingly clients appeal was successful which saved him over £6,000.00 in maintenance.
Mr A T
Client consulted us in mid 2017 advising he had split up with his ex in 2005. A very complex case and extremely acrimonious including a period of time served in prison, but client had buy to let properties which the CSA appear to have assessed. That struck me as unusual because a buy to let property is not subject to straightforward CSA assessments when it is one or two, it has to be a self-employed business. I then obtained the DPA and found out what happened and discovered that the CSA had actually used ASHE to assess. That is completely wrong because client was not PAYE employed and the CSA knew it.
Client had Solicitors fighting the case for him for five years, he had served a term of imprisonment and had been forced to pay the CSA £23,000 three years earlier and they now wanted another £23,000. I pursued matters with the CSA on the basis of my findings with the DPA and after lengthy and complex discussions with them concerning the law they eventually agreed all of our legal submissions and set aside their decisions backdated over eight years, reducing all maintenance calculations to nil, thereby meaning that the Child Support Agency now owed him £23,000 and removed the legal charge against his home where they were threatening possession. This really shows the advantage of appointing an expert here, client had been assisted by his Solicitors throughout but they just did not understand that old CSA assessments can be challenged and did not understand where they would be able to challenge them. Expert analysis of the Data Protection File gave client a clear case.
Mr I W
Client wrote the following letter “may I take this opportunity to formally thank you for three things.” Firstly for taking up this case at such short notice; just one week between initial meeting and the oral hearing to a Commissioner. Secondly, for your thorough preparation for the hearing, and finally for the way in which the case was delivered to the Commissioner. There was excellent rapour and I am sure he appreciated your clear delivery style and concise content. Whatever the Commissioner’s final decision regarding the leave to appeal, I do not believe anyone could have provided better representation! We took on the appeal one week prior to the Commissioner’s hearing. The hearing was successful.
Mr M W
Consulted by client with extremely complicated departure on all available departure grounds made by his former wife.
He approached us with arrears in excess of £15,000. We appealed to the Commissioner upon his behalf and were successful. The matter was sent back by the Commissioner to a Tribunal for retrial when the Tribunal was convinced on a complex argument over a two day trial that the legalistic requirements for departures in the case was not validated.
As a result virtually all grounds were dismissed and client’s assessments and arrears reduced by over £10,000.
Mr D H
Arrears alleged of over £15,000, Deduction from Earnings Order operating at over £100 per week for many years. Client consulted this firm. Assessment was halved and CSA / CMS unable to prove service. All arrears remitted and client refunded £13,000 by two cheques, one for £12,000 and the other for just over £1,000.
Mr V C
Client came in with an assessment of £25.71 per week. This was reduced after a formal complaint to the Chief Executive to £5.40 per week.
Mr H S
When client consulted us he had a Deduction from Earnings Order in excess of £100 per week and arrears of approximately £10,000. As a result of this firms actions the Deduction from Earnings Order was cancelled within eight weeks of consulting this firm, the CSA / CMS cancelled all arrears and client was a sent a cheque by the Agency for £1800.
Mr D H
Client approached us, case closed three years earlier and the CSA / CMS said there were arrears of £3,700. Our investigations revealed that there was in fact a change to clients circumstances 18 months prior to closure which the CSA / CMS did not take into account. Despite being out of time we were able to put together an appeal which succeeded as a result of which £2,600 was reduced from clients arrears. The whole case took less than four months.
Mr B R
Client came in with £14,000 of arrears backdated to 1996. Investigations revealed that the CSA / CMS had in fact made an Interim Maintenance Assessment which we were able to convert thereby saving client in excess of £10,000.
Mr P B
Client consulted us with arrears in excess of £15,000 and an assessment at over £100 per week. Enquiries revealed errors made by the CSA / CMS of the initial stages of the case as a result of which we went to Tribunal when the Tribunal agreed with our submissions. As a result all arrears were written off and overpayments made by our client in excess of £5,000 were refunded.
Mr N H
Client came to see me with arrears in excess of £37,000 and somehow or other the CSA / CMS had managed to register arrears in his bankruptcy. Client was in fact able to pay off his bankruptcy debts which only amounted to about £5,000, the problem was with the CSA / CMS debt added in the debt was in fact in excess of £40,000. Not only did client feel he did not owe the money but there was no way he could clear his bankruptcy. We corresponded with the insolvency practitioner and this was removed from his schedule of indebtedness. This then enabled client to clear his bankruptcy and commence trading again. In the meantime investigations revealed that the arrears were owed as a result of Interim Maintenance Assessment’s imposed in doubtful circumstances. As a result of appeals put forward all arrears owed by client were remitted in their entirety.
Mr C P
Client consulted us after a Tribunal which increased his maintenance from £5 per week to over £100 per week and backdating the maintenance over two years. We appealed against the decision to Commissioners and were successful. As a result the case was closed and all arrears written off.
Mr R P
Client consulted Bob after a departure direction had been made by a Tribunal increasing his income to £35,000 per annum. The CSA / CMS had not yet carried out the assessment and we immediately discovered procedural errors within the Tribunal’s process. An immediate application was made to set aside the decision and when the errors were pointed out to the Tribunal, the Tribunal set aside the decision thereby preventing the CSA / CMS from making the assessment on the erroneous basis. Subsequent litigation led to the closure of the case completely.
Mr R S
Consulted by client after receiving an assessment of £81 per week. Investigations revealed that the CSA / CMS had commenced assessments against him in the past but these had not been completed. These assessments resulted in the lowering of his maintenance over a period of five previous years. The CSA / CMS were further pursuing arrears in excess of £4,000 but after our successful litigation all arrears were cancelled and client received a refund cheque.
Mr P B
Client came to see me with a Deductions from Earnings Order for £630.00 per month going back to October 2002. Upon taking his instructions it seemed possible that the Agency had incorrectly fixed the effective date. We made an immediate appeal and eventually when the matter came to Tribunal the information provided by the Agency proved that the legal position had not been correctly followed. As a result all arrears were cancelled and client was refunded £5,600.00. The Agency was ordered to carry out an assessment with effect from December 2003, after the latest event of changes which were highly beneficial to our client.
Mr R B 2
Nothing legally complicated about this one, the problem was the facts were horrifically complicated.
The Agency after receiving many years of pressure from the mother had looked again at maintenance going back 15 years and decided that client had mis-declared his income. As a result they reassessed his income at £45,000 per year over the previous 15 years imposing an additional £50,000 of arrears. Client stuck his head in the sand and was eventually imprisoned for failure to pay the arrears. It was at that point (whilst he was in prison) that he consulted us. By the time we were consulted the vast majority of the sentence had been served.
Once client emerged into the sunlight we consulted with him and realised there was a technical error in the reassessed figures. As a result the Agency had to correct the technical error which meant reissuing the calculations and in turn we then appealed against these upon our clients behalf.
Clients financial circumstances were extremely complicated with numerous moves, numerous jobs and a bankruptcy not to mention repossessions of a property portfolio (all of which was ignored by the Child Support Agency recalculation) the amount of evidence filed was enormous. We accompanied this with a schedule stretching over 20 pages, identifying each and every Child Support Agency error. Finally that in turn was accompanied by a 20 page statement from client going through his financial circumstances in each and every year and for each and every assessment with fully numbered appendices referring to such evidence as was available for each and every change. The matter was heard over two days and the Tribunal cancelled the entire Child Support Agency’s reassessment reimposing the original figures and thereby writing off not only the extra £50,000 debt, but a further £15,000 by imposing an even lower figure than those originally assessed at the early dates.
Mr P C 2
Client consulted us with payments of £82 per week and we successfully managed to reduce this to £37 per week.
This case was just an example of a simple case demonstrated by the reduction.
Mr T D
Consulted by client, Child Support Agency chasing arrears of £6,000 going back eight years. Client had got his MP involved and tried a variety of complaints all without success. In three months, and at a cost of only £700, we managed to secure the Agency’s review of the decision in clients favour reducing the arrears by £5,000.
We advised that it was possible to carry on and possibly write off the entirety of the debt but that it would be impossible to do so within the budget of the remaining sum outstanding, namely £1,000.
Client decided to pay £1,000 to the Child Support Agency rather than paying a further bill for us to take the matter up to Tribunal which would certainly have been in excess of that figure.
Mr P F
Client consulted us with CSA debts amounting to £49.000. He had paid the Agency about £1,000 over the years.
Obtaining the Data Protection File proved that there were questionable elements to their assessment process and as a result of these we were able to obtain a reassessment throughout the vast majority of the case. The result of this reduced the arrears to just £1,200.
Mr N H
Client approached us with a Liability Order made in the sum of £30,000 and had debt collectors pursuing most vigorously.
Upon going through matters with client it was obvious the Agency had failed to carry out an assessment backdated to 2000 when he was unemployed and failed to take into account his starting self employment later in a business which only showed small profits.
We negotiated a very small payment schedule with the debt collectors to avert the bailiffs whilst we litigated the matter out with the Child Support Agency. The Agency finally agreed that client had no maintenance to pay since 2000 and he was refunded £800 representing the overpayments he had made at that time and the money that was paid to the debt collectors pending resolution.
Mr R H
This is not so much a success story but rather as a indication as to what this company does.
The company campaigns both politically and legally for change within the Child Support Legislation. We have participated actively in Child Support Legislative reviews and work in cooperation with many MP’s. We have also identified issues at the office where we believe legal challenges to the Child Support Legislation should be made. We identified what we believed was a legal gap in the legislation in relation to Child Tax Credits. Although the amount of savings payable by each non resident parent in relation to as successful appeal here would be relatively low the overall cost of non resident parents paying Child Support on their own Tax Credits runs into the millions. In effect this is money that is handed out for the benefit of one child but then changes hands to the benefit of another, who may or may not be able to receive Child Tax Credit themselves depending upon the wealth of the parent with care. It has always seemed fundamentally wrong to this practice that Tax Credits that are paid to improve a child standard of living then goes to enrich a different child. Therefore on a pro bono basis we challenged this particular legal avenue and won in the first instance before the Tribunal. The Child Support Agency then tried to have the Tribunals decision set aside which we successfully fended of thereby winning the second appeal. The matter then went before the Commissioners but unfortunately at that point we were not successful. Very careful consideration was given to taking the matter to the Court of Appeal but at the end of the day we felt that the Court of Appeal would stand by the Commissioners decision. The particular client concerned did not benefit from our advise, however, neither did it cost them anything because the practice itself funded the entirety of the cost including barristers fees on advise to the Court of Appeal.
Mr S H 2
Client consulted me with assessments going back three years. Perusal of the paperwork indicated that the Agency had not kept a proper record concerning its decision making process which rendered the decision possibly unlawful. Correspondence to the Agency led to their refusal to consider the matter and therefore we pursued the matter to a tribunal where the Tribunal agreed that the Child Support Agency’s revision was unlawful and reinstated the previous assessment and reducing arrears by £7,000.
This particular case shows the importance of considering the Data Protection File very carefully. The Data Protection File in this case extended to well over 2,000 pages. The missing documentation was a single line. There were a further two lines of linked information in a completely different part of the bundle that bore out inconsistencies within the record keeping which enabled the entire appeal to succeed.
Mrs J K
Client consulted us with arrears of £66,000.00. After litigation with the CSA the arrears were reduced down to £6,000.00.
Mr G L
Client consulted me with the Child Maintenance Service indicating that they had been passed arrears by the Child Support Agency in the sum of £22,000. Although we objected to these arrears the Child Maintenance Service refused steadfastly to carry out a breakdown of the arrears figure as they have received it from the Child Support Agency and indicated that we needed to show that the figures were wrong. Since this related to maintenance that was due between 1994 and 2008 that was very difficult when we were consulted in 2018, 10 years after the case was supposedly closed.
We therefore obtained the data protection file which turned out to be an enormous bundle of documentation, but it became quite clear that the Agency had made errors in assessing the matter back in the 1990’s. As a result we were able to conclude that there were errors and show that there were errors. We still could not properly calculate the arrears figure ourselves but as a result of showing those errors the Child Maintenance Service agreed to carry out a full investigation and as a result of their investigation the arrears were reduced by £13,000 to £9,700.
For many people although such arrears are large they are not an issue because the Child Maintenance Service cannot physically enforce them as they are too old, but in this particular case the client remained a PAYE employee and was subject therefore to a Deduction from Earnings Order. Very old arrears can become unenforceable but it is important to realise that they are always remain collectable. It is therefore vital to ensure that where a demand is received for excessive maintenance that these are contested. Alas the CMS does not make this easy.
Mr R M
Assessment £61.07 per week as CSA had incorrectly calculated self-employed income. On appeal reduced to £12.00 per week.
Mr R M 3
Consulted by client concerning arrears, the Agency had corrected mistakes and found that he had overpaid £12,300 but were refusing a refund.
We advised client to put forward a formal complaint about that decision advising the Child Support Agency of how much hardship it was causing him and that he should state in that letter that if he did not receive any satisfaction he would be consulting this company. As a result of the complaint that we advised him to send in, the Agency looked at the decision again and decided to refund him his entire overpayment of £12,300 without further litigation.
Client effectively obtained his refund with advice from these offices costing him only £150.
This case demonstrates the value that can be attained from a single attendance. I do not take on cases where I feel that my client can adequately conduct matters themselves and I always ask clients to go through all of the steps necessary. Frequently simply putting forward the case in an organised fashion and threatening to get advice from this company can be enough to make the CSA seriously reconsider matters without the necessity of our involvement. This demonstrates that point.
Mr F R
Client consulted us with arrears of £1,600.00 and an assessment of £60.00 per week. We reduced the assessment to £28.00 per week but the CSA then said the previous total of arrears was incorrect and client owed in excess of £2,000.00. After further arguments about the mathematics with the Agency and arguments over the closure date of the case the CSA finally agreed that client was owed £1,500.00 and refunded by cheque just in time for Christmas!
Mr R S 2
I was consulted by client who had arrears totalling about £45,000 from a case going back ten years.
He had paid the Child Support Agency approximately £5,000 but the Agency were now threatening to take his house off him.
We obtained a Data Protection File and found that the Child Support Agency had not followed the correct procedure to assess the case at the very beginning. We raised this with the Agency advising that their assessments were unlawful and unenforceable. After three moths correspondence the Agency accepted our submissions, closed the case and wrote off all assessments. Client was then refunded all the money he had paid over the years in a single Giro Cheque.
Mr C W
Client consulted us immediately following attending a hearing where he had represented himself and comprehensively lost, as a result of which the Tribunal increased his maintenance from £23 per week to £125 per week, backdating it in excess of four years and generating arrears of approximately £25,000.
Having sought a Statement of Reasons from the Tribunal it was clear that errors had been made and client was accordingly advised to appeal to the Upper Tribunal. Following a fully contested appeal in the Upper Tribunal, the Upper Tribunal agreed that the First Tier Tribunal’s decision was incorrect and returned the matter to the First Tier Tribunal for reconsideration by a different Judge. Following that hearing the Judge returned the assessment to the initial £23 per week and all arrears were written off.
This case shows the importance of ensuring that Tribunal hearings are taken seriously, this particular client incurred a great deal of legal charges in an Upper Tribunal hearing and putting together a bundle of over 700 pages when in reality had he sought legal advice considerably earlier he could have saved half of the costs by ensuring that he had professional representation at the first tribunal and providing proper disclosure.
Mr I W 2
Approached us as following a Tribunal Decision that increased a nil assessment to £89 per week with effect of back dating the maintenance of £37,000 due.
We located an error of law in the Tribunal Decision and appealed to the Commissioners who allowed the appeal and redirected the matter to be heard by a Tribunal. The Tribunal rejected the request to up-rate the maintenance and therefore clients maintenance was reduced back down to nil and the £37,000 arrears generated were written off.
Mr D W
Client came to see me with arrears in excess of £5,000 and an assessment of £40 per week. In fact he had a nervous breakdown about four years earlier, his solicitors had told the CSA / CMS but not pursued any review. Court proceedings went ahead and ancillary relief where the Judge refused to take into account arrears owed to the CSA indicating that client must pay these himself. After appeals submitted the Agency admitted that a letter from the solicitors was the equivalent of notification for a review under the law as it stood at the time. That review resulted in a nil assessment and client being refunded over £1,200. We got CSA / CMS to read the law correctly.
Mr L Y
Client approached me with arrears of £69,000 which after arguments with the CSA / CMS they agreed to close the case and cancel all arrears.
Mr N W
Client approached us with an assessment of £120 per week and the CSA / CMS were taking almost £600 per month from his salary. He had three children from three different parent with cares, two of which lived with him full-time. The child support was being deducted in respect of one of the children only. His take home pay was less than £1,000 per month. The CSA / CMS was leaving him with less than £400 per month to support himself and two children. We immediately secured the lifting of the Deduction from Earnings Order from the CSA / CMS and a reduction of the maintenance. Enquiries revealed that the CSA / CMS were pursing arrears in excess of £40,000 in respect of this one child alone. Additional enquires revealed arrears in respect of one of the children that had always lived with him that the CSA / CMS believed he should be paying for. The CSA / CMS assessments stood at around about £100 per week. After extensive litigation with the Agency £37,000 have been written off arrears but the case continues as client may be entitled to a refund on the monies already paid with the write-off of the remaining arrears figure.
Mr L P
Client came in with an assessment of £77 per week heavily backdated. We found that the CSA / CMS had incorrectly calculated virtually every aspect and put forward an “in house” review. The CSA / CMS refused to change their minds and therefore the case was referred to a Tribunal and the Tribunal agreed with our submissions and as a result assessments of £77 per week were reduced to £15 per week. This saved client in excess of £10,000.
Mr A S
Consulted by client with arrears in excess of £20,000 and an assessment going back to 1995. Enquiries revealed that the CSA / CMS had misdirected correspondence but the CSA / CMS insisted that other evidence pointed to receipt of documentation. We pointed out that legally the Agency had to have sent certain correspondence to the correct address and since they had failed to do so the receipt of later correspondence did not validate the claim. The matter went to Tribunal where we were successful. Client received a refund of overpaid maintenance in excess of £1,700 and all arrears were written off. The entire case was closed.
Mr G S
Client came to see us with arrears of some £7,000. £4,500 of these arrears were generated after client had notified the CSA / CMS he had started self-employment and the CSA / CMS had incorrectly assessed the maintenance. The CSA / CMS initially maintained that they had carried out the assessments properly and that client had failed to appeal against the calculations put forward. We obtained our clients file from the CSA / CMS and computer entries revealed discrepancies with the assessment procedure as a result of which we were able to force the CSA / CMS to reassess the period resulting in a reduction of the arrears totalling £4,300.
Mr M W
Consulted by client with extremely complicated departure on all available departure grounds made by his former wife. He approached us with arrears in excess of £15,000. We appealed to the Commissioner upon his behalf and were successful. The matter was sent back by the Commissioner to a Tribunal for a retrial when the Tribunal was convinced on a complex argument over a two day trial that the legalistic requirements for departures in the case were not validated. As a result virtually all grounds were dismissed and clients assessments and arrears reduced by well over £10,000.
Mr P B 2
Client consulted us with arrears in excess of £15,000 and an assessment of over £100 per week.
Enquiries revealed errors made by the Child Support Agency at the initial stages of the case as a result of which we went to Tribunal when the Tribunal agreed with our submissions.
As a result all arrears were written off and overpayments made by our client in excess of £5,000 were refunded.
Mr D C
Although not Child Maintenance Service related I was consulted by a client who had received a letter from the Court Service enforcing a South African Order that he was to continue paying for a further year as the child concerned continued in education. Client believed the Order should end when the child is 18 and I asked for a copy of the appropriate South African Order and researched South African child maintenance law.
As a result of my findings I wrote to the Court Service advising that the South African Order ended at the age of 18 and had not been extended and pursuant to the “REMO” rules it is not available to the English Courts to unilaterally extend an Order made by a foreign Court. That is the preserve of the foreign Court. The HMCTS replied just a week later indicating that they agreed with my interpretation, the Order had indeed ended and they would be taking no steps to collect additional maintenance for the future.
Although not strictly CMS related, much of my work concerning the Child Maintenance Service relates to cases concerning the limits of jurisdiction. Like the CMS, the REMO system depends mainly upon Civil Servants for delivery and their knowledge of the law is not as strong or comprehensive as it should be for the roles they undertake. In this case the Court Officer that made the decision to continue to enforce maintenance beyond the child’s eighteenth birthday was simply wrong, he was applying English rules but did not have the jurisdiction to do so.
Mr J D
Client consulted us with an assessment made following a Tribunal decision at a rate of £122 per week. The decision of the Tribunal turned upon the nature of debt that had been taken out by the non-resident parent. The Tribunal decided that the nature of this type of debt was not applicable to their calculations. We appealed to the Upper Tribunal and argued about the nature of individual indebtedness and how it interpolates with the variation regulations. The Upper Tribunal at length accepted our arguments and directed the matter to be reheard. The Upper Tribunal did not indicate whether certain debt qualified or not for the purposes of the regulations but rather stated that a First Tier Tribunal must make enquiries and reach their own conclusions. The First Tier Tribunal then made further directions for information in accordance with the Upper Tribunal’s directions and the matter was fixed for a two-day hearing. After a two-day hearing, a further submission of evidence and another hearing date the matter was finally concluded. The diversion variation was reduced by 90% and accordingly client’s arrears were reduced by 90%.
Mr C E
Client was a longterm Child Support Agency case and had for years been paying £75 per week child maintenance. His ex then made an application for a variation and the Child Support Agency increased the maintenance to £214 per week against which client appealed obtaining an order reducing maintenance to £160 per week. He consulted us asking whether such a small reduction was appropriate. We advised that the Tribunal had made errors and advised in favour of an appeal as there were errors both in the maintenance calculation and in the variation process. We therefore took on the case and applied to set aside the decision to the Tribunal. After a contested upper tribunal process the Upper Tribunal set aside the First Tier Tribunal’s decision and ordered a retrial. In the meantime the Child Support Agency obtained a charging order against our client’s property as a result of the Upper Tribunal the previous assessments of £214 per week had been reinstated pending a further appearance before the lower Tribunal. After correspondence the Agency agreed to stop all future enforcement pending the outcome of the retrial and after the retrial the maintenance was reduced down to £75 per week being the figure our client had been paying for many years previously.
The problem with this case was that the Tribunal, the client and the Child Support Agency had all become obsessed with the detail of one ground of the variation without looking at other surrounding grounds and defences. Although the case seemed obvious it was not as it seemed and by combining an assessment which reduced the basic maintenance assessment this then allowed room to allow a small variation ensuring client’s liability remained limited to the amount that he had been paying for many years (and continued to pay throughout the entire process).
Mr A G
Consulted by client who advised the Child Support Agency were pursuing arrears amounting to over £5,000 in respect of an assessment made over 16 years earlier. All the children concerned are in their twenties. Correspondence with the Agency. Client employed and therefore Child Support Agency determined to issue Deduction from Earnings Order which does not have any time limits in terms of enforcement. Further correspondence with the Agency revealed inconsistencies in the original assessment procedures that took place in 1993 as a result of which we were able to force the Child Support Agency to write off most of the assessment leaving client with arrears of only £707 which he decided to pay rather than continue litigation.
Mr N H 2
Consulted by client who had three children by two different mothers. The Child Support Agency had carried out assessments which led to arrears accumulating over the previous six years amounting to £50,000. Debt Collectors and Bailiffs instructed, client was very depressed.
Ascertaining that one of the oldest assessments by the Child Support Agency was in fact legally incorrect due to a miscalculation of effective dates. As this is a Secretary of State error the Agency was forced to reopen the case going back six years and we then forced the Agency to carry out reassessments over the entire period of time. Due to client extensive shared care over the time he qualified for zero assessments and therefore all arrears totalling £50,000 were written off in both cases.
It should be added that this is a particularly poor story concerning the Child Support Agency, our client got on well with both of the mothers concerned and neither of them wanted the Child Support Agency’s involvement. We were able to get rid off the Child Support Agency involvement following some parliamentary reforms of the legislation. He shared the care of his children almost exactly equally. All of them took the view that in effect the maintenance cancelled each other out, although our client had nonetheless voluntarily paid them until the Child Support Agency involvement £100 per month each, once the Child Support Agency became involved our client paid that money over to the Child Support Agency but of course the arrears grew since the assessments were so much higher than the £200 per month he was now paying to the Agency. The mothers did not see this money and even when the case was resolved and his overpayments refunded to him he used that money to pay our bill. Thus the Agency very effectively ensured that these children were not maintained.
The happy ending here is that it did not take that long to resolve and because the parents all communicated very well there was no animosity generated by the Agency’s actions. He and both mothers have now returned to their previous voluntary arrangement with which they and their children are happy.
Mr R K
Client came to see us with arrears owed to the Child Support Agency of approximately £5,000. Investigations revealed that he had paid the Agency over £32,000 on a maintenance assessment. Complex further investigations revealed that the Agency had not considered a further cohabitation which needed to be taken into account and there was a conflict between the Child Support Regulations and the provision within the Act itself. Following three days of lengthy hearings the Child Support Agency case was dismissed, clients appeal allowed and client was refunded all the money he had paid to the Child Support Agency, in excess of £32,000 which he received into his bank account in one lump sum.
Mr R M 2
Assessment of £115.00 per week on appeal reduced to £5.00 per week and all arrears written off.
Mr C P
Client consulted us with maintenance arrears in excess of £35,000 and a Deduction from Earnings Order at the rate of £115 per week. The children were 28 and 30. It turned out the Child Support Agency were collecting maintenance assessed 20 years earlier.
We obtained the Data Protection File and found the very early assessments were completely incorrect. We appeal against the assessments and successfully reduced them reducing the arrears down to £3,000. We then appeal against that successful appeal and as a result the remaining arrears were written off.
Mr K P
Consulted by client, the Child Support Agency were pursuing arrears of £14,000.
Having obtained the Data Protection File from the Child Support Agency it was clear that the Agency’s assessments were wrong at a crucial juncture and this enabled us to replace them with backdated smaller assessments all the way through. The results of this was that client’s arrears were reduced to £1,200.
Mr D R
The case had a fairly successful outcome for our non-resident parent client, the Child Maintenance Service was in touch indicating that they had received a request to look at backdated assessments going back four years.
Although the CMS does have jurisdiction to look at backdated assessments it has to have a “paper trail” and we argued there was no paper trail to make such detailed backdated investigations. On that basis we refused to provide information the CMS ware requesting but instead provided only up-to-date information arguing that information did not change the assessment. After some threats and robust correspondence the CMS decided not to proceed with their backdating and accordingly decided the case on the evidence provided that there was nothing to change the assessment.
This was a successful defence upon our client’s behalf and it is important to realise here that the CMS has a jurisdiction which he is limited by legal constraints. The CMS like the CSA does have an unpleasant habit at times of “mission creep”. In this case we ensured that there was no mission creep and accordingly safeguarded client’s position.
Ms T R
Consulted by client. Husband had an affair but she wanted to stand by him. His maintenance had been assessed at £90.00 per week. This assessment included Tax Credit received by client which under normal circumstances would be right however due to a very misunderstood provision this was incorrect, client had applied for Tax Credit whilst she was separated from her husband. It therefore does not fall to be included within his income. After litigation with the Agency they agreed with the submission. Over £2,000.00 of arrears written off.
Mr R S
Client met us with an assessment of £125.00 per week and arrears of £5,000.00. We took two courses of action, firstly reducing the assessment backdated to £77.00 per week and secondly reducing the assessment for the future to £7.00 per week. This had the effect of reducing arrears down to £1,800.00 and future maintenance from £125.00 per week down to £7.00 per week.
Mr C W 2
Consulted by father non-resident parent, a Tribunal order backdated maintenance assessments creating arrears of £10,000 and an assessment of £100 per week. After the hearing client consulted me. Upon going through the Tribunal’s decision it became clear there were errors and we advised that an appeal to the Upper Tribunal in London was appropriate. This had to be done quickly as time limits for Upper Tribunal appeals are strict. Once undertaken the Upper Tribunal considered the appeal, admitted it and ordered responses from the Child Support Agency and the parent with care mother. Following receipt of their responses a trial date in London was fixed and at that trial the Upper Tribunal Judge decided in favour of our client and set aside the First Tier Tribunal’s decision ordering the First Tier Tribunal to investigate certain other matters and rehear the matter. At the rehearing the Upper Tribunal rejected all applications made by the parent with care mother and maintenance assessments were reduced to £10 per week cancelling over £9,000 of the £10,000 arrears we were consulted regarding.
Mr K W
Client came to see me with CSA arrears of £40,000 and possession proceedings pending against his property. The Child Support Agency had made an assessment pursuant to a Tribunal Order made in 2000 which client had not attended. The CSA then applied the order for the following five years. It seemed that client was at least 12 years out of time for appealing against this decision. We obtained his Data Protection File and found a procedural irregularity within the Child Support Agency’s record keeping which enabled us to reopen the matter. After two contested hearings before a Judge it was finally found by the Tribunal that the appeal was not out of time and in those circumstances was allowed to proceed. The result of the appeal was the reduction of maintenance going back to 2001 and reducing the arrears by over £35,000.
It really is in these areas that this company excels. Bob Pape’s knowledge and understanding of child support data protection files means that although this case had previously been in the hands of two other Lawyers, both of whom had advised the case was hopeless. Child Support Solutions were the only ones to spot the one line in over 500 pages of densely typed data protection work that indicated the error made by the Agency and enabled the entire matter to proceed.
After the completion of the case client should have received a refund from the Child Support Agency but when he made his application for a refund the Agency rejected it on the basis that he had failed to comply with them. As a result he re-instructed me and I wrote to the Agency requiring that the excess money he had paid, £22,000 and £15,000 of costs, fees and interest, a total of £37,000 be refunded to him.
The Agency upon receipt of our letter and reconsideration decided that they would refund the excessive maintenance paid of £22,000 but refused to refund the remaining £15,000 of costs, fees and interest on the basis that because client had not paid he had incurred these. This argument frankly lacked any paucity but the Agency continued to hold it and I accordingly advised in favour of issuing court proceedings for recovery. It was only when we sent a final letter before action to the Child Support Agency that they reconsidered the final part of their decision and refunded all sums due together with interest. Again this shows that the Agency are determined, due I think to Government fiat, to resist any and all attempts to rebate large sums.
As I understand matters this was one of the largest sums the CSA has ever rebated (I think our company holds the record for the largest sum ever which was some £44,000 on another case) but illustrates the difficulty of dealing with the Agency even when you find you have “won” at a tribunal but that in the final analysis the Agency must adhere to the Tribunal’s decisions and its subsequent outcomes.