Child support issues and the CSA feature heavily in my postbag nearly every week. Disputes about child support occur whether the context is one of divorce, or separation following co-habitation. Children are expensive. One of the difficulties is that the economic circumstances of both parents can change, sometimes dramatically, during the minority years of a child and the CSA or the family court can struggle to keep up.
I received an interesting enquiry from Joan:
Hi….wondered if anybody could help. I have a daughter who is now 15, when she was 18 months old her father & I split up. He saw her a handful of times after that & has never paid any maintenance.
In 2004 he won the lottery. I separated from my ex husband & made contact with my daughters father & she started to see her dad. The CSA did an assessment at the time (it was automatic as I was on Income Support)but they said they could not trace any income even though he had properties interest from his earnings!…Being non confrontational & then finding a job I decided not to push the situation plus I felt uncomfortable with the fact that people may think that I was out for his money!
He has helped with paying for her holiday a couple of times but that’s about it (all in all approx £1000 max-Coutts & co cheques!) Things have moved on and financially we’re struggling and think it’s about time now that he helps out. Don’t know which way to play it, contacted him but had no response….surprise surprise!!…advice please 🙂
Well, as usual, I must emphasise that I do not offer ‘advice’ on this blog. I can’t: simply because it would dangerous to do so when I do not have possession of all the facts. But I can offer some observations.
The CSA are presently dealing with your daughter’s maintenance. You can talk to them about any concerns you have about your ex’s non-disclosure. But I could indulge in a bout of speculation to the effect that once he had his lottery win he may have organised his finances in such a way that the CSA could not take into account all the interest he earned from certain sources. In some cases, business assets (rather than investment properties) can be excluded from the deemed income or interest regulations.
Your ex banks with Coutts. Well, that’s rubbing it in, isn’t it? Coutts used to require new customers to have investible assets (i.e. money knocking around that could be placed with the bank) of at least £500,000. It went up to £1M recently. Whilst Coutts will say that this criterion is only a guideline, the key is that your ex must have had significant funds (non-business assets) to invest or hold with Coutts to have obtained an account. Did you tell the CSA he was banking with Coutts? That should have at least raised eyebrows at the CSA. Your ex may demonstrate a lifestyle inconsistent with his declared income. Perhaps he is married and has diverted the lottery capital or income to his wife? Press the CSA again and consider a complaint if they are not taking you seriously.
Regardless of whether the CSA will take steps to properly investigate your ex’s financial means, you could make an application on your daughter’s behalf under Schedule I of the Children Act 1989 for lump sum orders and property adjustment orders. You have probably left it too late to ask the court to consider an order requiring your ex to buy or provide a property for you and your daughter to live in as she will shortly be coming to the end of her minority. (But I don’t know all your circumstances or your daughter’s so you must take advice). But you can apply for multiple lump sums for various needs your daughter may have, to do with health, disability or education, for example.
An application to the court on your daughter’s behalf would require your ex to provide financial disclosure which may be very interesting. The family court can take into account all of your ex’s assets and income in deciding the appropriate orders.
However, you should take advice upon the timing of any application. Because, your daughter, when she attains the age of 18, can make an application on her own behalf under Schedule 1 of the Children Act, for periodical payments (maintenance), property adjustment orders and lump sums, if she is in education or vocational training and providing she did not have immediately before her 16th birthday a periodical payments order in force for her benefit. So, it may be worth just waiting until your daughter is 16 before you think of applying on her behalf so you do not prevent her applying in her own right later on.