CSA Advice

CSA are charging me for time my child lived outside UK

If I give as much detail as possible, you’ll be reading this forever (and I’ll be typing it forever as well) so I’m going to summarize it.

My marriage was very short, but we had a daughter. My ex is from South Africa, has a huge wealth of her own (from the proceeds of her family’s interests in mining), but chooses to keep it all abroad so that no one in UK can prove its existence.

We separated in 96 when Catherine was 1 year old. We had both recently been given redundancy from our jobs with the same company. She chose to live on benefits (hiding her assets from the system), I decided to try working as self-employed (I was a software developer).

CSA wrote to me in January 97, I sent back the enquiry form, filled out as much as possible. I couldn’t give them any company accounts, since I was in my first year of trading, so there were none available. They slapped an IMA on me for non-compliance. But my ex wasn’t prepared to wait for an assessment – she emptied my company account just two weeks after beginning the claim. CSA told me that would be treated as a voluntary payment, and that I’d be in credit with them for approximately 18 months (without an FMA having been made, but their caseworker estimated that on the basis of my income and living costs).

I had no assets going into the marriage, and none when it ended, but my ex owned her house. I expected there would be no financial settlement after the divorce, Catherine’s maintenance would be dealt with by CSA anyway. My ex decided otherwise, and at the same time withdrew contact. Legal costs were a nightmare, since the court was in Slough, but I had been finding work in Aberdeen, 600 miles away, but crucially, in Scotland, so no local solicitors could advise me properly (English and Scottish legal systems are not the same, so it’s impossible to find a local solicitor in Scotland who can deal with English courts).

My English solicitor felt there was no chance of my ex having any success with her Lump Sum application, and I was concerned because I was planning to purchase a company car. That was important to my business, if I was to be able to do all the travelling for work. We got to court, the CSA failed to back up their assertion about the voluntary payment, (therefore I’d paid no maintenance), the judge heard that my company had just bought a car, and the dog had a bad name. I ended up having to pay a £20K lump sum, which I didn’t have, so I had to borrow money to pay it.

My health went downhill, and work was becoming hard to find. What I did earn, I had to pay for the loan I’d taken.

My ex got a Departure Application through. She claimed I had a lifestyle inconsistent with my income (because of the car), and that I lived with a woman. Untrue, but the Tribunal swallowed it hook line and sinker. The result – my assessment was to be changed, and my rent was no longer protected income. The Tribunal chairman said I was paying £535 per month simply for storage. (I think I could have found storage a lot cheaper than that…) I couldn’t attend the hearing. It was in London, I was in Aberdeen, and I was broke. I sent my letter off requesting an explanation of the decision (the first step towards appealing), but they said they never received it, so my 30 days to appeal were suddenly gone.

And then – my ex got permission from the courts to take Catherine to live in Australia. I had resisted giving my permission, as required by the Australian High Commission, for her to be given an Australian passport, because I knew exactly what that would mean. But there had been a test case, and if I had continued to object, I would have ended up paying my ex’s costs. So I had to agree, and I didn’t see Catherine again for another 7 years. For most of that time, there was no telephone contact either. No answer, of my ex answering the phone and making excuses.

My health went even further downhill. I’ve had crippling depression for the last 10 years, and it’s now very difficult to work, but worse, I’ve been unable to afford training costs so my skills are out of date.

For most of the past 10 years, I’ve been unable to earn money. However, CSA have been bumping up my arrears by £112.59 per week. Or at least, they were doing so until the end of 2008, when they finally got round to recognizing that my ex was out of their jurisdiction. They set a closure date of May 2005. I’ve provided proof that she was out of their jurisdiction for several months before that, but they won’t budge. Apparently their decision is based on Child Benefit payments having been made up to May 2005. I’ve let the Child Benefit people know about their mistake, of course – but there’s no way for me to get evidence that they’ve sorted it out. Confidentiality of information – I’m not entitled to know.

It seems that a Liability Order was obtained against me in 2003. I didn’t know until a couple of years ago. The papers were alegedly served on me at an address where I’ve never lived (the address I was said to have lived with a woman in Scotland, with whom I did have a relationship, but that doesn’t mean I lived with her!) For a lot of the time period for both of these LOs, I was earning nothing, and the case file sent to me from their Data Protection Unit shows that they would have been aware of that. I should be able to have the amounts adjusted downwards by a long way for both LOs, but I don’t know how to do that. If they won’t act on cast iron proof that my ex was out of the country, I’m sure they won’t act on cast iron proof that they were charging me more money than I was earning, either. Of course, if either LO were set aside, they would have to write off the money, because it’s over 6 years ago, and the Statute of Limitations would prevent them obtaining new ones. I don’t suppose they fancy the idea of writing off £45,000. However, I’ve been unable to get a life again while all this has been hanging over me. What would anyone suggest I do?

Most of this has occurred through my ex’s willingness to cheat the system in whatever way she could, but having left the UK, she’s charged the CSA to come after me on her behalf. It really is a nightmare.

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