Ex using CSA to ruin my life

March 18, 2010

I’ve just read Patrick Rodgers’ post (February 13). You have my sympathy, Patrick. Let me tell you how my ex has screwed the system. It won’t make you feel any better about your problems, but this is how bad it could get…

My ex is not a UK national. Born in South Africa, where her family made their fortune in diamond mining. But she came over here from Sydney.

I was bullied into our marriage, she got pregnant, and I was bullied out of it again. I divorced her for her unreasonable behaviour, which of course means diddly squat now. I’ve always had a lot of depression trouble, so I had nothing when I went into the marriage, and I had nothing when I came out. We were together for 18 months.

I began to do contract work, and (big mistake, this) my wife was my company secretary (which you must have if you operate a Limited Company). She asked the bank for a cheque book on my business account, and promptly emptied it. Almost 4K gone, my contract over so no more income for a while, and a VAT bill to pay somehow. This was right after I had CSA’s means enquiry forms. She wasn’t going to wait for them to assess me.

CSA said that’s OK, we can take that money into account. You’ll be in credit for a good while yet, on the income you have. Unfortunately that was verbal advice, not written. A year later, I was in the courts again for wifey’s lump sum settlement hearing. They wouldn’t admit that I’d had that guarantee, and of course, I was suddenly a bad man for paying nothing. On the other hand, she’d moved all her cash out of the UK, and I couldn’t prove what she had. So I ended up with a £20K bill for the settlement. Contact problems as well, big legal bills all round. So far it had cost me about £45K before the CSA got going with me.

Now she decided she didn’t like the CSA assessment. She made a Departure application. I didn’t think it would get very far, her ‘evidence’ included a forged Affidavit. I didn’t travel to the hearing, because I now lived in Aberdeen, and the hearing was in London. My written defence was apparently insufficient. The Tribunal decided I was living with a new partner and my rent costs shouldn’t be taken into account. New assessment – £112.59 per week, backdated to the beginning of the claim, whether I was working or not. Big arrears already, on top of what I’d had to borrow for the settlement. Depression set in again, and I’ve been out of work more than in for the last 10 years, all the while having the arrears mounting up.

Out of work? Change of circumstances. Phone the CSA. ‘Sorry, we can’t speak to you. You’re in arrears. All we can discuss is how you’re going to pay the money.’ Write to them. Phone again. ‘Did you get my letter?’ ‘What letter?’ It’s never-ending.

I was in court on Friday. CSA want a Warrant of Commitment order against me. Apparently there was a liability order for £26K back in 2003. I didn’t know about it. Well, I wouldn’t, because I was homeless at the time. I’m well out-of-time for getting it overturned. They don’t make it easy to challenge any decision. I’m on benefits again, so if I need representation for this present thing. Legal Aid for CSA matters? No chance! And I don’t have the money to pay a solicitor, so I’m stuffed. The Magistrate gave me a 28-day adjournment to find someone to represent me, but I know there’s no one to do it on Legal Aid. Community Legal Services have failed to find anyone on their database. I suspect it’s just another part of the plan to screw me. If I want my freedom, I have to pay £46K. That means I’ll have paid about £90K in total (including the settlement, which CSA won’t take into account, because that’s considered ‘disposal of matrimonial assets’, even if I had no assets during the short marriage). My total GROSS income during the CSA claim was only just over £100K, in 8 years.

Here’s the killer. The case was closed, effectively from May 2005, but I didn’t know that until a year ago. My ex (and my daughter) have lived in Australia since September 2004 (but she continued to draw Child Benefit until May 2005). I’d like to challenge the date the case was closed, but – yes, you guessed it, I’m out of time. I’ve had 10 hours of contact with my daughter in the last 9 years. I wonder how this has been in her best interests?

Here’s something to make you laugh. Or maybe cry.

I knew my ex was likely to move to Australia. She got permission to go by asking a court to override my natural objection to it. I got a female friend to call the CSA’s general enquiries number (I knew they wouldn’t give a man the same story). The conversation went something like this:

‘I have the opportunity to go and live in Australia. What would happen to my CSA claim?’

‘Well, technically it should end. But if you have an address in this country where we can send the money, just don’t tell us you’ve gone’!

I really wish I had recorded that telephone call…

I’m back in court on April 9. I fully expect to go down for this, because everything’s been geared to make my situation impossible. It’s not just the CSA’s incompetence. A woman scorned has been using them as her evil device for exacting revenge. But for what, I’ve no idea.