Issues relating to the Child Support Agency (CSA) are complex and we have therefore provided you with answers to some frequently asked questions. If you need confidential legal advice please contact us on 0800 840 4929.
Can I appeal against an assessment?
There is a right of appeal to both parents against an assessment. Initially the appeal is made internally. If it is refused you can then appeal to the Appeals Service, an independent tribunal. We can assist you to prepare an appeal, and represent you at the hearing if you wish us to.
Do I pay a fee to appeal?
No, but you will incur costs with us. It can cost between £5,000 - £12,000 for us to prepare an appeal and represent you at a hearing.
Is there public funding for an appeal?
When can I appeal?
An appeal must be made within 28 days of an assessment. In certain circumstances an application to appeal can be made within the year following an assessment but no extensions of time beyond one year are allowed.
I have heard from the CSA that I owe arrears of £10,000. Can I appeal?
It is highly unlikely that if you have heard from the CSA indicating a considerable amount of arrears that you can appeal. This is because for arrears to have accumulated at this level you must have gone by the appeal date ie. it must be more than a year since the assessment. You will have a right of appeal if the assessment is less than a year old.
I have been summonsed to the Magistrates Court. The CSA have indicated that they are applying for a liability order. Can I defend the application?
There is rarely any point in instructing solicitors to represent you at an application for a liability order. The Magistrates have very limited powers to look behind an assessment. There are very limited rights of appeal against the Magistrates. This is because if arrears have accumulated following an assessment that is more than one year old there are no rights of appeal. Furthermore, there is no public funding and the costs of employing a solicitor might well be more than the amount the CSA are chasing in arrears.
The parent with care told me that they were not going to enforce arrears. I have now heard from the CSA that they are taking me to court.
If the parent with care was in receipt of benefits at the time of the assessment and the assessment was made before 12th July 2008 there was an obligation to claim maintenance for the child. The parent with care in that situation cannot write off arrears. If however it is the case that the enforcement of arrears is going ahead and the parent with care was not in receipt of benefits and genuinely supports your claim that arrears should be extinguished you will need to enlist their help and you may succeed. In such a case it may be worth seeing a solicitor.
The CSA are not collecting my maintenance or the arrears owed to me. What can I do?
We can assist with the complaint process. You can ask the Commission for a general review. You can ask for an account breakdown. You can ask for a case plan. You can ask what enforcement procedures are being followed. You can write to the Complaint Review Team.
What type of enforcement can the CSA take?
The CSA has the power to deduct earnings at source. It currently has the power to make an application for a liability order. This equates to a County Court judgement and means that the CSA can then enforce using bailiffs or a third party debt order or a charging order. There is also power to freeze assets. If arrears are owed to you then you can ask the CSA to use its powers. There are also powers to take away driving licences, restrict the use of passports and there are powers of imprisonment.
How do I challenge the amount of debt?
Ask the CSA for an account breakdown.
Can I negotiate with the CSA?
In certain circumstances it is possible to reach agreement. Don't ignore telephone calls. Make sure you keep a note of telephone calls and copy all correspondence. Ask for an account breakdown. Make realistic proposals to pay your debt. The CSA will expect repayment within two years. See if the CSA will accept a lump sum paid immediately as partial settlement. Make sure that the agreement is in writing. If you are prepared to negotiate on this basis we can assist.
I never heard from the CSA and now they say I owe arrears. Have I a right of appeal?
This is very difficult to prove. The CSA do not have to have a form from the non-resident parent to complete an assessment. It is enough for them to have made contact either by contacting the last known address or by telephone. It is very difficult to prove absolutely no knowledge of an assessment. This is something you would need legal advice for.
I am not the father. Can you help me?
If you are claiming that you are not the father we may be able to assist. It does depend when you challenged paternity. If you did so on receipt of a maintenance enquiry form then it is the Commission's responsibility to establish paternity. The Commission can presume paternity if your name appears on the birth certificate or if you were married to the parent with care at the time of the birth or conception. Under certain circumstances you can make an application for a declaration of non-parentage at the local Magistrates Court. This is a costly procedure and you will need legal assistance.
When is it worth obtaining advice from a solicitor?
Because there is no pubic funding available to advise clients with respect to CSA problems it is often not worth engaging a solicitor to help you. If you are the non-resident parent and you have got into arrears you cannot really justify legal services. You are best to try and negotiate directly with the CSA. It is worth engaging solicitors if there are issues arising over compensation. It is worth engaging a solicitor if there is an appeal following an allegation that there should be a variation of the assessment. Frequently parents with care claim that the non-resident parent has diverted income or has income from dividends or has a lifestyle that is not in accordance with their declared income. Matters are usually referred to a tribunal, evidence is taken and if the sums involved are significant you will need legal advice.
If your question is not answered here please contact us on 0800 840 4929.