So. I wrote a letter to my MP…
Hi Nadine and Steve
I’m one of Nadine’s constituents, but I’m also writing to Steve because I know he has taken an interest in this issue.
I really need some help with the CMS.
I was with my partner, who I met at University for 25 years. We didn’t marry (which in retrospect was a mistake), over those 25 years we had four children. Sadly, in January 2017, after suffering ten years of affairs, I asked him to leave (all of the gruesome details are in my blog – link below).
Initially, things were ok, he continued to pay maintenance, I found a job (I’d given up my career to bring up our kids) – this was quite low paid compared to his (he earned around £100,000, I earned around £18,000) but I was managing. However, in October 2018 – with no notice and no explanation – my ex-partner just stopped any payments at all – not just child maintenance payments, but also any payments towards our joint mortgages (these payments amounted to £2,500).
He then refused to reply to any attempt to contact him.
I immediately contacted the CMS, who tried to contact him on numerous occasions. He exploited every loophole he could find (even claiming he was a company director) to delay and stop attempts to take payments from him. In the end we had to proceed to collect & pay. This took until October 2019 – a whole year. In the year this took, I got into huge amounts of debt just trying to pay our mortgage, pay the bills and keep my four children fed and clothed. In the end the debt threatened to overwhelm me and I was forced to take out a debt payment plan for my unsecured borrowing (all of which had been taken out to meet mortgage payments and support the kids) so that I had enough money to make payments towards the mortgage.
Before he had ceased payments, my Ex had been pressuring me to sell our house. I had not said no to this, but I had asked why he needed to sell, how he proposed to split the equity and how he was going to help me house his children (then aged 11, 15, 16 and 19). He had not replied to any of my communications and in the end, especially given that he had completely stopped supporting us financially, I had consulted a solicitor. He refused to engage with my solicitor, or with mediation (I attended, he didn’t) and in the end we had to go to Court.
In October 2019 we finally got a court date. My legal representative talked to my Ex (hoping to put together an agreement we could just put before the Judge to sign off). He agreed ‘in principle’ to an equity split that I was happy with (which included paying his child maintenance arrears back to me), on the condition that I agreed to accept child maintenance being paid by private arrangement again, not via the CMS Collect & Pay Service.
My Ex then had to leave the Court before we went before the Judge, but he signed a piece of paper saying what he’d agreed to ‘in principle’. The Judge that I went before, agreed to what we’d agreed subject to my Ex sending all of the agreed information in.
Given how long it had taken me to get any payment at all from him, I was really reluctant to move back to a private payment arrangement, but I was persuaded that it was a show of ‘goodwill’. I was also then called by the CMS – several times – who informed me that my Ex had been in touch with them and said he was paying privately and that they therefore needed to close the case. It was astonishing, the CMS had tried to get him to pay for months and got nowhere, but the second he said he was going to start paying again, they started putting me under pressure to accept direct pay from him.
In the end, desperate to be able to sell the house, pay off my debts and start again, and under huge pressure from the CMS to agree to it, I accepted the direct pay agreement. When I spoke to the CMS I expressed again and again how anxious I was about changing the payment agreement, but I was made to feel that as my Ex had offered to pay, I should be grateful and remove this job from their hands.
Since then, my Ex has reneged on everything he agreed on. He immediately reduced the amount of child maintenance he’d agreed to pay me by £200, he didn’t set up a direct debit as he’d promised, and he never sent any of the information he’d promised to send to the court. We ended up with a second date that he just didn’t turn up to and then a third, that he decided to cancel.
Throughout all of this I have been supporting our mortgages (with no help from my Ex ) and all four of our children (even though, because of their ages, the CMS only ask him to support our two sons).
This month, with no warning and no communication at all my Ex has once again stopped child maintenance payments.
I called the CMS today, only to listen to a message that said they would take calls for particular reasons (mostly paying parents explaining why they can’t pay) but that everyone else (aka parents who have not received payments), had to send a message.
I did so, only to get a message back saying I’d hear back within 12 weeks!
I literally cannot manage another 12 weeks with no child maintenance payments (if it is just 12 weeks, past record suggests that it could take another year). When my Ex did this before, I was able to borrow money to see me through (although if I’d known it would take the CMS a year to get a payment out of him, I would have taken a different view), I now don’t have those options. In fact my credit rcord has been so affected by what I did to try to survive the year of no maintenance that It’s also affecting my ability to find a home – no rental agency will take because of my credit record, but because I’m having to sell my home, I may be considered making myself ‘intentionally homeless’
I have an offer on my house, but my Ex won’t engage regarding the sale – so, as it’s a joint property, I can’t even move forward with this either.
I have struggled for two years to keep a roof above my kids and my head, I have done absolutely everything I can, but I can’t manage now. All the systems that are supposed to be set up to help me (eg the CMS) are failing me. This is having a huge impact not just on my mental health, but on that of my kids. My 16 year old son recently confided in me that he’d felt suicidal as a result of everything that happened before. I am looking after him and trying to find him counselling, but the impact of this is huge and very real.
I need some help with contacting the CMS and securing some child maintenance. I don’t know what you can do, or if there’s anything you can do, but as MPs with influence, I’m asking you for some help.