Free

It’s been a weird few weeks (hence the increased blog posts).  In some ways it’s been tough, because a lot of quite traumatic memories have been dragged up, but ultimately, it’s been a time that’s confirmed how far I’ve come and how much better things are for me.  I’ve realised how just happy I am and that I’m finally free of E.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I decided to refer my case back to the Child Maintenance Service and asked to move from direct pay (where the arrangement is between E and I) to collect and pay (where the CMS collect money from E then and pay it to me).

Previously, E was paying child maintenance, but he never paid the amount the CMS told me he should be paying, and he never paid it on the 1st of the month, when he’d agreed to pay it. This meant I often had to wait for days, and occasionally (when I couldn’t hold my nerve and we were nearing a week or more overdue) eventually ask him to pay it.

It was a horrible situation to be in. Not only did the fact he never paid the child maintenance on time mean that I was without money needed for the kids, but the fact that every month I had to wait to see if he’d pay anything and what he’d pay, took me back to what he put us through when he paid no child maintenance for a year and brought back those all-consuming feelings of worry and fear. Of course, by controlling access to the money he owed in this way E was also controlling me and my emotions and, in the end, that was what was intolerable. So, with teeth firmly gritted, I referred the whole thing back to the CMS.

The CMS are, of course, a nightmare.  If anything they’re worse than they were three years ago.  In the six months since I referred the case to them, they’ve told me that E should pay three different amounts of money (they sent one amount by email, one by text and one on my online account – I have no faith that any of them are correct).  They’ve also ignored the letters I’ve sent detailing how much E has paid and when he paid it.  Instead, they’ve waited for E to give them information and then asked me to confirm it (even when I’ve already given them precisely the information they’re asking me to confirm).

They’re also impossible to get hold of.  You can call them, but I work in a school, and I’m in class during the hours that they’re open.  They’ve also got an online ‘chat service’ (‘chat silence’).  Basically you sit and lose the will to live whilst you watch the empty blinking chat screen for 20 minutes, then, because all their staff are busy, you get kicked off and have to start again.  They’ve also now stopped their online message service (in the good old days you could at least send them a message – it might take them ages to answer it, but you could send one quickly in a lunch break or in the evening).  So, I’ve had to resort to communicating with them by good old-fashioned post.

Inevitably, even though they’re now collecting from E, I’m still not receiving the amount that the CMS are saying E should be paying.  Whether this is because he’s not paid them the right amount, or if it’s because they’ve asked him for a different amount to the amount they’ve told me they’ve asked for (honestly, at this stage, anything is possible), I don’t know.  But. at the moment, there’s nothing I can do about it.  If you’re on direct pay, you can report missed payments, however, if you are on collect and pay, you can’t report a missed payment online, because the CMS say (and, given their track record, this is something of a bold claim on their part) they’re aware of any missed payments.  What they don’t say is what they’ll do about it and when.

So, I am in CMS-induced limbo again.  This has made me feel unsettled and uneasy, but sometimes things have to get worse before they get better, and I think it’s worth it.  Also, unlike last time E can’t take anything away from me, he can’t threaten anything.  This time it’s so different.

The CMS will probably take ages to sort things out (it took them a year before), but they will sort it and when they do, unlike last time, I’ll not agree to go back to direct pay again.  They will eventually work out what E owes and will then take any action needed to clawback any arrears.  But, for me, the most important thing is the fact that if E doesn’t pay, they’ll be the ones asking him for the money, not me. It’s out of my hands.

The other thing is that, unlike before, I can wait for the CMS to sort their (his) shit out.  Before, I had four kids at home, two mortgages to pay and debt that I was adding to daily to try and keep up with the bills, support the kids and eat.  This time round, I have no debt and I can manage financially if he tries to make life difficult.  I’ll never have any extra money for luxuries and holidays (who does these days?), but at least I can pay my bills and buy our food without depending on him.  Unlike last time, there is no risk of losing my home or running up scary debts.  Unlike last time, I’m not dependent upon his money.  Unlike last time, he has no power over me at all.

So, as I deal with the memories and feelings that dealing with the CMS again has provoked, rather than it grinding me down, I’m actually beginning to feel quite liberated.  I don’t care how much the CMS eventually decide E has to pay, or if it’s less than they originally said, the fact that someone else is responsible for collecting it means that I will never have to ask E for money again, and that he is no longer able to control how I feel about what he pays or when he pays – which is incredibly freeing,

Youngest Son leaves school in two years’ time. At that point, as he’ll no longer be eligible for child benefit, he’ll also no longer be eligible for child maintenance, so unless E owes any arrears (in which case the CMS will collect them), that will be the last I’ll ever know of him. The fact that he’s potentially also a religious fruit loop now, means that I don’t even have to consider sharing the kids with him at Christmas or on birthdays. Obviously, my life will be slightly harder without his financial contribution, but it will be infinitely richer in every other way.

It’s been a long time coming, but I really do feel free.

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