Reader JamesB had some interesting questions for Stowe Family Law solicitor Rachel Baul about the CSA and changing the amount of child maintenance that he pays every month by an attachment to earnings order. (This is when child maintenance is deducted directly from the parent’s wages.) Every month many hundreds of visitors with questions about the CSA, CMEC and child maintenance find their way to this blog and for this reason, I am printing both the questions and Rachel’s answers in full.
JamesB: “I pay maintenance by an attachment to earnings order, by county court enforcement of an ancillary relief child maintenance order. The problem is that this is now over the rate of that which my ex-wife should receive. This is because I have since had another child and I am not earning more money now then I was when we divorced. Thus, I would like to go to the CSA and have the form completed and ready to go.”
Rachel Baul: So, you currently have an order providing for child maintenance as a result of your ancillary relief proceedings. You also have an attachment of earnings order against you for payments to be made through your employers. You have since had another child and you believe that under the current regime, you may pay less if you paid through the CSA. Therefore you wish to make an application to the CSA for an assessment.
The first thing you should note is that in order for you to apply to the CSA, at least 12 months and one day must have passed since the date of the court order. The CSA will not have jurisdiction to take on your case unless this time period has elapsed. If this time has not elapsed and you still wish for your child maintenance to be varied, you will need to make a variation application to the court that made the final ancillary relief order.
“Thing is, once I send [the form to the CSA], until they presumably dispose of the court order for me to pay through the CSA, I will be effectively paying twice won’t I? How can I stop this from happening please? What is the process? I have read that CSA maintenance is due from the date of the application and don’t want to pay child maintenance twice for the same period.”
There is a way around this. If your court order has been in place for at least 12 months and one day and the CSA has jurisdiction, then the attachment of earnings order will need to be discharged before the CSA can open the case.
You can still make your application to the CSA but, to ensure that you do not get charged twice, you will not start payments with the CSA until your other court order is discharged. Of course, when make your application to the CSA, you need to inform them of the whole situation so that they do not accidentally charge you.
To discharge the attachment of earnings order, you will need to make an application to the court informing them that you have made an application to the CSA. It will then be for the court to discharge your obligation under the child maintenance provision of your ancillary relief order, and to then discharge your attachment of earnings order. These orders will remain in force until they are discharged by the court. Therefore you will have to continue the payments until this time. Once the orders are discharged, the CSA can take over.
“On the form they ask for full details of my employer. Will they write straight away to my employer? I was under the impression that they wanted salary slips from me, but they have not asked for them. Should I miss off my employer’s name to get them to write to me and ask me for payslips (as I’d rather not involve my employer for obvious reasons – I don’t want to be seen as a troublemaker)? Or will they write to me first and not the employer? If that is the case, why do they ask for the details?”
The CSA is requesting information about your employer, because they need to know this in order to make their assessment of your child maintenance liability. They need to know whether you are in employment and how much you are paid. They will also use this information for enforcement purposes if you default in making the payments. The CSA can make a deduction of earnings order against you if you do not pay. This would work in the same way as your current attachment of earnings order. Their other enforcement powers include deducting money from your bank accounts, being disqualified from driving and committal to prison.
I hope that these answers satisfy your questions. Readers are welcome to leave additional questions below.
Solicitor Rachel Baul joined Stowe Family Law in 2004, and is a member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel. She specialises in all areas of family law and ancillary relief, and has been commended by a number of the firm’s high profile clients.