Last week, two women won their fight to have their ex-husbands’ income and assets re-assessed and their settlement to be re-examined. Alison Sharland, 48, and Varsha Gohil, 50, argued that their ex-husbands lied to judges about how much they were worth.
While these cases relate to divorce payments, since becoming a single mum, I have been shocked by how many ex-partners make no or little payments to support their children. Looking at the Government’s own figures show that in just 60% of CSA cases, the non-resident parent is paying 90% or more of the amount of child support. In other words 40% of CSA cases are paying less than they should be.
To put all of this together, this means that almost half of parents who make a CSA claim receive nothing at all for their children. Out of those who are told that the non-resident parent must pay something, only 60% receive that payment. Therefore, 30% of CSA cases result in the non-resident parent paying something which is the full amount due in child support.
So how much do these lucky 30% of single parents receive? According to the Government’s statistics, the average amount is £34 a week. That is not per child but per claim.
From this, it is clear that single parents are lucky to receive any payment and are certainly not receiving amounts that will provide more than a few basic essentials.
How do non-resident parents pay so little though?
Since being a single parent, I have been shocked to find out from personal experience and talking to many other parents, the extremes that some will go to in order to avoid paying for their children. There appears to be four common methods to avoid paying all or most of child support.
- Some parents will lie about their income, although this is becoming harder to do as the CSA can now check with HMRC. Or they will change jobs too frequently for HMRC to keep up with their employer and earnings.
- Other parents will lose their job and move onto benefits rather than pay a percentage of their earnings. Therefore, it is the benefits system (or rather the tax payer) that is paying child support. If a non-resident parent is on benefits, then they will have to pay £7 a week. Again, this is per claim not per child.
- Becoming self-employed seems to be growing in popularity as the CSA claim is assessed on profit. With a good accountant, a range of expenses (including paying large amounts into a personal pension) is offset making the profits so low that they may not be able to pay anything. As I saw on one forum to advise on CSA payments “You’re paying more than £5 in child support?!! Sack you accountant mate and get a decent one!”
- Lastly, there is cash-in-hand work. Impossible to prove and enabling the non-resident parent to get away with either claiming benefits and getting plenty of extra cash (which would mean £7 a week in child support) or not claiming benefits and simply living off the cash-in-hand jobs (resulting in a nil-liability CSA case).
The frustrating thing for the single resident parent is that they know their ex is lying and manipulating the system, yet can do nothing about it.
Now, I know that there are some fantastic parents out there who fully support their children and pay to help bring them up without question. Unfortunately, as we can see, there are a substantial number of non-resident parents who avoid paying for their responsibilities.
If the Government focused more on getting non-resident parents to pay the full amount and to not get away with the four ways that non-resident parents typically use to avoid payment, there would be less child poverty and less stressed single parents struggling to make ends meet. Unfortunately, it will cost money and time to stop these loopholes and ensure payments are made. So, instead the Government are making single parents pay £20 to move their claim from the CSA to CMA and are also cutting the tax credits that are paid out so that single parents will struggle even further.
As for me, I am lucky that I do receive a payment from the CSA. However, my ex has done and is doing three of the four avoidance points posted above. Therefore, I receive just £7 (minus a 4% admin charge) a week to bring up 5 children. I have to work to support my children but, like thousands of others, my tax credits are being cut, while my ex’s benefits aren’t.
More needs to be done to ensure that non-resident parents take responsibility for their children. At the moment, it is too easy to walk away and lie.
This post was also published on the Huffington Post – here