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Can I Get Back Pay for Child Maintenance?

Author: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 25 May 2015 |
Maintenance Child Support Arrears


I was divorced in 2007 after a 5 year marriage (including 2 years separated). We have a 5 year old child and I'm the resident parent.

My ex has been very lax in paying maintenance, for a long time we got nothing and then £9 a week which has now stopped. My main question is would we be entitled to back payments for maintenance not received in the past?

(S.F, 18 February 2009)


This will depend on whether or not you have already contacted the Child Support Agency. Although you have mentioned 'maintenance' in your question, this can be by agreement or by court order so I will answer as though firstly you have put in a claim with the CSA, and secondly as though you haven’t already put in a claim.

If You Have Made a Claim Through The CSA

You mention that for a long time you received nothing, but this then changed to £9 a week. If this payment of £9 per week was facilitated through the Child Support Agency, i.e. you have already put in a claim for maintenance, you will be entitled to claim arrears back to the date on which the CSA first contacted your ex-husband.

The CSA can take a long time to process claims and to calculate how much money a non-resident parent should pay, and this could mean that your ex-husband suddenly receives a large bill. If he thought that it was unfair he would be able to challenge it. However, once the CSA are involved in a child support case, they almost never write off the arrears. Your husband could go bankrupt and would still owe his child support arrears.

If You Have Not Made a Claim Through The CSA

If your husband has been very lax about paying voluntary child support, my advice to you would be to contact the CSA as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the CSA cannot recoup payments that your ex husband promised to pay you in the past under a voluntary or informal arrangement.

However, you may be able to take civil legal action against your ex husband to try to recover the missed payments through the courts.

If your ex husband was ordered to pay maintenance as part of your divorce settlement and he has now stopped paying under this agreement, this can have very serious consequences for him (as he’s flouting a court order.) If this is the case you should consult your family law solicitor as you may need to go back to court.

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[Add a Comment]
@Big deb - I'm afraid not, CSA can only be claimed on earnings and not retrospectively or on money which has come through inheritance.
ChildSupportLaws - 26-May-15 @ 9:56 AM
Hi I just have a question. My ex and myself split on February2014 he didn't start make any child maintenance support until jnuary 2015. Can I claim payments from last year?? I'm not from UK and didn't know about cma he was and still working full time. Also when he didn't gave us any money he knew we went to food banks for food as I didn't have any money for anything for about 2 months. Thank you.
isabel - 25-May-15 @ 2:41 PM
I have just found out i'm the biological father of a girl who turned 18 in March, I knew nothing about this child until January this year, I had a DNA test because I didn't know what else to do and don't even remember the mother (sorry that sounds bad). The mother is claiming £12000 back payments. How am I responsible for a child I didn't know I had?
Mick - 24-May-15 @ 10:58 AM
My children are 28 and 29 is there any law been passed where the sole carer of the children can claim back dated csa , my ex husband never paid a penny but has now come into money .
Big deb - 23-May-15 @ 1:04 AM
I have had an informal agreement with my soon to be ex wife since March 2013 when we agreed custody arrangements for our children in court. this agreement was to pay for groceries and home heating oil on a weekly basis. I have adhered to this arrangement, however she has now contacted CSA to set up a formal arrangement which i was happy to do but is requesting it be backdated to march 2013. Unfortunately i was very trusting and didnt keep all of my receipts. I probably have 50% of them. CSA have requested copies of all the receipts plus letter from my solicitor that this was informally agreed.Can they now chase me for these payments? We did agree this with our solicitors at the time but it was not agreed through CSA.
5JC - 17-May-15 @ 1:11 PM
@Tintin- you should be able to stop paying in the gap year, unless there is a court order in place, you need only pay when she is in full-time education up to A'Level standard.
Ollie - 14-May-15 @ 2:24 PM
I have been in a private arrangement with my ex for the past 16 years where I have paid an agreed amount for both my son and daughter. My daughter 18 is now at a dance school doing BTEC and is about to go on a gap year. Do I still have to pay maintenance for her when she finishes in July? Or am I already in a position to stop her payments.
Tintin - 12-May-15 @ 9:55 PM
@Dartmoor - it sounds like you have been bounced between the court and the CMS, yet the CMS are powerless to do anything while a court order is in place and you are being advised that the courts are unable to force the order. It's not something that I've heard of before. I have included a CAB link; 'child maintenance enforcement - where to start' here which may help. I suggest you perhaps get some independent advice through someone such as the CAB, regarding your best route forward. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 11-May-15 @ 2:52 PM
Can you please give a general answerto this situation: A consent order says that a father must pay maintenance at the rate set by CMO and he then does pay, but substantially less than the calculator says he should. He refuses to pay more and argues that the reason is the children stay with him more than is the case. The mother of the children contacts the CMO who advise her that there is nothing they can do until 12 months have passed since the agreement (consent order) was signed and that even then they cannot pursue arrears accrued up until that point. The solicitor also advises that they would not advise asking the court to enforce this as it is likely that the court would consider it unlikely that it hadthe jurisdiction to impose a figure and that she would then likely become liable for a significant costs order. The question is: 1. In a situation like this is it correct that there is NOTHING she can do for 12 months? 2. If so is this some kind of loophole that is not made clear in any of your literature? 3. What advice can you offer to ensure that in a situation like this arrears are paid and the correct level of maintenance is then paid from that point onwards?
Dartmoor - 9-May-15 @ 7:31 PM
I have just had a successful outcome (sort of) via REMO. However I find it incredulous that the court didn't charge him maintenance from two years ago when our son was born. He was 'allowed' to say 'he didn't know he was born'. I think this gives a clear message to horrible men that avoidance as long as possible saves you cash. The CSA wrote to him at his preferred address and his mum called me to say they wouldn't be responding. He did not reply to them and now, he is able to say 'I didn't know'. Pays to be a lying criminal. Can I push for back pay?
lolo1 - 4-May-15 @ 9:17 AM
@CT- not if he isn't working still. You would have to prove that he has been working or ask the CSA to review your case. If he has been working and hasn't informed the CSA of his change in circumstances, then you may you may be eligible for back payments. Also, if he is working currently, then you would also be eligible for payments now.
ChildSupportLaws - 30-Apr-15 @ 11:23 AM
My ex husband has never paid child support for my now 14 year old daughter.He declined any contact and when I claimed via the CSA they said he didn't have to pay as he wasn't working.Now after all these years he wants contact .Can I claim backdated child support? Thanks
CT - 27-Apr-15 @ 3:03 PM
Can you please help. I am being chased for maintenance arrears and the repayments will cause severe hardship to such an extent I will not be able to meet my mortgage repayments. I'm not exactly sure what period the arrears relate to but I am sure it is sometime between 2010 and 2013. My eldest daughter moved in with me at the age of 18 in June 2010, she remained in full-time education. For part of this period I was also unemployed but did not claim unemployment benefit. My youngest daughter moved in with me July 2013. Again she remained in full time education. Since the CSA refuse to provide dates of when the arrears relate or which daughter they relate to I have no way of challenging them. I have asked on numerous occasions for this information but I just get blanked. I have also been told that since I had my daughters one day each week and 2 days at the weekend every second week, my wife should not have been claiming maintenance for these days but she was.Can you advise what I can do to challenge the CSA. My daughters are still living with me.
LOLA69 - 27-Apr-15 @ 2:07 AM
@thorn - I'm afraid not. You would not have been entitled to the money anyway, your mother would have, and it would have been to help contribute to your daily welfare and care.
ChildSupportLaws - 23-Apr-15 @ 2:48 PM
@Harry - I am very sorry to hear this. Firstly, tell the CSA or CMS if you are in hardship, ill health, or have any special circumstances. I also suggest you give the National Debtline a call via the link here where you can chat to an advisor online or over the phone to see what the best course of action is for you. The best way forward is not to ignore the issue, but do your best to get it sorted out. You can also complain to the CSA if you think you have been treated unfairly via the link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 23-Apr-15 @ 12:47 PM
@Bob - I don't quite understand this, as determining child support has nothing to do with whether your ex has contact or not. Even though he doesn't have contact with one of his children, shouldn't mean he his exempt from paying child support. I can only suggest you either make a complaint, if you think you have been unfairly treated, or appeal. You can do so via the link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 23-Apr-15 @ 10:08 AM
Hello. I am just interested to know if there is anything law or otherwise regarding my situation. My father left when I was 4 years old and I have not had any real contact with him for over 30 years. When it came to paying for us he declared himself bankrupt and therefore my mother had to support me and my brother. He has never financially contributed. I know that he later had two other children and obviously can afford to support his new life. Is there anything out there that makes a father who hasn't paid anything throughout their children's life pay when they are able to or has the time frame gone now? I realise I am not a child anymore but am just interested.
thorn - 22-Apr-15 @ 2:48 PM
I became mentally ill due to post traumatic stress and had to leave my daughters as I had a mental breakdown and attempted suicide. I am nowrecovered, paying maintenance & seeing my girls again. The CSA are now coming down hard on me for arrears which I cannot pay upfront as it is over £5000. They don't want to listen to offers of paying affordable instalments as I have no assets to sell off. After I rebuilt my life I feel like it is spiralling out of control again - If the CSA take everything from me then I don't know what i'll do
Harry - 22-Apr-15 @ 10:25 AM
@BEEPS - if you are expecting also, your payments should go down too once you have your child, so be sure to tell the CSA of your change in circumstances. I'm afraid we can't give advice on CSA operations as we have no knowledge of how it deals with cases logistically. I can only suggest you try and work out what you should be paying by the Child Maintenance Options calculator here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 22-Apr-15 @ 10:12 AM
Hi, I have two children with my ex and he hasn't paid anything towards the children. I have just been told by the CSA that because he has contact with one of the children for a weekend every two weeks, that he isn't liable to pay anything even though he has no contact with the other child. The CSA have responded saying that thats the legislation, can this be right or fair? Is it possible to cancel the original application and re-apply for just one of the children leaving the one that he has contact with off the application?
Bob - 21-Apr-15 @ 12:57 PM
@TMS - it is always a tricky situation if the paying parent is self-employed, as a good accountant and a bit of tactical planning and it can make them look as though they are not earning much at all. I'm afraid, you would have to be able to present specific evidence that he was earning more than he was presenting to the HMRC, in order to have a case.
ChildSupportLaws - 20-Apr-15 @ 10:35 AM
hi my husband and I have residence of his two daughters, and receive £150 a month from his ex for them both, his son lives with his ex and she put in a claim with the CMS last year and we are expected to pay £209 a month for him. His son is now 16 and his daughters are 7 and 14 they are not benefiting from their mothers payments as it goes straight back to the CSA for their brother. We have since found out she is expecting again and have been told to expect her payments to go down even more. Is there anyway we can get the CSAto look at this from the point of view where neither child is benefiting us using the services!, their mother is refusing to co operate and ignores any correspondence and told us all she wants is my husband to suffer may I also add the csa had to do a deduction of earnings order on her as she refused to pay for her children!... as you can see the girls are being deprived of their support as not only do with give the maintenance we receive back to his ex but we also have to add to this. I am currently on maternity leave and our baby is only 14 weeks old and im facing having to cut my maternity short to ensure we can live. Not only this but we are also paying his ex's debts and mortgage arrears that she ran up on my husbands and hers property and she wont take any responsibility for these. We have tried speaking to the CSA/CMS but their words to us were they are not interested they WILL be taking the payments regardless if they are her children as well or not! ...any advice is greatly appreciated :)
BEEPS - 19-Apr-15 @ 11:29 PM
@Shelle - No, I'm afraid not. You can't claim for child support, only your mother could have claimed at the time.
ChildSupportLaws - 17-Apr-15 @ 3:04 PM
My sons father owes me thousands of pounds but the CSA say that they cant get this from him. It has been passed to bailiffs but they were unsuccessful. The CSA say they are watching what goes through the tax office and also his bank account. He is a self employed taxi driver so can fiddle what he pays in tax as his job is essentially cash in hand and will obviously keep his bank account empty so that CSA cant take the money from there. Is there anything I can do to get this money off him as the CSA dont seem able to.
TMS - 17-Apr-15 @ 10:47 AM
@Iscasam- you can certainly try. If you have made previous claims and for some reason you have not received payment (you have not specified why) then the CSA can look into your case again.
ChildSupportLaws - 16-Apr-15 @ 11:06 AM
Found this by accident was talking to a friend last week who said csa was shutting down so thought I'd take a look and after seeing these comments got me thinking of my biological father thought I'd would ask the Q Im now 37 and have four children of my own however I know my mum took my dad to court many many years ago for child maintainance as it where then he was ordered to pay but he never did if I know where he lives is there anything I can do in ways of claiming it now after all these years????? Just a thought
Shelle - 16-Apr-15 @ 10:37 AM
My daughters father walked out when she was 2, she is now 20 and I have never received a penny from him even though the CSA know where he's is and they have contacted me numerous times to tell me he owes the money. Now my daughter is over 18 can we still pursue him for monies not paid in the past ?
Iscasam - 15-Apr-15 @ 7:03 PM
@leon - I'm afraid the CSA do not accept claims from children, only parents. Your mother would have had to make a claim when you were younger in order to be entitled to money, which would have been paid directly to her in order to help you with your day-to-day needs.
ChildSupportLaws - 15-Apr-15 @ 2:47 PM
@liam - I'm afraid the CSA do not accept claims from children, only parents. Your mother would have had to make a claim when you were younger in order to be entitled to money, which would have been paid directly to her in order to help you with your day-to-day needs.
ChildSupportLaws - 15-Apr-15 @ 11:42 AM
Can some one tell me im 26 and found my dad a year ago after sending him photos of me and my partner and my daughter his granddaughter and a few phone calls all communications stoped now I would like to no can I get any monies as he never paid a single pennie towards my upbringing surley he should have to as he moraly hasnt found it in him he even made a joke sayin his freind replyed to him sayin ill want all my birthday presents now funny how he didnt contact me after that .
lost - 13-Apr-15 @ 2:46 PM
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