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Can I Get Back Pay for Child Maintenance?

Author: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 4 March 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]
@Laaa - there really isn't much you can do, unless your mother decides to divorce your father and forces the sale of the house. Your mother should have claimed child support at the time as the CSA don't backdate claims.
Bee - 4-Mar-15 @ 10:14 AM
My mum and Dad split up 6 years ago verbal agreement was my dad would continue to pay the mortgage. sister is now 17 years old and in full time education. When my dad first left he was seeing her for about 6 months helping toward school uniform etc after 6 months he stopped all contact with her and paying for items to help her in education like trips and uniform. Only thing hes been paying is the mortgage to what isn't much anyway. She is 17 now and he wanting to put the house up for sale but she is still in education. My mums never made a CSA a claim she has been in touch with them regarding it at the start of him leaving but thought with him paying the mortgage that she wouldn't be entitled to CSA - IS she entitled and could this be backdated?
Sarah - 3-Mar-15 @ 3:02 PM
@emma110989 - CSA don't have a pot. If your dad was still paying then it would have gone straight to you/your mum.
Val - 2-Mar-15 @ 12:06 PM
I am 25 years old. My mother left my father when I was 6 as he was living off her and making her miserable. She paid his mortgage and bills for close to 10years. She never claimed child support as she didn't want to deal with him and she assumed I'd be at least left the house she put money into. He also rarely work and when he did it was often cash in hand. It has now come to light that it is possible that he will just drain the house and live off it as he is quite old now. I want to know if there's any way I can get back child support for 25years, since he never paid a penny towards me but rather took most of my mothers money?
Laaa - 1-Mar-15 @ 3:58 PM
@Jem24mas - has CSA closed the case? I know they have written off a lot of CSA cases as it was impossible to get money from the fathers. Given that you are now 25 almost, it is unlikely that your mother will get arrears. But if you want to make sure, you can ask her to contact the CSA direct.
BenJ - 27-Feb-15 @ 12:24 PM
My dad paid maintenance every week out of his wage from 1989 until 2006 when he passed away my mum only received a few payments as she had to be working for her to receive it. She stopped working and payments stopped but my dad still paid every week. Am I entitled to the money paid as I'm sure it would be in some kind of pot with the CSA.
emma110989 - 26-Feb-15 @ 8:43 PM
Hi there I'm 24 years old going away to be 25 my father walked out on my mum after her finding out at 5 months she was pregnant he said he wasn't ready! My mum tried for years through Csa to at least get some child Maintenance from him but they couldn't because he worked for a foreign company and was taxed outside the uk! Is there any way now that he can be charged for csa arrears?
Jem24mas - 25-Feb-15 @ 3:28 PM
@trace - the problem you would have is that if you can't get the money through the CSA because your ex is either hiding his income through various tax loopholes, it is unlikely the small claims court would be able to expose this as they would have the exact same information your ex has given to the CSA. It would presumably lead to the same conclusion through the judge that he is theoretically not earning enough money to pay.
Kel - 23-Feb-15 @ 11:23 AM
@sam - you probably can if your ex is not paying you anything. You should get payments from when the claim began.
Mitch - 23-Feb-15 @ 10:09 AM
i am owed over 5 thousand in child support the csa are trying to deal with it altho my ex is self employed and is not giving them the correct information can i take him to small claims court instead
trace - 20-Feb-15 @ 4:06 PM
My divorce went through on the 20th of january 2015 an da maintenance case is on the 21st of april. Can I claim for back pay.
sam - 20-Feb-15 @ 2:57 AM
@KayS - your mum would have to either contact him directly or through the CSA/CMS in order to apply for payment for the rest of your sister's studies (which is dependent upon whether it was government approved education). I don't mean to negative here, but is it worth the hassle just for the few months she has left of study and given there is no guarantee that he will have to pay? Your mum wouldn't be able to claim back pay, because back pay is only awarded when a claim has gone in previously and nothing has been paid, or that they came to some sort of arrangement and he ducked out if it. It might be easier to let things run as they are, especially as your mum went to the lengths she did in order to keep him away from her. I don't know if anyone else feels the same? SB.
Suze - 19-Feb-15 @ 1:48 PM
@Mrs H - if the CSA can't recover it then there is probably little you can do as they will assess his accounts etc and come up with a valid reason why. If you took it to court then he will have the CSA ruling in his defence as to why he can't pay. Unless you can prove otherwise, you may have to stick with what the CSA says.
Jem - 19-Feb-15 @ 12:00 PM
My younger sister's father left my mum when she was only 3 years old. I believe since then, he hasn't given my mum any child support. My sister is now 19years old and still in fulltime education. She hasnt seen her dad since she was 5. I have been telling my mum (who has been struggling) to get help for a very long time but she keeps worrying that he might suddenly take my sister away. He moved to Belgium for a few years. Now have 5 other kids. I believe he ia back in the UK now. Please advice.
KayS - 18-Feb-15 @ 2:43 AM
i have the CSA involved in my case with my ex who owes arrears of over £14,000 if they re unsuccessful in recovering this, is there anything legally i can do?
Mrs H - 17-Feb-15 @ 8:35 PM
@Tiredmum - you may be entitled to arrears if your ex has been misleading the CSA. Also, as specified in the article you may be able to take civil 'legal' action against your ex husband to try to recover the missed payments through the courts. However, once your son is 18 he should be entitled to benefits in his own name which would mean your ex could stop paying support, unless your son decided to try for university when your ex could be asked through the courts to pay until he finished the course. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 16-Feb-15 @ 12:51 PM
I have three children with only the last one receiving child maintenance through the service. They have now discovered that his P60 is a much higher amount than the three months payslips he produced. He is now trying to stop child benefit being paid so he no longer has to pay maintenance. If he manages this I will lose child benefit, child tax credits as well as the maintenance. My son is autistic and requires a lot of support at home with his practical work. He is only at college doing A Levels for 10 hours per week. I must do at least 15 hours with him per week. Can any one advise please? BMW the maintenance is only until this August.
Tiredmum - 13-Feb-15 @ 4:57 PM
My ex husband has not paidpenny for our son 's maintenance since 2005. I could not find him. He just vanished so I gave up. I know now where he lives. Can I claim back 10 years maintenance?
Mimi - 4-Feb-15 @ 3:12 PM
@ladybird. I am in the same situation as my children have all left home now. My ex owes me £2450 in arrears and has done for 4 years now. He keeps swapping job etc etc. I just want to know whether I can claim the arrears back of him then I can put a stop to the csa once and for all.
Ethel - 4-Feb-15 @ 8:53 AM
@Bella - I have included a link to Child Maintenance Calculator which helps you work out your earnings here. However, the difficulty with trying to obtain money from someone who is self-employed can be that they may make it look through tax records as though they are not earning anything or very little money at all. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 3-Feb-15 @ 11:18 AM
I was in a five year relationship with my now ex and we have a two year old son together. He has other children from a previous relationship (which I recently found out. reason for our break up). The other woman made a claim and was rewarded £9.00 for the three children they have as he lied saying he wasn't t working. How much roughly will I be rewarded for my two year old as I have given prove of his self employed Buisness. Do the child maintenance ask for prove of not working? As I don t know how he got away with this??
Bella - 1-Feb-15 @ 1:48 AM
@don don - if you have applied then you need to follow it up. You don't give the reason why no maintenance has been paid, but I suggest you personally, not your daughter, take it through the complaints procedure if this has been going on since 2007. You can apply via the link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 22-Jan-15 @ 11:40 AM
My ex husband has not paid any maintenance since 2007, despite applying for maintenance through the csa, they have been totally unable to make him pay. my eldest daughter is now 19, can she make a claim herself?
don don - 21-Jan-15 @ 3:33 PM
@Mick - I have given you a link to the Child Maintenance Options website here which gives you a rundown of what child maintenance is actually for (there are many misconceptions) but the main one is the day-to-day upkeep and welfare of your children. I can understand that if you are paying £500 per month that you don't want to buy shoes for your children on top. Perhaps you suggest that if she doesn't look after the adequate clothing of them you are happy to take it on board and subtract it from the money you pay her. Or you could just bite the bullet and buy your son an inexpensive pair of shoes. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 13-Jan-15 @ 11:38 AM
Myself and my wife are now divorced and payments are agreed at £500 per month for our two children. My youngest's school shoes are in a shoking state of repair and my ex wife refuses to replace them quoting "the money I give her is for the house" unquote" I totally disagree as she gets child tax credits at about £700 pm, her net salary of approx £1200 pm and reduced council tax plus 'child maintenance' from me! She is happy for him to go to school like this and use them as 'weapons' against me in this affair not to mention it is distresing for them as well. Can you advise please?
Mick - 12-Jan-15 @ 4:06 PM
i have never had a penny of my childrens dad. we lived together for 13 years, we had 6 houses together, i didnt marry him but was engaged, i tried csa for n monies but they couldnt get a penny off him. im just about to lose my homei hope someone can help me
toystory - 9-Jan-15 @ 9:04 PM
I'm laughing at that comment up above 'Bunch of gold diggers the lot of you. Just look at all the comments. Not one bit of compassion. For the father' in my case I'm hardly a gold digger with the payments I recive a week from the absent dad it's a joke!! Maybe if these absent dads showed a bit of compassion to the kids they up and left and nowhere to be seen again, then maybe us mothers wouldn't have to use the c.s.a
Batfink - 9-Jan-15 @ 11:58 AM
@Drew - I'm afraid the CSA do not award retrospective payments. Your mother would have had to have claimed when you were younger for payments towards your day-to-day upkeep.
ChildSupportLaws - 8-Jan-15 @ 10:55 AM
I moved out of my farthers at 12 and now have managed to get into uni at the age of 18. My mum has never recieved anything towardse finacially off of my farther. Unfortunatelythere was no child support arrangement filed. Can i claim any form of back payment for the 6 years
Drew - 7-Jan-15 @ 3:40 PM
@nik - I don't think you can apply through the CSA for a retrospective payment. He should have applied at the time as the payment will be seen to have been agreed between him and your mother.
Jack - 5-Jan-15 @ 12:28 PM
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