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Can I Get Back Pay for Child Maintenance?

Author: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 6 July 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]
@Carol - you can either drop him an official line to say that he has to pay as per the court order, and if he does not, then you will take it to court in order to get the order enforced as he is in breach. If he has had the job for a while and has not paid, then you may want to seek legal advice to see whether you can take it to court in order to claim back pay. The fact that you were married has no bearing on his own contribution, he still is liable to support his own children. As specified in the article, 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.
ChildSupportLaws - 7-Jul-15 @ 11:24 AM
Hi there I split from my sons Dad in the early 90's he only had contact with my son until age 5 then I lost contact with him, is it possible to pursue him for child maintainence after 20 years of nothing from him, I now know where he stays and know that he is in full employment
Kari - 6-Jul-15 @ 5:06 PM
Hi, My husband and I divorced in 2007/8, the divorce papers state that he should pay £400 per month for each child until my son (then17) left education orturned 21, and for my daughter, who is disabled turned 25 or got a job. In 2008 I met my husband who died in 2011, from the moment my late husband moved in until the present day my ex has paid £1 per month, is this legal? I have struggled and support my two children and continue to do so, is there any way to enforce what was agreed in my divorce? My ex has always said he didn't earn enough to pay, - £15,000 pa as he had given up his previously lucrative work, he has now however got a much better job and he told my daughter he would give her £150 per month, but he has now back tracked on this which has caused her yet more pain. My daughter is now 23.
Carol - 4-Jul-15 @ 11:23 AM
Hello, I have been divorced from my ex for over 8 years.We have twin boys aged 14.My ex has paid maintenance of £250 per month from a court order at the time of our divorce.A couple of years ago he stopped paying for 9 months as he was off work.He has remarried and has adopted his new wife's daughter. Can I claim for the missed payments?He did go abroad on holiday during his time off ill and did cash jobs.He however refused to pay me even though it made a big impact on our lives. Thank you in advance.
Rae21 - 27-Jun-15 @ 12:53 PM
Hi can anyone help? My son is 17 and just finished college with no entitlement to any monies due to my income. However his dad paid me 20 pounds weekly to help with supporting his son and has now stopped this since last month despite my son having no income or entitlement to any benefits. I feel I have been short changed throughout the years as I know my ex has a good salary . Can I claim child maintenance still ? And can anything be back dated to the correct entitlement? Any advice would be appreciated thanks
Deb43 - 25-Jun-15 @ 5:56 PM
i'm very disappointed with the csa,my ex partner and i split when my daughter was 13 months old in 1993, she is now 23,i contacted them to confirm he was a taxi driver,they had his badge number,plate number and the firm he worked for they confirmed it with the council,it was true but he still managed to produce a dole document.and got away with it.so i had to struggle and he though it was great can i sue the csa for not acting on this
lisa lemmy - 24-Jun-15 @ 10:49 PM
@heli- if he is not working, then he is not liable to pay child support and if he is not earning then it is not possible to claim back-pay. It is also unlikely that his PR would be taken from him, as this is something the courts will consider only in extreme circumstances.
ChildSupportLaws - 18-Jun-15 @ 2:35 PM
I am in the same situation as everyone else. 2 years and 3 monthsi haven't had any maintenance. I got in contact with Csa in March 2015 . An still I haven't had no money . It's not my money at the end of the day it's my child's . The father got parental responsibility through the courts how I don't no ? Because he don't do nothing for him , not even do him food . I find him a disgrace , lazy good for nothing who should have a job like normal people an paying for there child . Not playing computer games an drinking alcohol. I was nt in a relationship with this bloke he was a one night stand . What I want to know is can I claim that money back through courts and can I have the PR taken away from him , as it's my son's best intentions. I haven't got legal aid , I been stuck in court for two years , doing everything myself, an I'm not getting anywhere. I really need advice .
heli - 16-Jun-15 @ 3:16 PM
@swanseajack1971 - your question is a little confusing, but I shall try to answer it as best I can. You would have to speak to CSA/CMS if your payments are arranged through an agency, as you should by rights have mentioned your change of circumstances when your daughter came to live with you. However, if you had a family-based arrangement, then the payments would have been arranged between you both, therefore your ex would not be able to file a claim through a regulated agency now, in order to have any payment backdated. I hope this makes sense.
ChildSupportLaws - 16-Jun-15 @ 10:34 AM
@info - I'm afraid you would have to get in touch with the CSA directly, regarding this matter.
ChildSupportLaws - 15-Jun-15 @ 12:37 PM
Hi my husband has just been asked to provide a dna(voluntary)for a 15 year old boy that is from a previous partner. She has had several dna tests to try and prove who the father of her child is, she is know threatening court action and has told my husband that he will have to back pay for all of the years he has missed paying!, The child in question has a named man on the birth certificate which is not my husband,
Lill - 15-Jun-15 @ 10:00 AM
can anyone tell me if I have to pay backdated child maintenance to my ex girlfriend for our daughter she is 13 and we split up 3 yrs ago I was paying her money arranged between ourselves over the past three years and my daughter is now living with me and I want to know if the child benefit is put in my name will they ask that I pay for the years that we were living together
swanseajack1971 - 13-Jun-15 @ 10:53 AM
Hi I made a claim years ago against my exand after a long it was sorted and then he moved to Jersey so csa told me that I would just have to contact them wen he his back in the country well he came back a few years ago now and we fought through court for custody of our child and he got a residential order but csa told me he would have to pay the back pay, is this still correct?
info - 12-Jun-15 @ 1:04 PM
hi I have 2 children have never had child maintenance from there dad and he only paid two years after I went for help could I claim the money back from all them years as he now adopted two children and this is not fair on my children who have had to miss out on things because he hasn't paid
lew123 - 11-Jun-15 @ 8:58 PM
Hi I am desperate for some help and advice. I ahd a ahugely expensive divorce and am so scared of running up anymore high legal bills so dont really know if it would be worth me pursuing my exhusabnd for not sticking to a court order. He has never paid me a penny of the monthly amount stated in the order as child maintainance. We are now 3 years post divorce. His circumstances changed almost straight away, Just as he threatened... he sold his buisness and hasnt worked since. Stating poverty as a reason for not paying me. I did the opposite and had to increase my hours and I have since gained promotion. I keep asking for contributions for my child who lives 90% of the time with me. But he tells me that I will end up having to pay him now because of our discrepancy of earnings and his change of income. But I know he has money from his buisness sale. I am frightened to take any action as he would be mercyless in upping the legal anti in order to get me into debt with hugefees as happened during our divorce. It seems so pointless now as he has managed to avoid all responsibilty for his child.
debb4000 - 11-Jun-15 @ 2:00 PM
@scary - we can't guarantee answers to every question, but try to get to as many as we can. The fact that you put a claim in years ago means that you can get back on to the CSA and ask it to follow up why he never paid when he was working. Also, the fact that your youngest is 18, you may be able to claim if he is in full-time education, as every parent has the basic responsibility to provide for their child up until the age of 16, when they are legally allowed to leave school and get a job. After this age, it depends what your child chooses to do. If they continue in full-time non-advanced education, not higher than A-level equivalent, for at least 12 hours a week, then your maintenance payments will continue until your child finishes or until they turn 20. If you have evidence that your ex worked and never contacted the CSA to register his change in circumstances at the time, means you may have a case to answer. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 11-Jun-15 @ 9:56 AM
Hello, I would like to find out if it possible to claim from my father, Since I was 3 years old my mother was my resident parent. I was able to see my father sometimes but through moving with new wives in different places across UK and once to America he has never been supportive. He was supposed to pay £40 per week but as far as I am aware he only paid £100 a month until I was about 9 when this stopped he hasn't supported me or my mother since and I very rarely see him. I do not know whether it went through CSA or not but could I claim what he hasn't paid?
haylou - 10-Jun-15 @ 10:07 AM
@sevans - I'm afraid not, you would have had to put in a claim for child maintenance at the time. The CSA does not act on retrospective claims.
ChildSupportLaws - 9-Jun-15 @ 2:12 PM
Hi, I was just wondering why you have replied to everyones query except mine which I sent on the 1st June 2015, thanks
scary - 9-Jun-15 @ 9:28 AM
Hi just wondering on behalf of my mum would she be able to get any csa back dated owed to her? She went to court to claim csa from my biological father which he was ordered to pay 0.5p a week and he never paid a penny to her she still has the court papers after all these years, i am now 29 only found out about my father at the age of 25 grown up thinking my step dad was my dad.
Bexnlawsy - 8-Jun-15 @ 11:15 AM
Hi, my sons father got back in touch when my son turned 17years, he never paid any money all those years and is now enjoying a relationship with my son, is there anyway i can claim money from him for those missed years?
sevans - 7-Jun-15 @ 8:49 PM
@Hearts1003 - I'm afraid not, as only your mother would have been able to claim at the time for payments towards your daily welfare as a child. You never have been/ or will be eligible to claim directly.
ChildSupportLaws - 5-Jun-15 @ 12:06 PM
Is there a way to see if my mum ever made a claim from my dad, as I've recently got back in touch with him 28yrs later! And has never paid a penny towards my life as I was growing up, my mum passed away in 2008 would this make a difference. Thanks
Hearts1003 - 4-Jun-15 @ 8:56 PM
@bec - you can only get arrears backdated from the time you first made a claim. It means if you have never previously claimed, then you would not be entitled. You can check out your current options via the Child Maintenance Options website here . I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 3-Jun-15 @ 12:47 PM
@colliedog - if you have been paying the minimum amount because of health reasons and have not be earning, then you will not be liable for arrears. The payments in relation to your wages will rise again in line with your income. Please also be aware that if your child has left school and is working you will then be able to stop payments, as she will need to be in full-time further education in order for you to continue paying. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 2-Jun-15 @ 2:52 PM
Hi, my eldest 2 sons are now 18 and 22, they had not seen their dad since they were 7 and 3.He has just recently come back on the scene, I put a claim into the CSA years ago and gave up as I got no money and then out the blue about 4 years ago got a letter from CSA saying I would get £7.00 per week, I had 2 payments and then it stopped again, thats all ive had in 15 years even though he has worked at some points during this time.He is working now also.Can I claim any back pay as my kids are now over 18, I feel very annoyed as now he thinks they wont cost him anything he wants contact again, Thanks
scary - 1-Jun-15 @ 2:01 PM
Hi i have not received a penny from my sons dad since he has been born i was employed by him and he paid my wages but never child maintenance is there anything i can do regarding getting back payment for my son
bec - 31-May-15 @ 7:55 PM
Hi, I have been paying my ex wife the minimum payment for around five years as I have been unable to work following an accident. However I am hoping to return to work in the next few months and am concerned that she may be able to claim back pay as this financially would cripple us. I have remarried and my wife and I have one young child whereas the child I have with my ex is 16 and a half and my ex hasn't allowed me to see him for over four years (since my wife and I had our daughter !!!). Any advice appreciated.
colliedog - 29-May-15 @ 9:49 PM
@isabel - you can only claim payments from the time you originally made the claim. Regardless of your circumstances, if you did not make a claim when you first separated then you would not be able to get arrears backdated to that time.
ChildSupportLaws - 28-May-15 @ 10:47 AM
@Mick - As a rule the mother can't claim retrospectively, unless she had made a claim previously and it had been ignored. If she had named you and you couldn't be found, or if she made a claim and you refused to pay prior to the DNA test, then she may have a case to claim back payments for that period of time.
ChildSupportLaws - 27-May-15 @ 10:41 AM
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