Well, that was fun: the CSA

Image: Flickr Two weeks ago, I was watching TV when the chap's mobile rang. He was in the shower so I picked up, to hear a woman to bark at me: "Is that Sally Whittle?"

Obviously, being a complete drama queen, I assumed the chap has a secret psycho patient who wants to stab me.

But it seems not: “Can I have your date of birth?

“Erm, no. Who is this?”

More barking: "It's the child support agency and we've had a request for maintenance payments and I need your date of birth and bank details to proceed, although I can do it without your consent if necessary."

Holy Shit. The chap has a secret love child! Ooh, I'll be just like Julia Roberts in Stepmom, and win the little tyke around with my sparkly personality and glossy hair. We'll have adventures in Central Park, and everything…

Eventually, I get a grip on myself and start to wonder why she wants my bank details. Have I fathered a strange child somewhere? I tell the woman I'm sorry, but I have no idea what she’s talking about and could she please explain why she’s calling, and why she’s calling me, on this number.

It turns out not to be anything to do with the chap. In fact, it turns out that The Father made an application to the CSA back on September 19th to reduce his child maintenance payments by 65%.  Of course, being The Father, he didn’t think to mention this to me. Why ruin the surprise, right?

I ask how the new figure was calculated. “Well, because he’s self-employed, he’d have told us what he earned and it’s 15% of that.”

Is the sum checked, because it suggests his earnings have fallen by around 50k. That seems unlikely to me, given I do the same job as The Father and my earnings have remained steady since Flea was born. “Well, it’s not investigated, but if you have proof he’s lying, we would look into it.”

So, basically, unless I have access to The Father’s bank statements he can pretty much pay what he likes. And he’d like to pay a lot less than he has been paying, it seems.  Brilliant.

The reduced payment comes into effect on November 1st – giving me four days notice, and a big hole in my bank account where the mortgage payment should be. Again, quite brilliant. Even more brilliant, the first slimmed-down maintenance payment? Didn’t arrive. So I called the CSA. That was fun.

Oh, well, I can't do anything, it gets passed on to collection.”

“And what happens then?”

“Well, we can take his driving license or his property.”

“He doesn’t drive and he’s just been evicted from his rented house.”

“Oh, well, we can take it directly from his pay packet.”

“He’s self-employed.”

“Well, I’m not really sure what happens then. Sorry. This does happen a lot.”

Brilliant. Just bloody brilliant. And this is an agency set up to help support children? Cause from where I’m standing it seems to be doing a fantastic job of helping fuckwit fathers dodge their responsibilities.

What makes me particularly furious is that the week before The Father submitted his CSA application, we were choosing schools for Flea. This man sobbed down the phone and begged me to send Flea to the private school against my better judgement. She had a place at the local school, but he was desperate for her to go private.

Are you sure? It’s a huge financial commitment, and I need to know you understand that. I just never want to face pulling her out of school halfway through, I'd rather not start down that road at all,” I said over and over again, and he said, yes, he was absolutely committed. And a week later, he was filling in CSA forms and claiming he was penniless. And now I have the rest of my life to listen to my mother's 50,000 different ways of saying, "I told you so." Ugh.

Of course, now there are no places at any of the local schools, leaving us with the option of an “improving” school in the next town, or upping sticks and moving. Or I get to work even harder than I already do, to earn the money to plug the gap. Whatever way you look at it, it sucks. And the CSA is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

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