Open letters & Child Maintenance Payments

Last week we saw an anonymous letter gain a fair bit of media attention. It was first published on a blog called “Single Mum Still Standing” and can be read in its (amended form – more on that later) here. It was titled “An open letter to the father who won’t pay child maintenance” and is reproduced below:

Any child maintenance payments made by you to me do not pay for my holidays. I don’t use YOUR money pay for my clothes, and your payments certainly don’t fund my minor prosecco addiction.

Your hard-earned cash doesn’t help me pay my gym membership or go into my savings account. (Which doesn’t exist.)

So when you stalk my Instagram and Facebook and see me making the most of my child-free weekends with friends – rest assured I am funding this. In the words of Destiny’s Child, ‘The shoes on my feet, I bought em –  I depend on me, if I want it.’

Let me spell this out for you – any money you pay to help with the raising of our children goes directly to our children. I’ve got two jobs to fund my lifestyle and pay for our children. It’s a simple concept you don’t seem to be able to grasp.

So you’re barking up the wrong tree when you bitterly tell me I should maybe “go out less” when I challenge you over your child maintenance payments.

So what does child support cover? What do I use your money for?

I admit, it goes towards my mortgage – the house which puts a roof over our children’s heads for 11 nights in 14. Their home. It also helps with the associated costs of running that home. I hope you will agree, they need a home.

What are the consequences of you not contributing towards their home? Let me tell you, it could result in us needing to find a cheaper home, in a less desirable area, and without a doubt mean a change in school.

Your money helps to put clothes on their backs, it contributes towards the laundry powder used to wash said clothes. It pays towards their school uniform which is down to me to purchase, and the school trips which I fund.

The money pays towards their swimming lessons that I take them to, because I want them to have that life skill, it pays for our son’s football coaching and matches. (He’s doing amazing by the way, you really should take the time to come and watch him – he would be amazed if you turned up.)

It helps pay for their birthday parties with their friends which your wife won’t let you attend because even after all this time she’s still jealous of you and I being in contact. It also buys the birthday presents, and thank god I do, because on our daughter’s fifth birthday, despite having her for two hours after school, you didn’t give her yet one single present. Imagine if I’d done the same as you, she wouldn’t have got anything for her birthday.

Your money helps to keep our children in Clarks shoes, because their feet blister if I buy anything cheaper.

It pays towards childcare, or did you think nursery was free when I used it one day a week so I could work? Do you think after-school clubs are free?

You should take a walk in my shoes one day and you will see your cash is key to providing the lifestyle our children deserve.

The law requires a non-resident parent to pay 12 per cent of your gross weekly income if you have one child and 16 per cent of your gross weekly income to the resident parent if you have two children. All I ask for is what this Government says non-resident parents should pay.

That’s it, 16 per cent. So it’s not going to leave you short is it? It’s not going to de-home you from your five bedroomed house. I wish I could pay 16 per cent of what I earn and have it cover an all-inclusive rate for everything my children need and want – wow I’d be rich. You see I spend pretty much every penny I earn on our children.

All I’m asking is that you properly declare your full earnings to the CMS, so the toothless organisation can inform you of the correct amount to contribute, and that when they do, you pay that amount on time. Not difficult. If only you would even discuss this with me, that would be a start.

Unlike a credit card, you can continue to choose to not properly pay for our children a) Because nobody knows and B) because the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) are so useless they aren’t even worth bothering with.

It’s too easy to hide with the CMS, you either run your own business and hide your dividends or you work cash in hand so you can keep it all. You’re just so clever exploiting a loophole aren’t you?

The British Government gives our children more financial support then you do. Think about that for a moment.

Not paying, not paying on time, or not paying the correct amount is the very last bit of control you have over me. You must feel so powerful when you hold it back for five days, because you can and there’s nothing I can do about it. What man you are.

No matter what happened between you and the woman you once loved enough to father two children with, you still have a financial responsibility towards your children. Just because you hate me, don’t make them suffer.

Your children are yours, they are not only yours when they are taken to your house for three nights in 14. They are not only yours when you are showing them off and proud of how much they look like you.

They are yours when they are with me, for 11 nights in 14 when you are nowhere to be seen because you won’t engage with them unless it’s on your time.

Dear father who won’t pay child support, you’re useless and I don’t know how you live with yourself. All I know is that I am trying to provide a life which is similar to what they would have had if you and I had not split up. It’s not their fault we couldn’t live together.

You failing to pay is just another parenting fail. It’s just as bad as failing to turn up to our son’s Christmas play after promising him you would be there. It’s on a par with refusing to take our son to his much-loved football on YOUR weekends. The list goes on.

I don’t expect you to do the right thing. You are a rubbish father.  Luckily, they have me.

The article has been spread far and wide in the UK starting off in the Hull Daily Mail (which is owned by Trinity Mirror Group). It then made its way into a bunch of other regional papers also owned by Trinity Mirror and a number of other papers outside the UK (including as far afield as New Zealand).

The following day, another article was published by the Hull Daily Mail focused on Child Maintenance and what it should be spent on. You can read that piece here. We have since become aware that the author of the blog post may possibly be a journalist employee of the Hull Daily Mail (the very same paper that claims to have discovered the letter). Interestingly, the Hull Daily Mail has now taken the original article containing the letter down. 

We have written extensively about the the issues relating to the Child Maintenance Service. Issues ranging from legislative problems, administrative incompetence, the relationship between child support payments and contact, deliberate non payment of child support, excessive and erroneous payments, arrears (both real and fictional) and other things.

There are undoubtably problems on both sides and what this letter has done is spark debate. However, contained within the letter are a number of (in our view) unnecessary and personal attacks on an individual who has no ability to reply.

Perhaps more curious is that the letter on the blog (and reproduced above) is different to that which appeared originally. You can see the original in many of the regional papers that published the letter immediately after it appeared in the HDM.  This one appeared in Kent Live

The following text has been removed from the version that now on the blog:

You’re actually very cunning, because you do pay – to the penny – what the CMS order you to pay, so on paper you can “prove” you pay towards your children’s upbringing “properly”.

If I ever mention it you simply say, ‘I pay what the CMS tell me to, end of.’ You’ve got yourself covered – but you and I both know that’s not the full story.

The CMS order you an amount to pay based on the amount YOU have declared to them – but the small wage you pay yourself is not a true reflection of what you actually earn.

You’re just so clever – exploiting a loophole to financially abuse our children.

I bet I receive a lot more money in maintenance than many other single parents, some would be grateful of what I receive, but why should our children have 16 per cent of a false income, made up by you, when they’re entitled to more?

I speak on behalf of all single parents when I say this simply isn’t good enough, the current UK system isn’t good enough. MPs need to wake up and do more to give the CMS better powers to financially investigate non-resident parents.

It’s a problem which affects thousands of single parent families, one many feel they can’t do anything about, but one I’m not prepared to let go. I am fighting this for our children, not for me.

You also refuse to talk to me about it or answer my letters about it. So if you’re wondering why I’ve resorted to this, that is why.

If only you would treat me like a human being and actually have a conversation with me about our children’s needs. You’ve had plenty of requests, even via solicitors.

All I’m asking is that you properly declare your full earnings to the CMS, so the toothless organisation can inform you of the correct amount to contribute, and that when they do, you pay that amount on time. Not difficult.

 

So, the father is (according to the original letter) actually up to date with the payment schedule set by the CMS. The title of the letter is therefore misleading as he is (technically at least) up to date with his payments.  The main allegation therefore is that he’s not declaring his full income. If that’s the case then it’s not so much an issue for the CMS but for HMRC and, even if it was the case that the allegation is true, then  there are processes in the form of variations and other more intrusive investigations for those who are genuinely evading payment through illegal means. We don’t know however (and the author does not say) whether these have been attempted.

It is not clear why the letter was altered and the information (which provides important perspective) has been removed but it does change the narrative somewhat.

Previously we have written extensively about the issues plaguing the CMS  spanning areas from legislation to arrears negotiation. What is clear is that the CMS is woefully unfit for purpose and is in need of wholesale reform. It fails both parents and importantly, because it fosters animosity such as that seen within last weeks’ letter, the children are the ones who lose out.

From the children’s perspective we would make one final point. It is demonstrably not in the children’s interests for one of their parents to publicly insult the other parent in the manner that the author has chosen to do.

You are a rubbish father. Luckily, they have me.

We would hate for any child to have to read that about one of their parents

Final words

This article is just an opinion based on what is probably an incomplete set of facts. We would be happy to see a submission from either the mother or the father in this case and can of course publish it anonymously assuming it is within the law

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