Transforming child maintenance: Gemma's story
Last updated: 31/01/2024
Gemma* is a single mum and a survivor of domestic abuse. She has a 12 year old son. She went to tribunal after the Child Maintenance Service ‘nil’ assessed her ex partner, despite her providing evidence of earnings.
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My ex was convicted of domestic abuse, he is also a convicted con artist who has been to prison for fraud on multiple occasions.
I hold protective court orders and I obtained a parental responsibility termination court order because I could not put my child through the type of abuse I have endured. I have been diagnosed with PTSD because of the abuse which he has continued to subject me to, both in family court and using the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).
I contacted the CMS in January 2015 and they ‘nil assessed’ him so he didn’t have to pay anything for 3 years despite me providing evidence of higher earnings. The CMS were using an income he declared to HMRC in 2014 of £265.26 for the whole year. I was with him that year, so I knew for a fact that was a lie.
Whilst fighting me in family court with his now ex-wife with whom he lived a double life (he hid my child and the fact he was with me and vice versa), he told the CMS he was living in Spain. I could prove otherwise, however – he had his own business which he set up whilst we were together, but which was funded by his wife before they were married.
He continued with his lies to the CMS, and I took it to tribunal. The hearing was in February 2018. Safety measures were put in place because I had a criminal restraining order against him. He was non-compliant. He was asked to provide both personal bank statements and statements from the joint business with his wife dating back to 2012. He didn’t turn up to tribunal, again telling them he was in Spain. I left the building with the judge ruling in my favour, based on my evidence and the fact he hadn’t complied and had lied constantly. The judge ruled that I was to be paid maintenance in arrears dating back to 2016, based on an average annual income of £28,500 per year. It took months for action to be taken. All I kept getting were excuses.
Eventually the CMS obtained 4 liability orders and bailiffs went to his address which he lived at with his wife. She lied, telling bailiffs he didn’t live there. The CMS had checked for bank accounts, but he kept closing these, so they were unable to get any money. My arrears were now topping £18,000 and the CMS just kept believing him despite me providing more and more evidence.
He dissolved his business and started another one to con more people as that’s all he does. I had so many people contact me for information on him because after he was convicted of assault against me, I went public. I had a reporter contact me and I helped provide information and photos of him, but my name was kept out of it.
I can’t remember the exact year, but it was around 2019/20 he went onto benefits as we were getting to the stage of sanctions. He hit the claim button whilst he was in Spain but again the CMS did nothing. I sometimes got my £30 a month taken from his benefits but sadly child maintenance is 15th on the list of properties so clearly children don’t matter in this world.
He came off benefits, but I was notified he went back on them again though that didn’t last long.
After nearly 8 years of fighting against the CMS, last November I had my first Deduction of Earnings payment and have just had my 13th payment and am just under £15,000 arrears now.
When I was with him, he subjected me to physical, emotional, psychological and financial abuse. The financial abuse is still happening, and we’ll have been split up 9 years this Christmas.
My PTSD is highly triggered when I have to ring the CMS as I have to talk about him, and the financial abuse and control continues. The CMS has no empathy, they talk down to people who are fighting for justice for their children and quite frankly care more about the “rights” of the non-resident parent than the rights of the children and the resident parents.
It’s made me ill, but I won’t ever stop the fight for my child. Things need to change because the system is failing thousands of children and families.