A SINGLE mum from Bolton has won a landmark £35,600 legal battle against the Child Support Agency after they wrongly advised her that her former partner did not have to pay maintenance because he worked in Afghanistan.
Anne-Marie Kelly has been battling for three years to get the money she was owed.
Ms Kelly, aged 40, said she made more than 30 phone calls to the CSA, made multiple complaints and sat through four tribunals before she was finally told that she had won. She said: “It’s been very frustrating talking to the CSA, and upsetting. I’ve argued with them on a number of occasions.
“I’m a full-time police officer and I work hard, and I’ve not had any financial support because the CSA has failed.
“I feel relieved, and happy for my daughter now it’s resolved.”
Ms Kelly, a serving police officer in Bury, has a 14-year-old daughter, who lives with her at their home in Sharples, Bolton.
Her ex-partner, a former soldier, now has a job with a private security company in Afghanistan.
The pair met when they were both serving on a tour of the Falkland Islands with the army. Ms Kelly was repeatedly told by the CSA, which is governed by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, that because he worked abroad and for a foreign company he did not have to make maintenance payments.
The judgement was awarded in her favour, however, after an upper tribunal appeal by her former partner.
It stated: “The failure to pay child support arises solely from advice given by CMEC”.
However, the Government is due to change the law, meaning that in the future, single mums in Ms Kelly’s situation will lose out. Under plans yet to be approved, support payments will be based on UK income tax returns, meaning that parents working abroad will not have to pay.
Ms Kelly was represented by specialist child support lawyer, Stephen Lawson, from Forshaws Davies Ridgway.
He said: “The Government is on the verge of making a catastrophic error which will be hugely damaging for many parents and their children.
“Anne-Marie Kelly would have been one of the casualties under these new regulations and thousands like her will be denied vital maintenance support. What is being proposed is grossly unfair.”
A spokesperson for the Child Support Agency said: “We are investigating why Ms Kelly was given misleading advice. It is wrong to claim, however, the people in her position will be disadvantaged in future. The government is in fact seeking to make child maintenance payable in more cases where money is earned abroad by parents based in the UK.”