Family Lore Clinic: Can my ex go to the CSA if a payment agreement is in place?

When parents separate, they often come to an agreement between themselves regarding child maintenance, rather than ask the Child Support Agency ('CSA') to deal with it, and the amount of maintenance agreed may be different from the amount that the CSA would assess. However, does an agreement prevent either party from applying to the CSA?

The simple answer to this is: no (i.e. the answer to the original question is: yes, your ex can go to the CSA if a payment agreement is in place). An agreement does not prevent either party from making an application to the Child Support Agency, even if the payer is still paying the maintenance, and any agreement purporting to prevent either party from applying to the CSA would be void.

There is one exception to the above rule: where the agreement has been incorporated into a consent court order. In this case, neither party can apply to the CSA until twelve months have elapsed from the date of the order.

For the sake of completeness, I should say that there is a way to set up a contract that would compensate one party to an agreement, should the other party apply to the CSA. However, such contracts really need to be drawn up by a lawyer.

As usual, if you require more details or specific advice, you should consult a specialist family lawyer.