Magistrates rule CSA assessments can be overturned: Agency to challenge a ruling that could open floodgates for absent parents to challenge payments. Rosie Waterhouse reports

A LEGAL test case against the Child Support Agency has established that the controversial formula used to assess how much maintenance an absent parent must pay can be thrown out, if the assessment is not in the best interests of the children from first and second families.

The ruling by magistrates in Colchester last week could open the floodgates for absent parents to ask courts to overturn maintenance assessments made by the CSA. The decision has caused dismay at the highest levels of the CSA, which intends to challenge the decision in the High Court.

Roy Biggin, from Ardleigh near Colchester in Essex, who has two children from his first marriage, asked magistrates to overturn a Deduction from Earnings Order issued to his employers by the CSA after he refused to pay the pounds 80 a week maintenance assessed using the complex formula. He said the formula did not take into account all his financial circumstances and the assessment left him with so little money his children suffered.

Mr Biggin has a second family and helps provide for the two children of his new partner, Sue Boreham, whose ex- husband is dead and so cannot support them.

Mr Biggin, 39, a supervisor at Ardleigh reservoir, told the court the settlement meant one of his stepchildren was being hampered in her pursuit of a career as a social worker, but the whole family, including his children by the previous marriage, had been affected.

The CSA's solicitor argued that a magistrates' court did not have jurisdiction to examine CSA assessments, but the magistrates ruled that they did. The case could open the floodgates for every absent parents who has had a Deduction from Earnings Order to ask a magistrate to overturn the CSA's assessment.

Mr Biggin's solicitor, John Fellows, went on to argue that under section two of the Act, the CSA had to excercise its discretion and take into account the welfare of the children when deciding whether to make a Deduction from Earnings Order.

The magistrates agreed, so in principle, even if the agency staff have made an accurate assessment according to the letter of the formula, magistrates can re-examine an absent parent's financial circumstances and rule that it is too high and not in the best interests of the welfare of the children.

The court would take into account all the family circumstances including outgoings and expenses which the formula does not, such as debts, loans, the costs of travelling to work and seeing the children. The formula would in effect be thrown out.

However, the magistrates ruled that in Mr Biggin's case the child support officers did in fact exercise their discretion and consider the welfare of the children. They did not rule on whether the amount of the assessment was in the best interests of the children.

Susan Deas, a Liverpool solicitor who is fighting several CSA cases, said the magistrates' decision had 'enormous implications', especially for second families, which have been hardest hit since the agency took over maintenance assessments from the courts in April 1993.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn