You and the Law – March 17th, 2009

Pleading poverty

I WAS divorced eight years ago, but the Child Support Agency (CSA) have had no luck in getting my ex-husband to pay maintenance for our four children. This is despite the fact that he is manager of a firm, lives in an expensive house, and has a thriving shop and a house he rents out. I have been told that it is up to me to prove what his assets and income are. Surely this cannot be true? HM

YOU will have to give the CSA something to go on. If you can demonstrate that your ex-husband’s lifestyle is inconsistent with his declared income you can ask the CSA to make a ‘departure’ from the maintenance formula.

An independent tribunal would then look at the evidence.

I suggest you do some detective work, including asking the Land Registry for details of ownership of the properties. It’s a criminal offence to withhold information from or supply false information to the CSA, which
has powers to investigate the finances of non-resident parents.

Sacked for caring

I STARTED working for a bookmaker in October, and was dismissed at the end of last month with no notice because I took a day off to take care of my children. My employer says he’s not going to give me any of the money he still owes me. The legal advice centre says it will be difficult to do anything about this because I didn¹t sign a contract. EC

I SUGGEST you apply for an employment tribunal hearing. You are certainly entitled to a week’s pay in lieu of notice, and probably to some holiday pay. You may also have a claim for compensation for unfair dismissal since you took the day off to look after your children. Generally speaking you can only make such a claim if you have worked for your employer for more than a year.

However, you have a statutory right under the Employment Relations Act to take reasonable time off to care for dependants, and dismissal for asserting a statutory right is automatically unfair, even for those who have held their job for less than 12 months.

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