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Testimonials - What Our Clients Think Of Us

Our Story

In 1990 Mike left the British Army due to family separation and in July of that year he found himself becoming a single parent of four children.  Because of his experiences as a single parent, Mike went on to study Law at Durham University in 1993 completing his LLB in 1996.  As part of his time at Durham, Mike worked within the charity sector helping people to deal with the newly formed Child Support Agency. In 1996 Durham Legal Services opened its first office in Seaham, Co Durham. With the introduction of the World Wide Web, DLS began to expand country wide. Due to this expansion the company moved to its present office in Consett, Co Durham.

Through Durham Legal Services, Mike has always looked for ways to help families going through the trauma of breakup and 2004 saw the introduction of Evidence-Tracker. The system is a secure online programme designed to allow estranged couples to avoid acrimonious outbursts which can emotionally scar their children.  The password-controlled system allows couples to log all contact arrangements in a virtual diary and they comment on any problems which arise. Because nothing can be removed, it provides a warts-and-all record of contacts and confrontations. Evidence-Tracker prompts couples to analyse behaviour and think more carefully about what they say and do.  We believe Evidence-Tracker resulted in the new social policy that saw the introduction of the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme and the encouragement of separated families to enter Family-Based Agreements.

Following the success of Evidence-Tracker and the introduction of the Child Maintenance Service, Mike and his team introduced Private Agreement a second online system which help and encouraged parents to reach a private agreement. The system helps parents to calculate the correct maintenance payment without using the Statutory CMS and identified the savings from having no collection fees. The same system is currently used by the Child Maintenance Service with its own calculator.  Private Agreement was one of the first companies awarded the Government Kite Mark for its work in Supporting Separated Families.  

Durham Legal Services continues to grow with its help and support for separated familes. As a long standing professional organisation dedicated only to child maintenance work, our staff are here to support our clients with their Child Maintenance problems using our expertise in this area of law which is based on good, sound, legal practice. Whatever your child maintenance problem, we can help you solve it efficiently, effectively and economically. As you can see from our small bio Mike and the team at Durham Legal Services are here to help.

Here are a few of our clients stories.

Carl White 
Mike Smith represented me at my CMS appeal in Brighton. I had a number of telephone calls with Mike running up to the appeal just to make sure we had all the evidence we needed etc. The Appeal lasted all day and Mike travelled down the day before. We met up on that evening and went over the papers. I have already had one appeal hearing and it was terrifying. Mike did most of the talking and at the end of the appeal the Judge was happy with my income and dismissed my ex appeal. On the way out of the door Mike asked my ex if she would come to a private agreement to my amazement she said yes. Thanks Mike all is still well”
Kev Collins, London 
" I am both a paying parent and a receiving parent. I am a director of my own company and my ex is self employed. You would think we should simply have a family based arrangement but sadly the only thing we can agree on is we no longer like or trust each other, hence the need to use the CMS. Over the last 3 years I have made 7 complaints to the CMS (2 to ICE), 15 letters to my MP along with 3 face to face meetings, over 470 call minutes to my case worker. I have tried every Facebook page, every Twitter page all to no avail.
I am owed £7000 in maintenance despite receiving a small weekly payment from my ex. The CMS say I owe £6000 in arrears despite sending her payment back each weekend and having several letters saying no arrears are due. In the end my MP and my CMS case worker suggested I contacted Mike Smith at DLS. I confess that 4 months earlier during a CMS Tribunal hearing in London even there the man from the CMS suggested to the judge that both myself and my ex speak to DLS. So there were five people involved in my case all suggesting I contact DLS.
I telephoned DLS and asked to speak to Mike Smith. I was told he was in London but after telling the person who answered the phone a bit of my story, they gave me Mike’s mobile number and suggested I gave him a ring. I rang Mike who was at Kings Cross on his way home and I work 4 minutes from Kings Cross. He asked me to pop round and have a chat over coffee. Without doubt Mike Smith is different to any other lawyer I know. I found him straight talking but most of all very passionate about doing the right thing for children.
After 30 minutes I had a answer to most if not all of my problems and I began to understand that you can’t deal with the CMS like you can with other organisations. They are not a law unto themselves, their problem is a huge conflict of interest because they represent both mother and father so they need to tread very carefully.
Ok, it cost me £600 for DLS to sort all my problems but if you tot up what I have gone through it was a small price. It’s simple - get help or don’t get help, I can’t tell anyone what to do but what I can tell you is that if I gone to DLS in the beginning I would have saved thousands of pounds, had a lot less sleepless nights but more importantly have an agreement in place which is allowing me contact with my children".

James Long from London 
Without doubt I have the most awkward ex partner any man could ever have, you name it I have been accused of doing it. I meet a new partner and things went from bad to worse with my ex taking me to 3 different appeals. Believe it or not but it was the actual CMS who told me to get in touch with Durham Legal Services, it's the best advice they have ever gave me. 
The morning of the tribunal arrived as per normal so did my daily dose of abuse from my ex. We all went into the room and the Judge asked Mike my rep from DLS a questions about live issues. He said to the judge he had no idea what the issues were and perhaps my ex would like to explain.
Ten minutes later having had her normal rant Mike ask her again what she actual wanted she replied all I want is a fair maintenance payment. Mike then explained the current payment was more than fair because I was paying £19.00 per week to much.
Mike having explained the situation to everyone in the room then suggested my ex go and have a chat with the guy from the CSA and think about withdrawing her appeal on the understanding the daily abuse stops, she did and the daily rants have stopped.
I am now getting on with my life thanks to DLS and their support.

Paula and Jim Headley
“We have been asked to write a testimonial about our experience and the costs of using Durham Legal Services. Firstly I was a member of a few Facebook pages which tried to give the impression it was too expensive to use someone like DLS and secondly you did not need to because arrears are easy to sort out. We paid £450.00 to have our entire arrears looked at. I must admit I thought there was nothing any one could do so we would be stuck with them how wrong I was. Vaila looked at our arrears and straight away noticed an IMA. It was explained to me and Jim but in any event it meant we were owed £6500.00. This paid all the arrears off and we received a cheque for £829.00 not bad for £450.00. Would I recommend DLS to a friend, yes I would".

Kevin, Bicester
" I have been fighting the CSA and CMS for 6 years. I have been a member of various campaign groups spending hundreds of hours in chat rooms and attended many advice sessions. I thought I knew how to deal with my case but was getting nowhere and had seen DLS name being mentioned so I rang them. I wasn't sure as I had seen some complaints but I now know these were often from people who had been on the losing side of cases where DLS had represented the other party. I have only agreed to write this because I was nearly put off taking proper legal advice by chat room advice and by spending a small amount I have got my case sorted."

Mr. and Mrs. M. Muir, Oxford
" We had the bailiff standing out side our house. As a last resort I searched the internet to try and find some help. After speaking with DLS they sent me the necessary papers over the internet to take to the County Court to stop the bailiffs. We went on to have DLS look at the full case. In the end we did not owe the Agency any money in fact I received a small refund A big thanks to the whole DLS team . Please please please get DLS help today and get your life back."

John Kelly, Hull
" I noticed the money back guarantee if they can't answer the question. As no one else had been able to answer my questions I felt I had nothing to lose. Not only did they answer my question they answered questions I had not even thought of. Thank you DLS I got my life back."

Mr. Lee Robertson, Brighton
" I thought my case was too complicated to receive help over the telephone, however I was desperate. I had attended a tribunal and as a result had over £20.000 of unfair arrears. I had tried to speak to the chairman after the tribunal and was told that it was the end on the matter and nothing could be done. Having spoke to DLS using the telephone consultation, they did understand my case. I instructed DLS and they took my case to the CMS Upper Tribunal who in turn ordered a re hearing. This time I did have arrears but only £800.00. Thanks to Joanne for all her hard work."

Mr. and Mrs. R. Jackson, Bristol
"We bought an advice voucher and contacted Durham Legal Services after spending hundreds of pounds on solicitors who simply did not understand the law relating to the CSA. I could not believe how good the advice was for the money we paid. We did not even need to use the second call we were entitled to."

Mr. Charles Colin Todd, Kendal
" Dear Mr Smith thank you for your help and guidance, I am of the belief that without the advice you have given me I would not have my children in my life. Once again thank you."

Mr. and Mrs. Scott-Jones, Belfast
" As a rule we are very sceptical about dealing with an internet company. The DLS website appeared to be sincere and thank god the people at the other end of the telephone are sincere. In the past I did bury my head thinking that the incompetence of the CMS would mean they would never find me. They did and I could not cope but DLS did. I am now paying a fair amount and seeing my children and for the first time in 6 years have actually had a conversation with the children's mother without losing it. DLS are not only experts they are the human face the CMS have failed to show."

Mr. N. Finch
" I have been asked to write a small testimonial about DLS and the advice I received. All I can say is RING THEM now good advice is great DLS advice is Great but with a capital G. Cheers DLS for all your help."

Mr C. Wright
For years I read stuff about DLS but never contacted them, when I did within 6 weeks my problem was resolved. You want some real advice, ring them today. Cheers Vaila you saved my marrage.


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CSA Testimonials

Without doubt I have the most awkward ex partner any man could ever have, you name it I have been accused of doing it. I meet a new partner and things went from bad to worse with my ex taking me to 3 different appeals.

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