The continued detachment of child support from the wider picture of family life is contributing to the impoverishment of children whose parents live separately and creates a perverse disincentive to meaningful co-operation between the parents.
In its submission to the inquiry by the Westminster select committee on work and pensions into child maintenance, Families Need Fathers – Because Both Parents Matter report the insights drawn from the experiences of more than 800 responses to its recent consultation among members and supporters across the UK.
Comments from the biggest ever response to an FNF consultation include:
“I feel worthless as a parent. The only interest in me is that I pay!”
“It almost destroyed me” (many)
“If not for my family the CMS would have made me homeless!”
“I have less than £100 a month for food, petrol etc.”
“As a result, the children consider me to be stingy”
“the lack of means testing or consideration of circumstances results in callous extraction of finances”
“I earn £20,000 a year my ex earns approx £60,000 I struggle to pay my bills and am denied access [by my ex] to my children. This should be taken into account”
“[the CMS/CSA calculation] has a perverse incentive to for the resident parent to keep contact as low as possible”
Jerry Karlin, Chair of Families Need Fathers (UK) says: “Our child maintenance system is poorly thought through and (perhaps unintentionally) actively undermines shared parenting. It discourages both parents from working and pushes many into severe hardship and poverty. For the sake of our children, it must be reformed.
It isn't just the moral mark of a civilised society that fatherhood should be respected and supported for the benefit of children after separation and divorce. There are shelves full of research findings that children do better when both parents are involved in their life. The tunnel vision of CMS and its various predecessors has done great damage to our children by polarising the interests of separated parents. Too many dads have been degraded and abused by the blunt instrument of the CMS in its present form.”
Ian Maxwell, National Manager of FNF Scotland added: "Fathers who willingly pay maintenance but then don't see their children are fed up with the notion that contact cannot be taken into consideration. By all mean chase up unpaid amounts vigorously but don't ignore the fathers who want to support their children and also see them."
FNF notes the content of a separate (unconnected) submission to the Select Committee by Dr Christine Davies setting out how low income Non Resident Parents struggle to pay when their child support payments represent marginal tax rates of 90% or higher - sometimes even above 100%. In other words, what they are expected to pay can exceed what they earn in certain circumstances.