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Entries in child support (16)

Monday
Aug282017

Tribunal clarifies how shared care is decided in maintenance disputes

A recent Upper-tier Tribunal decision has clarified the position in child maintenance cases where both parents have equal amounts of child care.

The father in this case had been assessed by the Child Maintenance Service to pay weekly maintenance  because he cared for his child for 175 mights or more, even although there was an agreement that care should shared equally. The First Tier Tribunal agreed with this and also decided that because there were a number of nights when the child was in the father's care but did not stay at the father's address, this reduced his care to 172 nights, which meant it fell below the 175 nights threshold that would have halfed the maintenance liability.

The Upper Tribunal ruled that both aspects of this decision were wrong. The First Tier Tribunal had became unduly preoccupied with care proveded "overnight" as opposed to the "sharing of day-to-day care". In doing this it had failed to apply regulation 50 of the 2012 regulations, which sets the parameters for determining whether a parent is considered to be sharing care or is deemed to be non-resident and therefore liable to pay maintenance. 

Although regulations 46 and 47 relate to calculating the number of overnights in cases where care is not shared, the Upper Tribunal ruled that they should only be applied if the parent is being considered as non-resident under regulation 50.  In this case the agreement or court order for shared care meant that overnights didn't need to be calculated. Overnight care is not a trump card but is one factor to beconsidered along with others.

The Tribunal judge also commented that for overnight care to count it is a requirement that the child stays at the same address as the non-resident parent, but that need not be restricted to that parent's usual address.

Wednesday
Mar292017

Audit Office criticises child support changeover

A report from the National Audit Office makes strong criticism of various aspects of the Department of Work and Pension's (DWP) transfer to the new child maintenance system.  The closure of the 1993 and 2003 child maintenance schemes is going slower than planned, and there is a risk that arrears calculated on these earlier schemes on case closure and transfer to the 2013 scheme are inaccurate due to earlier problems in administration.

Of major concern to parents who are paying maintenance is the finding that the DWP does not tell non-resident parents that it will consider lowering repayments if they cause financial hardship. They do not tell people who have arrears about this option unless asked in order to encourage payment of arrears.

A recent survey carried out by FNF UK showed that financial hardship and the unreasonable nauture of some calculations was a major problem for many of thr fathers who contact us.  The failure to to allow for a hiugher income by the parent who receives maintenance and the discouragement of shared care are also major issues.

Jerry Karlin, Chair of FNF UK commented: “It is disgraceful that parents who don’t even earn enough money to pay tax or are on the minimum wage should be threatened with debt action and with the deduction of up to 40% of their net income from their wages. The threshold for making child maintenance has not been reviewed for almost 20 years. For many it’s not that they won’t pay, but simply that they can’t – you can’t get blood out of a stone.”

Thursday
Dec152016

Training session on the new child maintenance system

As the new system for child maintenance (CS3) comes into use for many families, FNF Scotland is holding a training session in Edinburgh on Tuesday 17th January from 7-9pm.

John Fotheringham, a Scottish family lawyer who is very experienced in child support issues, will cover the structure of the CS3 system and how it differs from the previous scheme that was run by the Child Support Agency.  He will also talk about how variations and shared care are dealt with in the new scheme and how aliment interfaces with child support, all mainly from the viewpoint of the person who pays maintenance.

Described in one legal guide as a "guru for child support cases", John once claimed that his best experience as a lawyer was "Winning three child support cases in a single day — two of them at the Tribunal and the third one by making the CSA run away."

Admission is free, but please book a place using this link.

Friday
Oct212016

Child maintenance system still undermines shared parenting

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.

Thursday
Jun042015

What the public thinks about child support

Newly published research into public attitudes about child support shows substantial public support for changes that are felt to be fairer than the current system, such as stating that the resident parent's (usually mother's) income should matter when deciding how much the other parent (usually father) should pay.

The current UK system and the one in various American states only looks at the father's income and takes no account of what the mother earns.  The 1993 UK Child Support scheme did pay some attention to the income of both parents, but this has disappeared in subsequent versions.

Professors Ellman and Marver from Arizona State University conducted studies over fifteen years, covering not only child support and alimony, but also the division of marital property, parenting time and marital fault.

The parenting time studies suggest the public, both men and women, prefer equal parenting time (or equally “shared parenting”), and that it is difficult to push them from that allocation, even in cases in which judges and custody evaluators would be likely to believe that shared parenting is not appropriate.

American respondents believed fathers should pay the same percentage of their income in child support whether their income was low or high, but believed that the percentage should be higher when the mother’s income was lower.

The UK public would require high-income dads to pay a higher percentage of their income in support, while the UK law generally applies the same percentage to high and low income dads.

Some responses also suggested that step-parent income should be taken into account, and if the parent who receives maintenance moves far away or remarries the maintenance should be reduced. (Child and Family Blog)