Agenda for the 21st Century
The 2000 Act's formula for the shared care case is seriously flawed:
This item proposes a fairer formula, similar to that used elsewhere in the world.
The UK's current child support system starts with a 2-stage process: 1st, use a very limited amount of information to determine who will pay whom; 2nd, use much more information to determine how much will be paid. (See below). So the fundamental logic of the UK's system has ruled out the possibility that this "much more information" could determine that the "very limited amount of information" has made an unfair or inappropriate decision about who should pay whom. The "very limited amount of information" is deliberately very limited, in order that the case can proceed quickly with stage 2. It doesn't include such information as income, ability to pay, or environmental factors such as the quality of house the child has with each parent, so it has nothing useful to do with ensuring that each parent supports the child in the most effective way.
Many nations and states avoid this blunder. So should the UK - the same information should (simultaneously) identify who should pay whom, and how much.
The fault here is that the UK, unlike many other countries, uses a 2-stage process in finding out what people pay.
Stage 1 is very simple, and determines who pays whom. (It chooses the PWC & NRP). It uses very little information - basically the amount of nights of care of each, and if these are equal it uses Child Benefit to identify the PWC. (The law explicitly uses the word "mother" - Child Benefit law, and by extension child support law, is explicitly sexist).
Stage 2 then uses lots of information, and decides how much is paid by the NRP to the PWC. But, as you say, the amount of information used is being reduced, and will ignore the PWC's income. So neither stage takes into account the relative incomes, and hence financial-caring potential, of both parents.
My criticism of this is that the matter of who pays whom is critical, and cannot fairly be determined using less information than how much they pay. Why should deciding that John will pay Mary use only a little information, but deciding that the amount is (say) £50 rather than £60 need lots? Note that if John received Child Benefit instead of Mary, she may pay him instead, and the discussion would be whether this should be £50 or £60 or whatever. (Think what it would be like if criminal trials weren't about deciding if the person was guilty - that was decided by the prosecution service. Instead, the trial was about the sentence!)
Many countries use a symmetrical 1-stage (3-substage) process:
So a better off mother looking after the child for 4 nights per week may pay a poorer father. And why not? At the equal-caring point, it comes down to incomes, which some disagree with but I feel is sensible. If one parent is truly absent, this works like the current approach, and parents on benefits would have zero assessment, so the poorest lone parents would be unaffected by this. This method sorts out better off (or near equal earning) parents, and handles shared care better. It is designed for the 21st Century.
Change the formula.
Note - it makes the terms PWC & NRP redundant! Many countries might
use "custodial parent", etc, in their child support system,
but that is the family court term, not a child support term. Or they talk
of the "obligor", etc - in other words, getting back to the
REAL meanings of the terms PWC & NRP, which is "payee" and
Why is a Laundromat a really bad place to pick up a woman?
|Page last updated: 5 July, 2004||© Copyright Barry Pearson 2003|