Durham Legal Services' response to: "What Child Support System should we have?"

Durham Legal Services
The Specialist Advice Agency

Senior Advisor: M W Smith, LL.B

Telephone 0191 5211123

8th August 2001

Dear Barry,

With regards to your question," What Child Support System should we have?".

Here are a few points to get things started.

Remove any financial incentive with the maintenance formula for over night shared care, the issue of Child Maintenance and Contact are two separate issues.

Many Non Residential Parent's spend thousands of pounds attempting to secure overnight stay, many Parents With Care will not permit over night care because of the reductions in their maintenance payments. I honestly believe that if this element was removed, many Qualifying Children would benefit from spending more time with the Non Residential Parent. Yes, there are cases where a Parent With Care would stop contact regardless of maintenance payments, however to produce a workable system we would need to look at the population as whole, based on the views of many of the Clients' using DLS many would benefit and encourage this situation.

The other side to the argument is, "Why should the Non Residential Parent have to pay when they have the Child for at least part of the time". It is a valid point, however the Parent With Care still has to maintain a home for the Child to return to, even when the Child is staying with the other parent, (Gas, Electricity, Water), whereas the Non Residential Parent would already be maintaining a home regardless.

Yes I can hear you saying, " that's fine, but what about equal shared care". If I may I would like to discuss that issue a bit later in this brief.

Maintenance Calculations.

I am in favour of a percentage based system, however NOT the new proposed system.
Instead of a 10-20-25% split depending on the number of children, I would look at a percentage system based upon two calculations basic CSA, and a court based maintenance assessment.

£200:00 net Income 10%
£250:00 net Income 15%
£300:00 net Income 20%
£350:00 net Income 25%

Again this is only a guide, more precise percentages would be needed.

Basic maintenance would be set by the CSA only to include the Non Residential Parent's first £350:00 per week net Income. This would be carried out by local benefit officers.

A newly reformed maintenance Court would set additional maintenance only for those Non Residential Parent's with an income in excess of £350:00. (Again only a guide)

EXAMPLE: - Mike has two Children, his income is £700:00 per week.

Basic maintenance £350:00 @ 25% = £87:50, Mike would now be contacted by the reformed Court System and is asked to make an offer for maintenance, Mike agrees to pay £100:00 per week. The Parent With Care would be contacted with this offer and accepts, the maintenance payment is now secured under the Court based system.

If the Parent With Care does not accept the offer, the Non Residential Parent would pay the £87:50 Maintenance Order by the CSA, until the case was heard by the new Maintenance Court, any new award by the Court would be retrospective.

The new Maintenance Court would be very easy to establish, we already has it in place, i.e. The Appeals Service, although we would need to give the Maintenance Court freedom and discretion to examine all aspects of the case. But most importantly the Chairperson must have the same powers of a Magistrate. (Most people accept the decision of a Court Order)

Issues to be looked at:

  • New Families
  • Parent With Care's Income
  • Travel to work / Car Maintenance
  • Divorce Settlements
  • Other factors that the present system does not look at, in particular fair play and natural justice.

The new Maintenance Courts should have the same powers to deal with those Non Residential Parent's who simply refuse to pay maintenance as the Courts today have to deal with those who refuse to pay such liabilities as Council Tax.

Shared Care.

No basic maintenance should be payable where equal shared care exists, however either parent may apply to the Court for Court Maintenance if either parents income exceeds £350:00 (this will allow the Child to enjoy the wealth of both parents)

I know there are a number of flaws with these suggestions however it is simply a place to start any discussions.

Best Wishes,
Mike Smith.

Page last updated: 6 July, 2004 © Copyright M W Smith 2001