2000 Act - Variations - NRPs' new partners
The current CSA scheme causes a lot of anger because it takes into account
the income of the current ("new") partner (if any) of the non-resident
parent. It does so primarily to identify to what extent that partner can
contribute to certain costs - it does not require that partner actually
to pay child support. (For example, it would not increase the amount of
child support paid over the limit of 30% of net income). But this intrusion
and the fact that the amount can make a difference to the assessment is
The basic formula of the reformed scheme ignores that partner's income
(just as it ignores the income of the parent with care and any partner
of that person). This is likely to be welcomed by non-resident parents
and their partners, but may often be a source of complaint by parents
with care, especially if they suspect that games are being played. It
is possible in some cases for a "variation" to be applied which
takes into account such income (or other assets) of the new partner. (A
"variation" is similar to a "departure" under the
current scheme, although the details are significantly different because
of the different new formula).
Will this result in the re-introduction of examination of the incomes
of partners in the way that is currently resented? That is the topic being
discussed here. At the moment, this is just informed prediction, because
the details of how the variations procedure will work have not been published
(and may not have been designed).
The details are below. Here is a summary of the conclusions:
The intention is to keep the number of successful variations to less
than 25,000 per year - out of over a million cases. There are threshold
criteria intended to allow unsuitable applications to be dismissed early
on. This particular ground for a variation can't cover all cases
of earning partners - at most only a small fraction of them.
The initial test isn't that the NRP's partner earns. It is that the
NRP has a lifestyle inconsistent with the income used for calculation
purposes. This is a very important difference - if the NRP pays a
"respectable" amount, and the partner is actually paying for
other children, etc, this test should fail.
It may apply if the NRP hides his/her own income, but that is really
a separate topic. It is primarily intended for the case where the
NRP earns little and "controls" the partner's income or assets
- although it is unclear what that means. This may need case law
to establish the principles. It will be interesting to see whether it
applies to cases
where the NRP is motivated to give up work and stay at home to care
for the "relevant children" of the household.
Extracts from the legislation, with commentary
The Act itself
The Act itself is important, especially "Schedule
1 - Substituted Part I of Schedule 1 to the Child Support Act 1991"
for the description of a partner:
(4) In this Part of this Schedule, a person's "partner" is-
(a) if they are a couple, the other member of that couple;
(b) if the person is a husband or wife by virtue of a marriage entered
into under a law which permits polygamy, another party to the marriage
who is of the opposite sex and is a member of the same household.
5) In sub-paragraph (4)(a), "couple" means a man and a woman
(a) married to each other and are members of the same household; or
(b) not married to each other but are living together as husband and
(So presumably standard social security rules apply, as in "living
together as husband and wife" fraud).
The Statutory Instrument
Most of the detail is in the Statutory Instrument The
Child Support (Variations) Regulations 2000. (Extracts from this are
This is what it says about NRP's partners - there is very little indeed.
First there is some material about the NRP or partner claiming tax credits.
That is not relevant here.
Then it is at regulation 20: "Life-style inconsistent with declared
20. - (1) Subject to paragraph (3), a case shall constitute a case
for the purposes of paragraph 4(1) of Schedule 4B to the Act where -
(a) the non-resident parent's liability to pay child support maintenance
under the maintenance calculation which is in force, or which has been
applied for or treated as applied for, is, or would be, as the case
may be -
[snip of some detail]
(b) the Secretary of State is satisfied that the income which has been,
or would be, taken into account for the purposes of the maintenance
calculation is substantially lower than the level of income required
to support the overall lifestyle of the non-resident parent.
[snip of (2)]
(3) Paragraph (1) shall not apply where the Secretary of State is satisfied
that the lifestyle of the non-resident parent is paid for from -
[snip of (a), (b), (c)]
(d) the income of any partner of the non-resident parent, except where
the non-resident parent is able to influence or control the amount of
income received by that partner; or
(e) assets as defined for the purposes of regulation 18 of any partner
of the non-resident parent, or any income derived from such assets,
except where the non-resident parent is able to influence or control
the assets, their use, or income derived from them.
In other words, this part excludes the partner from consideration
in a variation, unless "... the non-resident parent is able to influence
or control the ..." (income or assets).
[snip of (4)]
(5) Where a variation on this ground is agreed to, the additional income
taken into account under regulation 25 shall be the difference between
the income which the Secretary of State is satisfied the non-resident
parent requires to support his overall lifestyle and the income which
has been or, but for the application of paragraph 4(1)(b) or 5(a) of
Schedule 1 to the Act, would be taken into account for the purposes
of the maintenance calculation, aggregated with any benefit, pension
or allowance which the non-resident parent receives other than any benefits
referred to in regulation 26(3).
And that is the end of the useful stuff about partners! Regulation 25
is important - "Effect on maintenance calculation - additional cases":
25. Subject to regulations 26 and 27, where the variation agreed to
is one falling within regulations 18 to 20 (additional cases), effect
shall be given to the variation in the maintenance calculation by increasing
the net weekly income of the non-resident parent which would otherwise
be taken into account by the weekly amount of the additional income
except that, where the amount of net weekly income calculated in this
way would exceed the capped amount, the amount of net weekly income
taken into account shall be the capped amount.
(26 is about the cap applied to net income at £2000 per week,
27 is general material that doesn't appear to provide more detail here).
So what does this mean? Certainly it means that if the NRP can't influence
or control the partner's income or assets, the latter can't be taken into
account. But it is unclear what that means. (Perhaps the legislators don't
know either, and are leaving their options open).
Then it doesn't actually say how much should be added to the NRP's income
if the NRP can influence or control - perhaps just the amount
concerned? But that is too vague to see how anyone is going to handle
it - certainly front line staff couldn't be expected to apply this without
a lot more very clear rules.
Can the CSA validly request the NRP's partner's details?
This is currently a matter of dispute. Many claim that informing the
CSA that the non-resident parent doesn't know the partner's details, and
has been denied this knowledge by the partner (perhaps invoking the Data
Protection Act, which appears to be a dubious ground) is sufficient to
stop the CSA pursuing the matter.
Will this apply when the information is required not for applying the
standard formula, but for applying a variation where the whole point is
that a discrepency has been identified?
The Act itself is 2000
Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act.
The relevant sections are:
5. Departure from usual rules for calculating maintenance.
6. Applications for a variation: further provisions.
7. Variations: revision and supersession.
Schedule 1 - Substituted Part I of Schedule 1 to the Child Support Act
The Statutory Instrument which provides most of the detail is The
Child Support (Variations) Regulations 2000.
The figure of no more than 25,000 variations per year, also a figure
of 21,000, was given by Angela Eagle in Standing
Committee F on Tuesday 1st February 2000 pm.