2000 articles - 2nd half
[ Previous | Next
The quotes provided are normally directly from the original article,
but typically whole sentences and paragraphs are omitted, often without
indicating where the omission is, but without altering the order of presentation.
In some cases people's names are removed, and replaced thus "[X]".
|Date & reference
||Extracts (not necessarily contiguous)
Paying the price of a second family
It's that time of year again when "Can I have . . ?"
or "May I go . . ?" or "Would you lend me . . ?"
becomes the early morning mantra of every new day.... Even with
only one mortgage to pay, one family car to run and the national
average of 2.4 offspring, it's a heavy responsibility for all but
the very well off. Loughborough University's Centre for Research
in Social Policy puts the price of each child from birth to 17 at
£54,000, or £3,200 per year, assuming they're educated
at non-fee-paying schools. Naturally, no one thinks of the hard
financial facts in the first flush of family life, but it is a wonder
so few people seem to consider them when they blithely fall in with
the notion that love is lovelier the second time around.
Every year some 85,000 families in Britain who have children under
the age of 16 go through the divorce courts. Usually the offspring
remain in the care of their mother. Generally their father takes
up with someone else and starts again. While there are exceptions
who remain involved and struggle to keep the kids in the manner
to which they are accustomed, given the necessarily reduced circumstances
which are the inevitable result of having to run two homes, a significant
number of fathers conveniently forget their responsibilities and
absent themselves, emotionally or financially or both.
The Child Support Agency was set up in unseemly haste in 1993 in
the atmosphere of the notorious speech made by the then Social Security
Secretary, Peter Lilley, at the previous year's Conservative Party
conference. He took Gilbert and Sullivan's Lord High Executioner
as his inspiration and intoned: "I've got a little list of
benefit offenders who I'll soon be rooting out . . . young ladies
who get pregnant to jump the housing list, and dads who won't support
the kids of ladies they have . . . kissed!"
The first head of the agency, Ros Hepplewhite, was a woman with
a crusading zeal. She had been dumped by her father as a child,
so had experienced the pain and poverty of abandonment. She described
her new organisation thus: "This is not an agency dealing with
a small and irresponsible element of society. This is a major social
change. Paying maintenance will be like paying income tax."
Her optimism was misplaced. The CSA's unwieldy methods of calculating
payments, and reputation for sheer incompetence, are now legendary.
In 1997, when the agency was at its lowest point, 28 per cent of
its 10,000 staff resigned in one year.
In addition, a new group of individuals will be brought under the
Child Support Agency's remit. It has, in the past, dealt primarily
with parents who come within the benefit system. Others were free
to utilise their services if they wished, although only a small
percentage of the present total are parents with care who are neither
on jobseekers' allowance, income support nor family credit. Under
the new regulations, any parent who has already made an agreement
through the courts, previously considered binding, will be able
to appeal to the CSA, have a court order overturned and draw up
a new contract. Family lawyers are crying foul. Some balk at the
very idea of the new percentage system. Currently the courts work
out maintenance on "reasonable need", and it is effectively
capped at £5,000 a year for each child, apart from school
fees which are considered separately. What, some lawyers are asking,
would happen if Bill Gates were an Englishman with three children
and charged a percentage of his earnings? He would end up paying
the equivalent of the gross national product of a small nation each
Others are concerned about the opportunity to tear up "clean
break" arrangements worked out with the help of a solicitor
and mediation, perhaps where mum gets the family home and dad reduced
maintenance payments as a consequence. We might suspect a not too
carefully hidden agenda here. Lawyers are notoriously jealous of
their hold over these matters and, if the CSA is in a position to
take them over, there'll be less work for the legal profession.
The Solicitors Family Law Association and the Law Society predict
even more bitterness than usual if these court orders can be overturned.
The main benefits will be to the real victims in all this mess:
the children. And, maybe, if dad or mum - there are a number of
women who are currently being chased for maintenance - can work
out clearly in advance what the true cost of pastures new might
be, they'll pause and ask themselves honestly, as responsible adults,
whether the romantic fantasy of a fresh start with a second family
is really all it's cracked up to be.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Supporting children after divorce
From ROSEMARY CARTER, the Chairman of the Solicitors Family Law
Sir, Contrary to Jenni Murray's view (Comment, July 18), the new
Child Support Bill will not enable any parent to have an existing
court order overturned. The new proposals are not retrospective,
and only those parents that receive a court order after the provisions
in the Bill come into force will be able to seek a reassessment
from the CSA, 14 months after the court order was made.
It is too simplistic to argue that child maintenance should be
the means by which the lifestyle of a child of wealthy parents is
maintained. Child maintenance is only one of a package of measures
that is considered when a family separates or divorces and it is
inappropriate to consider one aspect of that package in isolation.
That isolated approach is one of the fundamental flaws of both the
existing and proposed child support systems and one of the main
reasons why the parties and the courts should continue to be allowed
to consider cases in the round and why there should not be the opportu-
nity to upset carefully drafted agreements or orders at a later
Clean break settlements have the benefit of providing certainty
for all parties on divorce. In most cases, they provide a home for
the women and the children and enable the father to make a fresh
start. Given the unsettling nature of a relationship breakdown,
the certainty a clean break settlement can deliver should be supported,
not undermined. It does not remove the child's entitlement to maintenance
but that entitlement should be considered in the light of all the
circumstances, not just the father's income.
The Solicitors Family Law Association, contrary to the impression
given in the article, has always supported the broad thrust of the
reforms. We have long argued for a simplification of the formula
and agree with many of the other proposed changes. However, along
with the vast majority of the other organisations that work with
people involved in relationship breakdowns, we believe that aspects
of the reforms have not been fully thought through and that they
have the potential, in turn, to create an adversarial process that
will undermine agreements and court orders and cause yet more difficulties
you trust a man to take the pill?
Men could be popping their own version of the contraceptive pill
within five years - but will it catch on, and more to the point
will women trust their partners to take it?
Men could be popping their own version of the contraceptive pill
within five years - but will it catch on, and more to the point
will women trust their partners to take it? Edinburgh University
scientists say the first clinical trials of the male pill suggest
it is 100% effective, with no harmful side effects.
Would you take it? Will it lead to couples being lax about protecting
themselves against STDs? Is it time men took more responsibility
for contraception? Tell us what you think.
(The debate below has been pruned to points which relate to
the CSA. Many men will take the pill, rather than risk
up to 18 years payments via the CSA! See a
discussion about this topic).
I think it is about time men had an equal standing on whether their
want a baby or not. This pill will enable men not to be entrapped
by women who want them to be fathers.
Why are women commenting on this anyhow? This is an issue about
men's rights and freedoms. Why should "we" trust you?
Of course men can be trusted to take the pill.... The guys are
relieved because at last they no longer have to trust the women.
Martin Lewis, UK
Most men I know would DEFINATELY take it. Who wants an unwanted
baby or the paying out of maintenance? Women who say they could
trust men to take it haven't got a clue of how a man's mind works.
This pill means EVEN less responsibility.
Personally, I have been waiting for a "Male Pill" for
years. Nobody wants an unplanned pregnancy! I have known more than
one single mother who has become pregnant while using the pill....
Men have to deal with the lifetime of guilt and the 18 years of
child support for their "mistake". Once the pill becomes
available, I'll certainly be using it.
Andy Bonazzoli, USA
Everything in the news points towards the male population being
irresponsible and lying about taking birth-control measures. However,
the media is not so quick to suggest that some small percentage
of the female population also lies about taking the female contraceptive
pill. Given that pills are, or will soon be available for both sexes,
should the question not be; "Would you trust your partner to
take the pill" rather than focusing on one sex?
How many men have ended up as Dads because women decided that they
wanted a child and be damned; and told a little 'white lie'. Giving
men the pill would give them empowerment over their own bodies and
the reproduction process...something women will not like.
I personally would feel much happier having the responsibility
in my hands than that of some airhead woman. The number of times
I've heard that they are on the pill, just to get me in bed is amazing.
This gives men the freedom of choice and prevents the female of
the species trapping us for the rest of our lives. This is a fantastic
development for men's right to choose.
The title of this forum misses an important point. The wonderful
point about the male pill is that both sexes will be in control
of their fertility. This could mean the end of a woman unilaterally
and secretly coming off the pill and intentionally becoming pregnant
without any reference to her partner.
Andrew C, UK
Can you trust a man to take the pill? I should say so! In this
age of supposed "equality" men are expected to cough up
to provide for their kids, even if the mother tricked them into
becoming a father (claiming THEY were on the pill). Young men will
now be able to protect themselves against the gold diggers who think
they can have a baby and get someone else to pay for it!
Jon Ranwell, UK
I'm as keen to avoid being hounded by the CSA for maintenance payments
as any potential sexual partner is to avoid carrying an unexpected
Ed Cook, London, England
Errors by CSA 'costing millions'
BY JILL SHERMAN, WHITEHALL EDITOR
THE Child Support Agency came under renewed attack yesterday after
it was disclosed that errors had been made in a third of all maintenance
Sir John Bourn, Comptroller and Auditor General, qualified the accounts
for the sixth year running after estimating that errors in underpayment
and overpayments amounted to £59 million. One in two payments
made by absent parents in 1999-2000 were wrong due to an even higher
rate of error in previous assessments. Of the £473.6 million
paid out by absent parents, £8 million was in overpayments
and £51 million underpayments.
A report from the National Audit Office gives a warning that CSA
reforms due to come into force in April 2002 could be jeopardised
because of the legacy of inaccuracy. The reforms will replace the
current complicated system of calculating maintenance with a simplified
flat rate levy depending on the number of children. Sir John said:
"I continue to be concerned at the high level of error in maintenance
assessments. As a consequence, the Exchequer is paying out substantial
sums to compensate individuals who have suffered undue hardship
Lorna Bourke answers readers' money worries
Letters to Lorna
THIS week the new Child Support Act received the Royal Assent.
Its provisions will affect about one million lone parents eligible
to receive child support from an absent partner or former spouse
- usually the father. It is also likely to provide the minimum benchmark
against which all Court orders for child maintenance are made -
even where there is agreement between the two parents. Courts are
unlikely to look kindly on divorcing couples where the father is
trying to pay less than the new Child Support Act levels.
Because the CSA formula for calculating child maintenance is usually
regarded as the very minimum on which divorcing parents can agree,
divorce lawyers and middle-class couples feared that the new, simpler
calculations, if applied to court orders, could lead to those with
very large incomes paying massive amounts in child maintenance.
This is unlikely to happen. On July 17, it was announced that the
Child Support Act would provide for overall maxima of £300
a week for one child, £400 for two and £500 for three
or more. Emma Harte, a divorce solicitor with Gordon Dadds, said:
"Few maintenance orders for children are ever more than £10,000
a year per child but, among the better off, the straight percentage
calculation was a cause for concern. But the imposition of a cash
ceiling will remove the fear of unlimited child maintenance for
Both the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and One Parent Families
support the new legislation. Simon Osborne of CPAG said: "The
simpler formula for assessment will also lead to more resources
being applied to enforcement. We hope that in fact most single parents
will be better off." A spokeswoman for One Parent Families
said: "The system will be transparent, easy to understand and
much, much simpler to operate, which should ensure that more money
actually changes hands and gets to the families who need it. The
reforms should mean that more lone parents get more of what is owed
to them. But this will happen only if the CSA can use the opportunity
to focus on enforcement."
Money Worries Led to Police Officer's Death
Child Support Agency took huge amounts from wages
A "popular and well-liked" police officer killed himself
with poisonous car fumes at his home in Murrow after suffering from
stress-related illness and financial worries. Wisbech coroner William
Morris recorded a verdict of suicide into the death of 47-year-old
British Transport police officer [X] at an inquest on Monday and
called the case a "very sad matter."
Mr Morris referred to an earlier statement made by Mr [X]'s partner
during the inquest which stated the Child Support Agency was taking
"huge amounts" from his wages, leaving him only a small
amount to live on. She said Mr [X] was under a lot of stress and
worry and found it difficult to cope on his wages which put "a
strain on the relationship." The inquest heard how Mr [X] had
tried to kill himself last year with an overdose and in another
incident was found near a river after drinking brandy. A British
Transport police inspector, David Spence ... told the inquest how
Mr [X], who was involved in divorce proceedings with his wife, was
sometimes absent from work because of stress-related illness and
had received visits from both himself and the force medical officer.
He said the payments to the CSA were "greatly disturbing"
Mr [X], along with concerns about his daughter, and he was in difficulties
with his mortgage payments.
demands 'drove father to kill himself'
BY ALEXANDRA FREAN, SOCIAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT
THE fiancée of a British Transport policeman who gassed
himself in his car has blamed the Child Support Agency for driving
him to suicide. [Y] said yesterday that [X], who had two teenage
children, killed himself because of the "impossible" demands
made of him by the agency.
Mr [X], 47, from Murrow Banks, Cambridgeshire, was asked to pay
£1,217 a month from his salary of £1,798 towards the
maintenance of his children. He told friends that the money he was
left with to support himself was not sufficient to allow him to
buy birthday presents for his children.
Mr [X]'s suicide brings to 55 the number of deaths linked to the
CSA. The agency has admitted the possibility of potential connections
with two deaths. The campaign group NACSA (National Association
for Child Support Action) has documented 42 suicides and eight murders
that it believes can be laid at the agency's door.
Just say no to sex, teenage boys to be told
BY ALEXANDRA FREAN, SOCIAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT
BOYS who brag about their sex lives, real or imagined, are to be
targeted by a government health education campaign aimed at reducing
teenage pregnancy. Ministers are keen to help teenage boys to resist
the pressure put on them to have sex by friends who make exaggerated
claims about their own sexual prowess.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said that many teenage
boys were not as sexually active as they claim to be. "Only
a third of boys aged under 16 are sexually active. Many boys need
to be given help turning down sex," she said.
The campaign will remind those who really are sexually active that
they could face hefty maintenance bills from the Child Support Agency
as soon as they start work if they father a child and then do not
stay around to support the mother.
CSA 'must pay out more for errors'
BY JILL SHERMAN, WHITEHALL EDITOR
COMPENSATION payments of up to £1,000 should be paid to Child
Support Agency clients who experience "gross inconvenience"
through errors or delays, the CSA watchdog says today. Anne Parker,
the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) for the CSA says in her annual
report that the maximum payment of £250 for maladministration
is not enough: "It is essential that the agency and its staff
continue to recognise the very significant impact which failures
in communication, mistakes and delay have on its clients."
The number of complaints about the CSA has fallen in the last year
from 1,536 to 1,226, but the handling time for routine investigations
by the ICE has risen by nine weeks to over eight months. More extensive
investigations average 51 weeks. Part of the reason for the delays
was that the CSA would not provide basic information to the ICE.
CSA PUTS HOUSE IN ORDER, AS COMPLAINTS FALL
BY VICTORIA MITCHELL
COMPLAINTS to the Child Support Agency fell by a quarter last year.
The CSA, which deals with millions of child maintenance cases each
year, has faced a wide range of criticisms about the speed and accuracy
of its efforts since it started work in April 1993. However its
watchdog, the Independent Case Examiner Anne Parker, noted a marked
drop in complaints in the past year but insisted there was still
room for improvement.
In her annual report, Mrs Parker said: "This year has been
marked by improved co-operation between the Child Support Agency
and my office which recognised our mutual interest in responding
well to customer complaints." She noted, however, that delay,
error and poor communications were still the most prominent themes
among complainants. She added: "It is essential that the agency
and its staff continue to recognise the very significant impact
which failures in communications, mistakes and delay have on its
The CSA has faced repeated criticism over its hard-line tactics
in seeking maintenance payments from parents. Since its introduction
in 1993 demands made by the CSA are understood to have driven a
number of people to take their own lives. The financial pressure
became too much for some. An inquest heard earlier this month that
47-year-old father of two, PC Terry Brett, committed suicide at
his Cambridgeshire home in January after being driven to despair
by the crippling payments. And the year following its introduction
saw a number of people take their lives because of the payment demands.
In March 1994 civilian police worker Derek Atkin, 37, of Grimsby,
Humberside, was found dead in his car after being contacted by the
CSA over maintenance for his two sons. A few days earlier, DSS administrative
assistant Sean Lyford-Smith, 23, was found hanged at his home after
facing a trebled maintenance bill. Earlier in the January, an estranged
husband contacted by the CSA, was charged with murdering his wife.
The 42-year-old man from Wales was later found slumped in a fume-filled
car after his wife was stabbed to death.
WEBSITE FORCED BY DSS TO DELETE CALLS TO VIOLENCE
BY PAUL KELSO
The Department of Social Security was last night accused of using
big brother tactics after a campaign group opposed to the child
support agency was forced to remove inflammatory material, including
incitements to violence against CSA staff and the name and address
of an agency employee, from its website.
The National Association for Child Support Action, which campaigns
for the closure of the CSA, deleted the material from its site at
www.nacsa.org.uk after Anita James, the official solicitor for the
DSS, wrote to the organisation's internet service provider complaining
about material appearing on the website's bulletin boards. The offending
content, posted by users of the site, included messages suggesting
that opponents of the CSA throw excrement and sulphuric acid at
agency employees and attack them with broken glass, as well as giving
the name and address of a CSA employee.
Nacsa, which does not itself endorse violent action against CSA
employees, has said it will remove the bulletin boards on which
the messages appeared next week. The agency's co-ordinator Neale
Sheldon said he felt that the DSS action was motivated by government
antipathy towards his organisation. "Since the news of the
latest CSA-related suicide and the new Child Support Act being approved
by parliament at the beginning of August the amount of people visiting
our website and becoming full members has been overwhelming....
Mr Sheldon said Nacsa was willing to delete items from the website
but would not close it down.
Threat to close anti-CSA website
BY ALEXANDRA FREAN, SOCIAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT
LAWYERS acting for the Government have threatened action to shut
down a website which included a posting inciting single parents
to throw acid in the face of Child Support Agency staff and to damage
CSA premises. The site, run by a group of single parents calling
themselves the National Association for Child Support Action (NACSA),
who are opposed to the CSA, also contained a threat of harm against
a member of CSA staff on one of its discussion forums.
The Department for Social Security warned the NACSA's Internet
service provider that the material "may breach criminal law"
and that it could face court action to shut it down. Within hours
the offending material was removed, after which a DSS spokeswoman
said it would allow the site to stay providing no similar messages
were added. Neale Sheldon, a NACSA spokesman, said the anonymous
messages could have been sent by anyone. He said the organisation
was totally opposed to anyone committing violence against CSA staff.
Melanie Phillips visits the London estate where men are increasingly
excluded by the rise of a self-reliant matriarchy ruled by single
We're in charge: mothers on the Keir Hardie estate, where men
are redundant both at work and at home, and women do not even want
Queens of the lone-parent ghetto
On the Keir Hardie estate in Canning Town, east London, the tiny
front gardens are a testimonial to the resilience of the human spirit.
Carefully tended, these orderly scraps of ground bloom in the mean
streets of one of the country's poorest neighbourhoods. These houses
and flats arose from the ashes of the blitz. Rebuilt, the area was
then shattered by the catastrophic unemployment that followed the
collapse of the docks. Now, this community is threatened by a still-greater
devastation from within - a gender war, in which men have found
themselves redundant not only at work but at home.
This was illustrated starkly by the experience of 27-year-old Steve,
a personable young man who works as a gardener. He had got engaged
to his girlfriend Sharon five years ago. "She said from the
start she loved me and wanted a baby, so I said okay. We got engaged
and she fell pregnant quite quickly." They put down a deposit
on a house. But then Sharon's mother, herself a single parent, turned
against Steve and Sharon decided she needed her mother more. Steve
not only lost his proposed home but was replaced by Sharon's mother,
who moved into the new house instead with Sharon and baby Justin.
"It was heartbreaking," he said. "I went and saw
Justin when he was born and I was over the moon. Sharon and her
mum allowed me to see the baby for an hour twice a week. I said
I wanted some time of my own with him and to bring him back to see
my mum and dad, but her mum was putting her under pressure."
Steve eventually got a court order which allows him to bring Justin,
now four, to his parents' home for three hours on a Sunday and to
visit him at Sharon's once a week.
Steve's mother, who works in a shop, says the problem is that Sharon
feels indebted to her mother because she brought her up alone. "Her
mother is a manipulative single parent who makes Sharon feel guilty,"
she said. However, this was not the first time Steve had family
problems. It was the third time he had fathered a child.
When he was 22, Steve went to a party and got very drunk. He met
Sandra and spent the night with her and within three weeks she told
him she was pregnant. "She said, 'I don't know you but I want
the baby.' The day she had the baby her sister rang my mum. It was
a real shock." Indeed, Steve didn't believe baby Chloe was
his until a DNA test showed that she probably was. Sandra has demanded
that he pay for the child's upkeep in cash rather than go through
the Child Support Agency, almost certainly because she is fiddling
Steve has seen Chloe a few times, although it's been a year since
he saw her last. He points dispassionately to her photograph on
the wall. "Sandra met a bloke and said, 'That's it, I'd rather
you didn't see her.' I've got no bonding with Chloe; I feel closer
to my nephew and niece." Throughout this narrative, Steve has
presented himself as a victim. There is no suggestion that his own
behaviour was irresponsible; the question of whether he should have
got married before risking having any children is batted aside with
Child Support Changes -- An Improvement?
By Jane Mack
Did you know that there are now an estimated 1.6 million lone parents
in the UK? It's a lot, isn't it? And 90% of them are lone mothers,
about half of whom are on benefit of some kind.
It's been nearly 10 years since the Child Support Act was introduced
and it's been accepted for a very long time that the whole thing
was a complete mess. The Bill was whizzed through Parliament with
only the skeleton principle -- that absent parents should financially
support their children -- being debated. It was left to the civil
servants to sort out the details and being lovers of red tape, the
result was a bureaucratic nightmare. So much so that the Child Support
Agency spent more time dealing with re-assessments and appeals than
chasing those who were in arrears or refusing to pay.
The new rules are certainly much easier to understand, but there
are some caveats that have been introduced which are likely to cause
as many rows between parents as the Act of 1991 managed to do.
For a start, the income of the resident mother will not be taken
into consideration, nor will that of a new partner. You might think
that's fair enough -- just because the mother earns a fair whack,
that doesn't negate the responsibility owed by the absent father.
However, the lone mother could earn huge amounts each year and still
demand, and be entitled to, up to 25% of the absent father's income.
What's worse is that these maintenance payments can be reduced
on a sliding scale depending on how often that absent father sees
the child. For example, if the child stays for 175 nights or more
throughout the year, the payments could be halved. Again, that's
fair enough on the face of -- it if the father is looking after
the child for half the year, then he should only pay half. But what
if the resident mother can't afford to lose the full maintenance
payment? It would be in her interests to deny contact and in his
to pursue it. Won't that lead to yet more arguments between the
parents? These factors also mean that, if both parents shared residence
of the children AND earned exactly the same amount, the parent regarded
as "absent" would still have to pay the parent with the
legal Residence Order.
It seems to me that the new laws will cause just as much resentment
as the previous law. And while there's no doubt that changes to
the Child Support laws are long overdue and should improve things
for the lone mother who needs financial help from the father, the
new system is not exactly encouraging for fathers who already do
THE LAW THAT SPLIT A FAMILY
BY MARK BROWN
My children, four-month old baby Ethan and his two-year-old sister,
Cara, were born in the same Glasgow hospital to the same mother,
yet Ethan has full British citizenship rights, while Cara does not.
As so often in such cases, this bizarre situation is not the result
of one bad law, but the combination of two. At the root of the problem,
in the eyes of UK law, is the fact that I and my Australian partner,
Nicole, choose to remain unmarried. A spokesman for the Home Office
confirmed that Britain still considers the children of unmarried
parents to be illegitimate. Where parents are not married, the authorities
recognise only the mother as parent. So although I'm a British citizen
and my name appears on the birth certificates of both children,
my nationality has no bearing on the nationality of my kids.
The continuation of British statutes on illegitimacy also carry
serious implications for the wider working of the law. Amidst all
the talk of citizens' "rights and responsibilities", scant
attention appears to have been paid to the contradictions created
by the state's rulings on unmarried parents. Unmarried mothers,
as the only recognised parent, would appear to be carrying even
more legal responsibilities for their children than married women.
Unmarried fathers, on the other hand, still have legally enforceable
responsibilities (for example, under the regulations of the Child
Support Agency) without having the same parental rights as married
THE SEPARATION GAME: UNREASONABLE BEHAVIOUR. ALIMONY PAYMENTS.
BITTER CUSTODY BATTLES
CAMILLA REDMOND REPORTS
Your marriage is on the rocks and your misery is absolute. What
do you do next? Call the cameras in, if you follow the lead of the
four couples featured in Channel 4's Break Up, which starts tonight.
On the surface, a fly-on-the-wall documentary series about divorce
negotiations would seem to be just another in the series of cheap-to-make
real-life programmes that have flooded our screens in recent years,
their Reithian values seemingly in inverse proportion to their ratings
figures. And Channel 4, after all, brought us Big Brother, the colossus
of the genre.
Jane and Graham, the subjects of the first film, start on a course
of mediation on the advice of their solicitors. 'We all love happy
endings, but usually it's too late for reconciliation when people
come for mediation,' says Ruth Smallacombe, a mediator and a governor
of the UK College of Family Mediators, who served as a consultant
on the series. 'This is not relationship counselling. The best we
can do as mediators is to help people to think about the implications
financial and practical of the decision they have already made,
and get the appropriate support, particularly if there are children
involved.' In the mediation sessions Jane and Graham are seen working
out their financial arrangements, how things will be divided up,
and discussing custody of their three small children. The mediators
encourage both husband and wife to articulate their feelings and,
when the atmosphere becomes heated, intervene to suggest how certain
points of issue might be resolved.
Worse is to follow. Having received a letter from the Child Support
Agency telling him how much he will be expected to pay Jane every
month, Graham announces that this means he will have to rethink
all the arrangements that were agreed in the mediation sessions.
The film ends with Graham flying off on holiday with a new girlfriend,
and the news that Jane will be taking him to court to seek financial
One parent, many choices
Child support still not child's play
Changes at the CSA may make claims simpler, but justice may be
Margaret Dibben explains why
The Child Support Agency has more foes than friends among both
people claiming maintenance and those paying it. The formula for
calculating child support payments is complex and can include up
to 144 separate computations. Philip Rutter, matrimonial partner
with solicitor Collyer-Bristow, says: 'The formula is so complex
that well over half the assessments are wrong.' From April 2002,
the law will change with the intention of simplifying the system,
but it is already being criticised. The lawyer says: 'For some people
it is a good thing. For others it is going to be a nightmare and
create greater inequalities than there are at present.'
The new formula, like the old, works on the basis that one parent
has care of the children and the other does not.... But, says Rutter:
'While the new formula sounds sensible, it is too simple. It does
not take account of the income earned by the parent with care, making
a mockery of the established principle that both parents should
make a financial contribution to the upkeep of their children if
they can.' A mother with care may earn more than the father, yet
her income will not be taken into account: 'She may end up with
the lion's share of the capital because she will have the children
most of the time, and he is stuck with a bit of capital but having
to fund a large mortgage so he has a home big enough for himself
and for the children to visit.'
Rutter says the new formula:
- Precludes formal private arrangements between parents - forcing
them eventually to go to the CSA, and unravelling existing binding
- Reduces the amount of support when the child stays overnight with
the paying parent, possibly leading to custody battles.
- Does not take into account any childcare costs or school fees
that a paying parent may already make.
- Will not take into account a paying parent's major expenses, such
as mortgage, commuting or the costs of a new family (although having
other children will mean a slight reduction).
- Does not take into account the capital resources of either parent,
so that someone can have vast investments but pay nothing if they
have no job.
YOUR PROBLEMS: WHO WILL HANDLE MY SON'S CASH?
BY MARGARET DIBBEN
I AM a single parent with a court order for maintenance payments
for my 15- year-old son, arranged in 1991. I receive pounds 129
a month, plus pounds 30 recently agreed voluntarily. I understood,
when the Child Support Agency was established in 1993, that it would
take over all agreements arranged through the courts. Is this still
THE original idea was that the courts would cease to have jurisdiction,
and all applications to vary court orders would be made to the CSA,
although this has not happened in practice. But under new legislation,
from 2002 the CSA alone will have jurisdiction to determine child
maintenance. It is believed that, for existing court orders, jurisdiction
will remain with the courts for one year after the new law takes
effect. Then it, too, will go to the CSA alone.
Children 'must have equal access' to both parents after divorce
By David Bamber, Home Affairs Correspondent
THE Government is to demand for the first time that the children
of divorced or separated parents do not lose contact with their
fathers. The Home Office has funded a guide, to be issued to all
separating or divorcing parents, which will explain that children
need access to both parents equally. The booklet will be distributed
to all parents who use the family courts.
Paul Boateng, the Home Office minister, has written the strongly
worded preface for the guide in which he says: "The distress
and damage done to children when parents separate can be reduced
if they retain strong and loving bonds with both parents."
The guide comes after Sir Bob Geldof, the Live Aid organiser and
former rock star, personally lobbied Mr Boateng for a change in
the law following his bitter custody battle with his late wife Paula
The guide will not change the law, but it will send out a signal
that the Government believes that children must see their fathers.
Critics claim that it is all "spin" and that the law must
be altered to give male parents a legal right to see their offspring
in almost every circumstance following a separation. Families Need
Fathers, a pressure group set up 26 years ago to campaign for fairer
treatment for men, believes that for years courts have routinely
given custody of children to their mothers while restricting access
for fathers. Many men think that the entire judicial process is
weighted against them. The situation has worsened since the introduction
of the Child Support Agency. Many fathers have been outraged that
they are funding their children's upbringing without any contact.
Sue Secker, the guide's author and a research associate attached
to the Policy Research Group at University College, Northampton,
said that it was aimed at bringing about "much needed changes
to policies and practices".... The Guide to Shared Parenting
After Separation, funded by the Home Office's Family Policy Unit,
makes it explicit for the first time that it is in the child's best
interests to maintain contact with both parents, not just the mother.
(THE NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY): CHILD SUPPORT BILL IS PASSED
BY MARY MINIHAN
A proposal to allow courts in Northern Ireland to withdraw driving
licences from parents who refuse to pay child support has been criticised
by the leader of the Women's Coalition. Ms Monica McWilliams was
speaking as the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill
was debated in Stormont yesterday. 'There are huge concerns here
that I believe have human rights implications. Removing the driving
licence from individuals is extremely punitive,' she said. She feared
that parents who lost their licences could lose their jobs.
The Social Development Minister, Mr Maurice Morrow (DUP), said
the Bill would simplify the existing system. 'Mothers and their
children will get what they are due and get it quickly.'
Dr Ian Paisley (DUP) welcomed the Bill as a 'definite step forward'.
He said he had 'never found an agency that acted more like a Gestapo'
than the Child Support Agency. The Bill was passed.
he's richer, she's poorer
Impact of marriage break-up does not hit both partners equally,
Divorce makes men richer and women poorer. The finding has astonished
researchers involved in a major study of the effects over time on
the partners of a failed marriage, and confounds the common belief
that both partners suffer financially. The research tracked 10,000
people over a decade and found that men's disposable income increases
by an average of 15 per cent after divorce, while women see theirs
fall by around 28 per cent, mirroring the average gain they experience
on marrying. 'Men bring more, economically speaking, to relationships
and walk away with more, too,' said Dr Jonathan Scales, a research
fellow at the Institute of Social and Economic Research, which carries
out the British Household Panel Survey with the University of Essex.
The sharp difference in earnings between the sexes partly explains
why women see their incomes fall so dramatically after divorce.
Unmarried women earn, on average, around 14 per cent less than male
colleagues. 'There are also certainly divorced men who are getting
their children brought up on the cheap,' said Scales, citing the
Child Support Agency's report that only 48 per cent of absent fathers
regularly pay full child support, while 29 per cent pay nothing
Gay Cox, a divorce expert at Family Mediation Scotland, said she
had seen many cases where men's incomes have increased after their
divorce. 'The earning capacity of divorced men increases for many
reasons. There is such a fear of ending up poorer that newly divorced
men frequently work their backs off to increase their earning capacity,
taking advantage of the fact that there is now nothing to stop them
working 18-hour days.' This work binge is often spurred by a fear
that, if they lapse in their financial commitments, the men's former
spouses may resort to using children as emotional blackmail, she
To love, honour and pay up
Almost half the marriages in Britain end in divorce, but the last
few months have produced a dramatic jump in numbers. This sudden
spate reflects changes in rules on splitting pensions at divorce,
which take effect from 1 December. "Move now while old rules
last," is the motto for most of the men - and it is men - who
are making the break.
Pensions are only one asset, and the younger people are, the smaller
and less significant pensions will be in any settlement. The biggest
issues will be provision for children living at home, how long the
marriage has lasted and the overall contribution - not just financial
- they have made to it. Normally wives receive custody of the children
and their housing needs come first. They will live in the family
house, though if it is particularly large the courts can give part
of its value to the ex-husband. But often he can only "cash
in" his share when the place is sold, after the children have
grown up and moved away.
So much for the lump sum settlement. But maintenance, or regular
payments, will normally come into the picture if children living
at home are involved, particularly if they are young and the mother
has given up a job to look after them. The couple can always agree
a figure themselves as part of the divorce settlement. But if there
are any disagreements, the government's Child Support Agency will
make a decision on how much income should move from husband to wife,
taking into account their respective incomes and the ages of the
How to divorce a millionaire
When it comes to divorce, the role of wife and mother has, for
the first time, been given equal value to that of the family breadwinner
in a groundbreaking judgment by the House of Lords. Five law lords
last week acknowledged that the family courts had not kept pace
with the times, and laid down guidelines which could see wives in
"big money" divorces successfully laying claim to half
of the family's joint assets.
The judgment, described as "staggering" by one family
lawyer, comes at a time of uncertainty for divorcing couples. From
December 1, new pension- sharing arrangements come into force which
will, for the first time, allow wives to split their husbands' pensions
to create a new pension for themselves. At the same time, family
lawyers are warning all divorcing couples that reforms to the Child
Support Agency will make decisions over child maintenance unpredictable,
even though they don't come into force for another 18 months.
Who cares wins
The novelist Ian McEwan won custody of his sons last week against
the wishes of his former wife. He is one of an increasing number
of men willing to fight to keep their children after divorce.
Margarette Driscoll reports
One of the hardest-fought separations ever to come before the courts
reached its final chapter last week: the novelist Ian McEwan won
custody of his children after a lengthy battle with his former wife,
Penny Allen. The author of such dark novels as The Cement Garden
and The Comfort of Strangers became one of a growing number of men
who, against the odds, keep their children after their marriages
Allen had sued for divorce in 1994, and at first they both retained
access to their sons, William, now 17, and Gregory, 15. But when
Allen moved to France to pursue her career as a meditation tutor
and faith healer, she wanted the boys with her. In the end courts
in both England and France preferred the boys to be with their father.
Each case, of course, has its own merits. But to many the prospect
of a father winning custody of the children in a divorce battle
would have seemed remote barely a generation ago. The numbers who
succeed are still small, but more and more men are no longer willing
to stand on the sidelines of family life, giving up their children
without a fight.
British courts still tend to view families through the prism of
the 1950s, with mum at the centre of hearth and home and dad hovering
somewhere around the perimeter. This meant that men won custody
of their children only if, as in the case of the late Earl Spencer,
father of Princess Diana, their wives "bolted", leaving
the children behind, or if they could prove their wives to be unfit
mothers. The battle lines, however, are shifting. There are now
about 140,000 fathers in Britain who are lone parents. The Child
Support Agency (CSA) is chasing more than 50,000 women for maintenance,
mostly due to ex-husbands who are looking after children. During
the past couple of years, both here and in America, working mothers
have lost custody of their children in precedent-setting cases.
Do more men deserve to win custody of their children? The rising
number of local support groups formed to air men's grievances about
the raw deal they get from the courts reveals that something is
wrong with the system of allocating custody as it operates now.
Much of the resentment over the CSA was caused by men being chased
for money to support children they never see: within a few years
of divorce, 50% of men lose contact with their children, worn out
by the strain of forced conversations and dreary visits to the park
on their one-day-a-week access. The court system as it stands reflects
family life as it used to be, with the mother as primary carer.
But family life is changing. In interviews earlier this year with
a group of 33-year-olds who have been followed from birth under
the National Child Development Study, 36% who were brought up in
two-earner families said that their fathers had been the main carers.
Of those who are now in two-earner families of their own, most said
they shared childcare equally. Fathers and Families in the UK, a
report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published last year, said
that, "although men might see themselves as less skilled than
other carers, their contribution can be crucial".
The answer, however, may not be to award men more legal custody,
but to adopt more of a compromise. The tendency towards winner-takes-all
arrangements reflects the notion that children need a single, unchanging
home to provide a stable base. But that idea is now being challenged.
In America the courts are increasingly deciding on "shared
residence" rather than awarding sole care to one parent, with
limited access for the other. And in America, say experts, men get
to play a larger part in their children's lives than the sad old
"Saturday dad" so familiar here.
Girl, 16, fights father in court for school fees
BY FRASER NELSON
A TEENAGER from a broken home will face her estranged father across
a courtroom today when she will ask a judge to make him pay her
In an action that will be watched across the country by fathers
who have split from first families, Nicole Lavelle, 16, will make
legal history when she seeks the £700 a month she needs to
continue at Kings School, Worcester.
Her father Callum Lavelle, vice president of an American computer
company, has allegedly refused his support even though he used to
pay for her to attend a £13,000 a year school of his choosing
when she lived with him in Dunblane.
Mrs Lavelle was formerly in business with her husband as co-directors
of Knight Porter Baillie, a computer services consultancy based
in Dunblane. Their marriage broke down in 1996 and the company was
dissolved soon after. She is pursuing Mr Lavelle for maintenance
through the Child Support Agency but Nicole must take separate legal
action to recover the school fees.
Girl 'forced' to sue father
BBC Scotland's Kate Fawcett reports
"Nicole rejected pleas from her father to transfer to Dunblane
A teenager has said she was forced to take her father to court
in an attempt to make him pay her private school fees because of
a feud between her divorced parents. Nicole Lavelle, 16, formerly
from Dunblane, has raised an action at Stirling Sheriff Court against
her father Callum, the vice-president of an American computer company.
She is claiming £6,600 a year - or a £15,000 lump sum
- to cover the costs of her education at a private school in Worcester
for the duration of her A levels.
But her father told the court he could not fund her schooling because
of the debts caused by his divorce. "He said he was struggling
with the fees at Harrogate and that he had just been contacted by
the Child Support Agency. Mr Lavelle - who admitted to having a
gross annual income of more than £100,000 - told the court
he did not have any problem paying the school fees until this year.
"My divorce was very acrimonious and left me without any assets
and a considerable amount of debt to service - debt that I am still
servicing today," he said.
Girl in fees fight says father made suicide threat
BY SHIRLEY ENGLISH
A FATHER who drives a Jaguar and earns more than £100,000
pleaded poverty yesterday when his estranged daughter took him to
court to sue for her private school fees. Nicole Lavelle, 16, made
legal history as the first child to use the Scottish Right
to Aliment law to try to extract school fees from a parent.
She went to Stirling Sheriff Court to seek the £700 a month
she needs to continue as a day pupil at Kings School, Worcester.
He told her that he had been contacted by the Child Support Agency.
He said that people who were contacted by the Child Support
Agency committed suicide. I told him he shouldnt have said
that, and if that was the way he was going to do things, Id
rather be with my mum, Miss Lavelle said.
Girl, 16, sues father over payment of school fees
A schoolgirl yesterday took her estranged father to court in an
attempt to force him to pay her private school fees. Nicole Lavelle,
16, told Stirling sheriff court that her father, Callum, was happy
to pay £12,000 a year for her to attend an exclusive school
of his choosing, but withdrew his support when she decided to go
to a cheaper school closer to her mother's home.
She said her father, who is reported to earn £85,000, told
her that he had been contacted by the Child Support Agency. "He
told me that people who were contacted by the Child Support Agency
committed suicide," she added. It was at this point that Miss
Lavelle moved to the school closer to her mother, Belinda, with
whom she now lives.
Teenage girl takes her father to courtover school fees
By Auslan Cramb, Scotland Correspondent
A TEENAGE girl made legal history yesterday when she took her father
to court to force him to pay her school fees. Nicole Lavelle, 16,
who wore the uniform of King's School, Worcester in court, wants
her father, Callum, 46, to pay fees of £700 a month, or a
lump sum of £15,000, while she sits her A-levels and completes
Miss Lavelle told Stirling sheriff court that her father announced
in 1998 that she would be going to Harrogate Ladies' College because
his job was going to take him abroad. She said that he was happy
to pay her boarding fees of £12,000 a year but refused to
pay £6,000 to keep her as a day pupil in Worcester, where
she moved after a reconciliation with her mother. He also told her
that he was being pursued by the Child Support Agency for maintenance
payments and warned that some fathers had committed suicide in those
Under the Family Law (Scotland) Act 1985, Miss Lavelle is asking
him to pay her fees plus music lessons and trips abroad. A decision
will be issued later.
Raped wife 'must pay attacker'
The CSA wants up to a third of the victim's net income
A woman who was raped by her husband has been ordered to pay him
thousands of pounds in child maintenance, it has been reported.
The 43-year-old told The Independent newspaper that the payments
will deprive her of the £14,000 she was awarded in 1996 in
the UK's first civil damages action for rape.
CSA spokeswoman Emma Quantrill told BBC News Online she could not
discuss any individual case but confirmed that the agency would
be obliged to accept an application for maintenance in this type
The woman's husband, a welder for a leading vehicle manufacturer,
won custody of the couple's two sons, now aged 14 and 16, before
the court case. The family court ruled the boys should be with their
father in the city where they went to school.
She earns £14,000 a year as a secretary but told The Independent
that the Child Support Agency (CSA) is asking her to pay her former
husband up to a third of her take-home pay.
Raped wife must pay attacker child maintenance, says CSA
By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent
A woman who was raped by her husband must pay him thousands of
pounds in child maintenance, the Child Support Agency (CSA) has
told her. The woman, aged 43, fears the payments will cancel the
£14,000 in damages she was awarded in a historic judgment
that found her husband guilty of rape. Before the case, he had won
custody of their two sons in a divorce hearing.
The CSA confirmed yesterday that it was assessing the woman's level
of contribution. A CSA spokeswoman said that, although this was
a "sensitive issue," there was no CSA policy that covered
The 1996 case was the first civil damages action for rape, brought
after the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring criminal
charges against the husband. The civil case judge in Bradford described
the 1992 attack as a violent assault that had left the wife requiring
psychiatric treatment. The initial award of £7,000 was laterdoubled.
The woman has since remarried and moved to West Yorkshire, where
she earns £14,000 as a secretary. In 1994, before she brought
the civil action, the woman divorced her husband because of unreasonable
behaviour but lost custody of her boys, now 14 and 16, when the
family court ruled that they should be returned to their father
in the city where they were at school.
The woman said that the CSA was asking her to pay her former husband,
a welder for a leading vehicle manufacturer, up to one-third of
her net income for maintenance. "There should be something
to stop a rapist being paid by the victim, even if it's supposed
to be for the children," she said. "He still wants to
control me and this is his way of making me have to think about
him and the rape." Under the Child Support Act 1991, all absent
parents have a responsibility for the financial maintenance of their
children but only 6 per cent of those who are required to make such
payments are mothers.
Servicemen slipping through CSA net
BY SARAH HALL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
Thousands of servicemen who have left their families are able to
escape paying their child maintenance in full, "aided and abetted"
by the Ministry of Defence, it emerged last night. Archaic rules
mean military personnel need only pay the Child Support Agency a
quarter of their salary at most - instead of the 30% which can be
demanded of the rest of the population.
The anomaly was exposed in the Commons last night when Labour's
Caroline Flint told of a constituent who received pounds 77 a month
less than the amount demanded by the court because her ex-husband
was a serving soldier. Faced with his refusal to pay for 13 months,
the courts had imposed a deduction of earnings orders for pounds
488 a month, but the sergeant, who had since remarried and had another
child, paid just pounds 410. The total shortfall means the mother
of two, an army wife for 11 years, is owed over thousands in arrears.
But attempts to gain the constantly rising amount have failed, with
the MoD refusing to allow bailiffs even to enter his barracks.
Last night, Ms Flint, MP for Don Valley, accused the MoD of "almost
helping fathers escape their responsibility" by "hiding
behind archaic minimum pay regulations". The rules, brought
in in 1955, were originally designed to guarantee servicemen's families
a minimum income if they were forced to pay disciplinary fines,
but ironically now had "the perverse effect of limiting a family's
income". It could be seen as a case of "Join the army,
and escape the CSA".
The situation has angered the social security secretary Alistair
Darling. But the change must come from the MoD, a social security
spokesman said last night. The armed forces minister, John Spellar,
said the service families task force was doing "excellent work"
in addressing such issues.
Families at War: Transcript
This is the full transcript of Frontline Scotland's Families at
War programme broadcast on 12 December and presented by Ewan McIlwraith.
EWAN McILWRAITH: Divorce and separation can devastate families,
and children are caught in the middle. And if it comes to the court
battle, they can be used as weapons by warring parents, their wishes
lost amid the bitterness and recrimination.
But children are fighting back. They are getting their own solicitors,
and Scotland is leading the way as young children take their parents
to court to dictate where they live, and with whom. Like 10-year-old
Yasmin, who successfully asked a court to remove her father from
her life. Others are suing parents to fund their education.
(These are very few extracts, concerning the CSA, from a large
EWAN: Tim Shread is 19, and has started college in Aberdeen. He
wants to take his mother to court. Tim now lives with his father
in a small council house in Inverurie - a long bus journey from
college. He stopped seeing his mother when his parents split up
four years ago. Tim's father received money for his son through
the Child Support Agency. But that ended when he was 18. Tim now
gets around £200 a month for the college bursary.
TIM SHREAD: It's only fair that my mother should pay for my upkeeping,
instead of having...instead of just dumping me...leaving me with
my father, and letting him suffer all the...all the consequences,
and well... I think it's her turn to pay her share. I read in the
newspaper about another student at university suing their parents
for maintenance, and he won the case. So, I thought, well, that's
what I'll do. I went to see my solicitor, asked him about it. He
said yes it was possible, and it would be okay. So, I said, okay
then, we'll pursue that case.
MICHAEL SHREAD: The first thing I found after she'd left was that
she had been having an affair, and I immediately started divorce
proceedings, and made claim also that I have custody of Timothy.
She fought the custody. Timothy was interviewed by a sheriff at
Banff Sheriff Court, and Timothy quite clearly stated that even
if the court awarded custody to my ex-wife, to his mother, he would
not obey that instruction, he wanted to remain with me. At the moment
I'm unemployed, so obviously the amount of money I have available
needs to go on bare necessities like heating, light, food, and council
tax, and other debts.
TIM: My mother has paid absolutely nothing towards my upkeep, and
I don't think that's fair on my father for one thing. And I think
that she is my mother, therefore she should pay something towards
EWAN: Legislation in 1985 meant that parents have a duty to support
children in full time education up to the age of 25. It has been
mainly students suing estranged parents following a family break-up
that have used the law. Tim's decision wasn't taken lightly.
That's Life! magazine
Show Some Support
Miss L Whittle, Wallasey, Merseyside
Although I believe in what then Child Support Agency (CSA) stands
for, I think it unfairly penalizes parents who do take responsibility
for their kids.
Because my boyfriend and I didn't choose to live together and I
stay with my parents, they take a large sum of money off him each
week. Yet if we lived together, he wouldn't have to pay them anything.
I wouldn't mind if he was irresponsible, but he adores our daughter
and makes sure we never go without. The CSA doesn't take this into
account and continues to take his earnings, which I think is wrong.
We are still a couple so why aren't we being treated as such? Does
anyone else have this problem?
Government will clamp down on the DIY paternity test 'cowboys'
By Marie Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent
Do-it-yourself paternity testing kits are to face a clampdown by
ministers with a new code of practice aimed at stopping cowboy DNA
testing companies operating over the internet. Ministers are expected
to draw up plans for new government standards to outlaw DNA testing
by fathers using samples from mothers and children which are not
verifiable or gained with consent.
Home DNA testing kits are now widely available on the internet
for up to $300 (£220) and offer testing of paternity using
cheek swabs or DNA tests using strands of hair. Most laboratory
tests on DNA samples involve blood samples of the mother, child
and alleged father. But do-it-yourself kits enable fathers to examine
whether the child has their DNA in the living room using a kit sent
in the post. Ministers are concerned that people are being exploited
and that "the interests of the child" are not being considered.
There has been a sharp rise in the use of DNA testing to resolve
disputes over paternity in the UK since the Child Support Agency
began intervening to make absent fathers contribute financially
to their children's upbringing. The Department of Health is planning
to instruct the Child Support Agency, which often uses DNA testing
to confirm the identity of the father, to outlaw the use of paternity
kits which do not meet the new standards.
The Government's code of practice will fall short of a complete
ban on tests bought over the internet but is likely to outlaw results
which use cheek and hair samples obtained without permission. The
Government code is expected to ensure that a proper "chain
of custody" of the DNA can be determined and that the results
are verified or witnessed by an independent person.
Judge tells father to pay girl's school fees
By Ben Russell, Education Correspondent
A teenager won a court battle yesterday to force her father to
pay her private school fees. Callum Lavelle was ordered to pay Nicole's
£6,600-a-year fees after a judge described him as "cold
and unfeeling", with no sign of warmth towards his daughter.
Mr Lavelle, who earns £112,000 a year, argued that he could
not afford to keep paying the fees because his bank manager had
asked him to curtail his spending and he was being pursued by the
Child Support Agency. But in a written judgment handed down yesterday,
Sheriff Wyllie Robertson said it was "reasonable" for
Mr Lavelle to pay the fees.
Miss Lavelle's parents separated in 1996 and were divorced in March
1998. The girl remained in Dunblane with her father, while Mrs Lavelle
moved to England. But she was sent to board at Harrogate Ladies'
College when Mr Lavelle secured a job with a computer company based
in Massachusetts. She left the school after her GCSEs, and enrolled
as a day pupil at King's School, moving in with her mother, her
mother's new partner, Jim Whitehurst, and her sister Stephanie.
'Cold' father ordered to pay school fees
A teenager yesterday won a legal battle to force her estranged
father to pay for her to attend a school that allowed her to be
with her mother.
Nicole Lavelle, 16, took Callum Lavelle, 46, to court under the
Family Law (Scotland) Act after he refused to pay her £6,600
annual fees. He had been happy to pay £12,000 a year for her
to attend an exclusive school of his choosing, but not for her to
go to a cheaper private school closer to her mother's home.
Initially she and her father lived in a rented flat in Dunblane
but, after the pressures in his job increased, he decided to send
her to boarding school. For a time, she attended Harrogate Ladies'
College in Yorkshire. But, as she watched the day girls return home
each evening, she came to believe she was missing family life. She
decided to enrol in Cheltenham Ladies' College so she could spend
weekends with her mother and sister, Stephanie, who lived in Peopleton,
near Worcester, and longer breaks with her father.
The court heard, however, that Mr Lavelle gave his daughter an
ultimatum: stay at Harrogate and keep her relationship with him
alive, or move school, form improved relations with her mother,
and never see him again. Miss Lavelle chose to move in with her
mother and attend King's School, Worcester. She said her father
refused to pay her fees, claiming he could not afford them since
his bank had told him to curtail his spending and he was being pursued
by the child support agency.
[ Previous | Next