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Child maintenance and shared care arrangement

Child maintenance and shared care arrangement after parents separate has been the subject of a successful appeal by a father assessed by the child support agency (now cmac) to be liable. The appeal deals with the correct interpretation of regulation 50 of Child Support Maintenance Calculation Regulations 2012/2677 that defines what is called an absent parent. Cheshire family solicitors Stonehewer Moss have experience as far back as the introduction of child support by statute in the early 90s and in that time the roles of parents have changed, reflected increasingly in the interpretation of the law related to children by the courts. In 1991 absent parent was reasonably clear cut as parents usually did not share, or be given court orders to share, the responsibility of looking after their children on divorce or separation. Only one parent looked after the child and Dad usually saw the kids at McDonalds or for the weekend.

Times change and children now eat humus lovingly prepared by either parent or bought at Waitrose. Parents naturally split care or the court regularly decide there is no place for inequality and shared arrangements are approved. Yet the child support regime, fixed by statute in another age, made one parent liable as decided by office staff. We think these days that is called a binary choice. In the case cited at the foot of this blog Dad was told to pay up but argued he shared care. Child maintenance and shared care arrangement can be a trap for the unwary; agreeing care arrangements can cause arguments about money.

The appeal has found that an error of law had taken place in determining the outcome based on a combination of regulations from which the preponderance of overnight stays was used as a tie breaker to hand the absent parent status and therefore liability to pay to the loser. The appeal decided regulation 50 should be looked at as a question of fact as to whether care is shared, not limited to an assessment by calculation of nights spent looking after the child by each parent. The reason for this is neatly stated as follows,

It is not in dispute that the effect of reg 50(2) is that if a person can establish

that he provides day to day care to no lesser extent, he will not count as an

non-resident parent and a maintenance calculation would result in no liability.

What follows from this is the mess that the law has created for parted parents. if parents make an agreement that can be interpreted as a shared care agreement, perhaps to try to be even handed,  a dispute might follow to decide whether there is care,”to a lesser extent”. In essence, if you agree nothing the simpler regulations will apply that relate only to the number of nights a child sleeps with each parent. An alternative parents have is to negotiate all issues including child support and draft it into an agreement. Solicitors can help parents to negotiate child arrangements and financial support between parents for the benefit of the children. Child maintenance and shared care arrangement options can be decided between you, by mediation or out of court negotiation. The case report is as follows JS v SSWP and another (CSM)[2017] UKUT 296 (AAC)

For advice and negotiation on separation about child arrangements please call 01606 872200 or e mail info@stonehewermoss.co.uk visit www.stonehewermoss.co.uk

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Stonehewer Moss Solicitors, Citadel House, Solvay Road, Northwich, Cheshire, CW8 4DP

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