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Children & Child Custody

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3 minutes reading time (526 words)

Child Maintenance System Undermines Shared Parenting

Shared-parenting charity Families Need Fathers (FNF) has published details of its response to the work and pension committee’s inquiry into child maintenance.

In its response, FNF claims that the continued detachment of child support from the wider picture of family life is contributing to the impoverishment of children whose parents live separately and creates a perverse disincentive to meaningful co-operation between the parents.

Criticism of the Current System

The submission also claims that:

  • Current Child Maintenance calculations after separation and divorce are outdated and simply not fit for purpose. They belong to a bygone era where dads were family providers and mums stayed at home to care for children. Their approach presents an unacceptable gender bias in modern society.
    • They discourage collaborative shared parenting after separation and divorce. Focusing on 'payers' and 'receivers' encourages a winner takes all approach where only one parent receives £ thousands in child benefits even if parenting is shared equally.
    • They add to family conflict and contact denial. Too many well motivated mothers are discouraged from agreeing to a child spending more time with his/her non-resident parent which is in the interests of the child because it may reduce the money she receives.
    • In cases that go to court, argument is ostensibly about the fitness of one or other parent but is often in reality about how child maintenance is affected.
    • Average spend on child contact legal proceedings reported by respondents to FNF’s consultation to see their children was £23,000. Over 10% spent £50,000 or more. For most it will be the most they spend on anything apart from their house and is money lost to their children – and disregarded by CMS.
  • The effect of these difficulties on tens of thousands of non-resident parents is to leave them feeling disenfranchised, hurt and wholly unvalued as parents: Parents in name only and in the CMS view, good just for one thing - money.
  • CMS/CSA service is simply too blunt an instrument for ensuring that all children are well supported and often results in unintended negative consequences for children and parents alike.

Calls for Reform of the System

“Our child maintenance system is poorly thought through and (perhaps unintentionally) actively undermines shared parenting,” commented Jerry Karlin, Chair of Families Need Fathers. “It discourages both parents from working and pushes many into severe hardship and poverty. For the sake of our children, it must be reformed.”

"Fathers who willingly pay maintenance but then don't see their children are fed up with the notion that contact cannot be taken into consideration,” added Ian Maxwell, National Manager of FNF Scotland. “By all mean chase up unpaid amounts vigorously but don't ignore the fathers who want to support their children and also see them."

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For expert legal advice on divorce, separation and issues involving children, then contact us today. We know that these issues can be deeply upsetting for everyone concerned but that the interests of the children are paramount. Our specialist family lawyers will work with you to resolve any issues in a way that best meets your needs, and those of your children.

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