CSA - new system must take children out of the firing line

24 Jul 2006

Give courts power to set payment levels say family lawyers.

Campaigning family lawyers group Resolution has urged the government not to write off arrears cases in its plans to scrap the CSA.

Instead, Resolution wants an amnesty for couples who can agree their own arrangements for settling arrears payments.

Says Resolution’s Kim Fellowes, “There is currently around 3.3billion in outstanding payments. An amnesty will go some way towards getting some of that money to where it is needed – to the children it is intended to benefit. It will free up the new agency to resolve the new cases that are coming in every day.”

Resolution is also calling for the courts to make rulings about CSA payments where they are already looking at other issues around the family breakdown. “It is a bureaucratic nonsense that the courts can have all the details about the family’s financial circumstances in front of them but not be able to make a ruling about what child support payments are made. There is a simple formula to follow, and no reason why the courts shouldn’t use it as a guideline, where they are already involved.”

At the heart of the Resolution proposal is a plan to take the battle out of overnight stays. At the moment, how much an absent parent pays can be affected by how many nights the child stays over with them. This risks turning the child into a weapon in a financial fight between parents.

“What children need is a good relationship with both parents. Financially penalising one parent for letting the child stay with the other is no way to achieve this. The payment formula should be set on the assumption that overnight contact is the norm.”

Earlier this year, Resolution produced its own set of recommendations on how the CSA should be reformed to meet the needs of children and families. A copy was provided to David Henshaw, who was tasked with reshaping the agency, and Resolution has met with groups from each of the major political parties to press its case for change.