Take tug of love children out of CSA loop

20 Jun 2006

Resolution lawyers call for selective amnesty over CSA arrears.

Family solicitors have proposed radical changes to the way the CSA is run, ahead of the government’s announcement on how it plans to reform the beleaguered agency.

Resolution – the group which represents 5000 specialist family lawyers in England and Wales - has called for an amnesty for couples who can agree their own arrangements for settling arrears payments. Instead of simply using debt collectors to hound those who won’t pay, Resolution says the agency should do all it can to assist those who will pay what they can afford.

Says Resolution’s James Pirrie, “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. What’s more, it will free up the agency to resolve the new cases that are coming in every day which are adding to the problem.”

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.”

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 impose it, where they are already involved.”

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