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Posts Tagged ‘child support’

I have posted on this topic before. The One Show tonight ran a piece about Local Authorities advising kinship carers to seek residence orders in order to avoid their ongoing duty to a child, in particular to avoid an ongoing financial duty by way of carers allowance. I just wanted to briefly post about this because I think some people could have come away with a rather oversimplified view of the situation, namely ‘residence order = bad, kinship carers allowance  = good’. As ever, it ain’t that simple.

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The basic premise was valid – local authorities often do try to push cases in the direction of private law orders in order to close their files (and thereby focus resources on the families who have more acute need), and sometimes this becomes resource rather than welfare driven (and there are examples of this in the previous post linked above). However the situation is much more complex than is suggested by the piece. There are any number of reasons why a residence order may be the most suitable arrangement notwithstanding the potential financial disadvantage: not least the fact that it will give parental responsibility to the carer and NOT the local authority and will (all things being equal) leave the family to go about their normal lives in peace.

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The report slightly missed the point about the entitlement to a kinship carers allowance – which is that entitlement is determined by whether or not the arrangment was set up by the local authority following their intervention to protect the child. If that is the case the allowance is payable for as long as the child remains in kinship care unless and until a residence order is later made. And special guardianship orders are another option which was not discussed at all.

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The piece also suggested that where a residence order had been obtained the situation could be reversed to give the carer status and entitlement to kinship carers allowances. I am dubious about this as is Nigel Priestley, the solicitor featured in the One Show report and in one of the cases referred to in my previous post. See his comments as quoted on The One Show’s information pages.

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Like the One Show report I have only touched the surface of this area of law which is quite complicated. I have highlighted one or two points which do not come through sufficiently clearly in the short tv piece. Anyone who is in the position of recently taking over care of a young relative and wondering what to do should get advice. The Family Rights Group factsheets highlighted by The One Show Info pages are a really good starting point. If you are in any doubt seek advice from a lawyer, and if they cannot afford a lawyer and cannot obtain legal aid they should ask the local authority to pay for a consultation with a family solicitor to clarify their rights and options. Some local authorities will agree to meet this cost as a one off.

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I’ve been meaning to make a short post about registration of births since going through the process myself with our newborn. Today it is reported that the arrangements are going to change. For myself and the other half registration of his name as father on the certificate is automatic since we are married, but for unmarried parents this is not the case and whether or not the father appears on the certificate will be in the hands of the mother.

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Since 2003 the inclusion of a father’s name on the birth certificate is effective to grant him parental responsibility, and his absence will mean that he must either obtain the mother’s consent or apply to the court for parental responsibility. Often of course the main reason that a mother has failed to name the father on the birth certificate is precisely because she does not want him to play a part in the child’s life, including through parental responsibility and so more often than not the father will have to take the more litigious route. 

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The flip side of the coin is that inclusion on the birth certificate also triggers financial responsibilities to pay child support.

 

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However under the new proposals there will apparently be an element of compulsion applied to both parents: upon the mother to identify the father and for the father to sign the register. This is likely to have several ramifications as far as I can tell (assuming the requirements to identify and to sign are complied with):

  • the grant of parental responsibility will go hand in hand with the responsiility to maintain financially – either both will apply or neither.
  • mothers who wish to obtain child support will be unable (theoretically) to avoid the grant of PR by leaving the certificate blank. .

It is unclear how these requirements will be enforced. If a mother is determined not to identify the father or a father is determined not to sign – will the threat of a fine really make a difference? And according to The Times a sole registration will take place where obtaining the fathers details would be ‘impossible, impractical or unreasonable’ – including cases of genuinely unknown fathers or cases of abuse (does this mean in cases of children who were conceived by rape or is it more wide?). That is all well and good but doesn’t this provide a gaping loophole through which any mother who wants to can skip, and that renders the whole reform a waste of time? 

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I wonder how all this will work in practice? A birth certificate is a pre-requisite to an application for child benefit so whilst the registrar is messing about trying to locate the errant father so that she can finally issue a birth certificate – the child benefit payments are delayed. Of course all these things can be ironed out no doubt but this is just one of several ways in which this is a dumber and more complicated idea than it perhaps first appears.  

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And even if it is successful in its own terms – labelling parents as such and giving them theoretical responsibilities, what this law reform plainly will not change is the inability of the child support system to get blood out of a stone, or the difficulties in transforming the tage ‘parental responsibility’ into the ability to play a meaningful part in a child’s life in cases of implacable hostility. An ‘end to fatherless children’ as touted in The Times? I don’t think that’s very likely.

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No Maintenance – No Holidays

What an excellent idea! In the US if you have arrears of more than $2,500 of child support you can’t get a passport until you pay up. I bet it would work even better in the UK where a far higher percentage of people actually travel abroad. The majority of American’s would be unfazed by this rule because they never apply for a passport, but for those who want a foreign holiday or who need to travel for a business trip this would work wonders. See the CNN website for a video report on this.

Maybe we could introduce this system here?

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