Tag: Child Benefit Changes

What Happens To Joint Mortgages During And After Divorce

It is very common for married couples to take on a joint mortgage on their home but if a marriage ends in divorce it isn’t easy to make a clean break when the lender still expects payments to be kept up as before.  

Attempting to negotiate a way out of a joint mortgage will of course depend on individual circumstances. Also, if there are children involved, things can get even more complicated particularly if the couple relied on each other’s incomes to be able to afford a mortgage in the first place.  

Then there are cases where the partner who has custody of the children cannot afford repayments on their own when they either work part time or they care for the children full time.  In these cases the hope is that a former spouse will continue to make the mortgage payments even if they no longer live in the property.  

This however is asking a lot when that person will wish to move on with life after the marriage has ended.  

If you are the person left in a property unable to make the mortgage payments if your former partner refuses to pay their half, then you can contact your local Citizens Advice about potential benefits you may be able to receive.   

If you do have sufficient funds to cover the mortgage then you may be able to have the mortgage transferred to you as part of a clean break divorce by consent.  

New laws allow unpaid child maintenance to be taken from joint accounts

Unpaid child maintenance backlog in the UK is at £3.8bn. At present, if a parent owes maintenance, payment can only be taken from a bank account held in their sole name. The government has stated that a ‘small minority’ are avoiding payments by opening a joint account with their new partner.

From early 2018, the Child Maintenance Service will have the power to recover child maintenance arrears from a bank account that is held in the joint names of a parent who is required to pay child maintenance and another person.

The Department for Work and Pensions has said that safeguards will be put in place when deducting funds from a joint account. One of these safeguards is that money will only be taken from a joint account when the paying parents does not have their own bank account or if there is not enough money in their own account. Bank statements will also be analysed to establish which funds belong to the paying parent and both named account holders will have a right to make their case before any money is taken.

The Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance has stated ‘Our priority is for children to get the support they need. Only a small minority of parents try to cheat their way out of paying towards their children and this new power will tackle those who do’.

Securing child maintenance payments from a former partner can be difficult. Please contact a member of our team today on 0161 927 3118 to discuss your situation.

Unreasonable conduct can cost you in children proceedings!

The general rule in civil proceedings is that the ‘loser’ should pay the ‘winner’s’ costs however in family proceedings, this rule does not usually apply, particularly in proceedings that involve children. However, in the recent case of S v S this position changed.

The case of S v S involved an application made by a father for his two sons (aged 15 and 13) to live with him in Switzerland. The application was opposed by the mother with whom the boy had always lived.

During the course of the proceedings, there was a report produced by an Independent Social Worker who advised that ‘given the strength of the boys’ feelings and wish to live with their father, I believe that there is no alternative to agree to his application’.

The father’s application was granted however due to the highly exceptional nature of these proceedings, a costs order was made against the father. Initially both parties applied for their costs however the father retracted his claim and invited the court to make ‘no order for costs’ whereas the mother continued to pursue her application.

The court held that although the father had ‘won’ his application, his behaviour was reprehensible in certain respects in a way which directly fed into the manner in which the proceedings arose, the way in which they were pursued and the fact that the matter had led to a final hearing. The parties’ total costs came to £938,000 and the court ordered that the father pay £150,000 towards the mother’s costs.

Costs orders in children proceedings are exceptional, however, this recent case is a reminder that it is possible to penalise unreasonable conduct within children proceedings with an order for costs.

School’s out for the summer: have you agreed where your child will attend school post separation?

Deciding which school your child will attend can be one of the trickier aspects of post-separation parenting. Whatever problems existed at the time of the relationship breakdown will inevitably arise if one parent moves out of the area and wants their children to change school as a result.

Parents will be naturally concerned about the legal rights and responsibilities in respect of their children’s schooling and divorce can have an impact on the role each parent has for their child/children at school. We have outlined below, parental rights, responsibilities and options available in respect of schooling.

If both parents have parental responsibility (i.e. children’s mother or father (married to mother when child is born or on the child’s birth certificate), both parents have to agree to a change of school. Neither parent has superior rights over the other nor can a parent assert that they have the right to decide what school the child should attend.

If parents cannot agree on the choice of school, then an application can be made to the court under the Children Act 1989 for the court to make the decision. The two types of orders applied for are:

  1. Prohibited Steps Order – this will prevent any change of school in advance;
  2. Specific Issue Order – this is where the court determines which school the children shall attend.

The orders listed above can be applied for on their own or as part of an application in respect of the overall arrangements for the children.

When considering an application the court will consider what is in the best interests of the child and will look at the ability of the parents to sustain the child’s attendance (e.g. school fees, travel to school). The court will also consider the child’s wishes and feelings (where they are old enough to have formed an opinion in light of their age and understanding) as well as any educational needs amongst other factors.

Separation may involve bad feelings between parents (and their families). Children can pick up on this which may make them confused or unhappy, or even blame themselves for a break-up. It is important that parents are sensitive to their children’s needs during this time and try to resolve their differences.

If you, or your former partner, are contemplating a change of school, obtaining legal advice early on in the process can help overcome any potential problems.

Our specialist Family team can provide advice to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken. Contact a member of our team today on 0161 927 3118.

Charity Says Loopholes Are Depriving Single Parents of Child Support

A new report from single parent Charity Gingerbread claims that single parents are losing out on vital support for their children.

The charity highlights in its report entitled Children Deserve More failings in the present system which allow absent parents to get away with failing to provide the correct level of support for their children.

According to reports, reform to the child maintenance system is helping absent parents avoid their responsibilities when it comes to paying child maintenance because the system prioritises convenience over other concerns.

Child support has proved to be a difficult area for successive governments and this latest report highlights that these problems continue.

Child support is currently calculated on gross earnings which are self-reported to HMRC. Individuals who are self-employed or business owners can get off lightly and pay less than they should as a result. Many wealthy individuals can get away with paying the bare minimum the report goes on to say.

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has proved to be of little help in these cases according to the report with single parents often being referred back to HMRC only to get the same result.

Tax Free Childcare – What’s it all about??

Plans for ‘tax free childcare’ were initially proposed back in the 2013 budget and are set to be implemented in 2017. According to the gov.uk website the scheme will be available to around 2 million households to help with the cost of childcare.

Parents will need to open an online account with can be done through the government website and can pay into the account to cover the cost of childcare with a registered provider. For every 80 pence paid in, the government will top up an extra 20 pence up to a total of £10,000 which is equivalent to £2,000 per child per year (£4,000 for disabled children). The scheme will be available for children up to the age of 12 and 17 for disabled children.

To qualify a parent must earn more than £115 per week but not more than £100,000 per year. Self-employed parents now also qualify (unlike the previous scheme which was only available for employed parents).

The scheme will be rolled out gradually with all eligible parents being able to join the scheme by the end of 2017.

Adoptions Fall 18%

After a long period of growth since 2011, the number of adoptions fell in the 12 months to March 2016 for the first time while the number of children in foster care continues to rise.

Statistics also show that the 2,700 babies under the age of one were placed in council care in 2015. The rise has been largely put down to government pressure on social workers which has been driven by high profile failings such as the Baby Peter neglect scandal of 2007.

The falling trend in adoptions is predicted to continue with the number of children placed for adoption also falling. This is likely to have implications for the psychological wellbeing of children according to a recent article in the Independent newspaper. Some children are said to suffer psychological attachment disorders that lead to behavioural problems in later life.

The number of children taken into care has risen 96% from 5,500 in 1995 to 10,790 in 2016. While there is pressure on social workers to avoid the failings of the past it may be that too many children are now being placed in care with no studies to back up if this is really best solution for the children involved. However, it’s a tricky balance to strike when nobody wants to see a repeat of the Baby Peter Case.

Judge says more children should have their voices heard and be allowed to give evidence in Family Court

Sir James Munby, Court of Appeal Judge, has said that more children should have their voices heard to explain their feelings in court. The judge outlined his thoughts in a ruling on a Court of Appeal case which involved a 14 year old girl who complained that a judge had not met with her and she was deprived of her right to participate.

Sir James Munby said that judges’ approach to the issue of children giving evidence in Family Court hearings must change ‘sooner rather than later’.

Six years ago, a Supreme Court Justice said there had been a presumption against children giving evidence. Lady Hale, during a Supreme Court ruling said that such a presumption raised significant human rights issues and judges should not presume that a child should not give evidence. Sir James Munby referred to the fact that Lady Hale’s analysis had led to discussions among senior judges and new guidelines being published however he also stated that sometimes judges had been slow to recognise the need for change.

Sir James Munby then went on to say ‘one thing is clear: that proper adherence to the principles laid down (by the Supreme Court) will see ever increasing numbers of children giving evidence in family proceedings.’.

Government policy to increase number of children being adopted falters as adoption figures fall

Adoption was made a priority by the coalition, as the prime minister declared in 2012 there was ‘no more pressing issue’ than speeding up the adoption process. Between 2012-2014 the number of children completing the adoption process rose by 60%.However, latest figures released by the Department for Education show the number of children granted an adoption placement order has dropped by 24% from 2014.

The National Adoption Leadership Board has linked decreases in placement orders to the impact of two recent court judgments, Re B (A Child) [2013] and Re B-S (Children) [2013]. These cases concerned appeals by parents opposing the adoption of their children. The number of looked after children has increased steadily over the past seven years however the majority of children looked after are placed with foster carers. Of the total looked after children in March 2015, 75% of them were cared for in a foster placement.

A spokesperson from the Department for Education has stated that the reason for the decrease in the number of children with an adoption decision is a result of the way local authorities have interpreted some court judgments. The Adoption Leadership Board has therefore published guidance to clarify what these judgments mean and to allow clear and confident adoption decisions to be made.

The Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, Javed Khan, has expressed deep concern at the fall in the number of children being put forward for adoption. Mr Khan feels that Local authorities shouldn’t ‘shy away’ from acting decisively on adoption. If the fall in adoption numbers continues ‘unchecked’ it is thought that a real crisis could occur as children will be stuck in limbo or miss out completely on the chance of growing up in their own loving and supportive family.

Welsh Government Introduces New Fostering and Adoption Measures

Following the recent closure of the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), the Welsh government is taking measures it hopes will maintain and improve upon the work done by the former charity.

The announcement comes just after the largest association of professional social workers wrote about their concerns for the future of fostering and adoption without the help provided by the charity.

One of the key measures announced is the passing on of the Wales Adoption Register to the National Adoption service. However it is not just the service itself that has been affected. Staff training and a new helpline will be operated by a new body.

Many of the staff who would previously have worked for the BAAF will be recruited to the new body. It is hoped that this will ensure that standards in the sector are maintained in Wales and best practice guidelines are adhered to.

The British Association of Social Workers have already expressed their concern about the closure of BAAF and it looks likely that even with a new body being set up, it will be difficult to maintain standards and existing staff training.

With social workers often under pressure, the closure of the BAAF is likely to put more pressure on resources and staff.