Tag : child-law
Tag : child-law
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.
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.
New research from Sweden has suggested that children do better in joint custody arrangements than when one or the other partner has custody.
Countless studies have been carried out on the psychological impact of divorce on children with many studies reporting the negatives of divorce. This study is unusual as it shows that in cases where parents are given joint custody, there is no difference in behaviour when compared to children coming from stable family units.
At least this is the case from the perspective of parents who were asked to fill in questionnaires about their children’s behaviour. Teachers, however, had a different view and the consensus was that youngsters from traditional families were better behaved than those from divorced families.
The ultimate finding of the study by researchers from Uppsala University, Karolinska Institute and the Centre for Health Equity Studies in Sweden -which included 3,656 children aged between three and five years old – was that children suffered less behavioural and psychological symptoms if they didn’t live with their mother or father the majority of the time.
The reason for the better behaviour of children was that parental quality was improved when parents had the opportunity to spend more time with children rather than just at the weekends.
Mr Justice Peter Jackson provided judgment in Re A (Letter to a Young Person)  EWFC 48, which apart from the first few introductory paragraphs, comprises a letter sent to a 14-year-old-boy, referred to in the judgment as ‘Sam’.
Sam was the subject of proceedings to determine whether he should be permitted to move to Scandinavia with his father and, if not, what contact arrangements should be going forward.
Sam wished to go to Scandinavia however his mother objected to the proposed move and the Judge in this case refused permission for removal from the jurisdiction. At the end of the hearing, Mr Justice Peter Jackson gave his decision in the form of a letter to Sam which he read to his parents and gave to his solicitors to give to Sam and discuss with him.
Written in an informal, accessible language, the judgment explains why Mr Justice Peter Jackson concluded that the move would not be in Sam’s best interests. The letter also encouraged Sam to Google the Children Act 1989, which states that the welfare of children in family cases must be the judge’s first priority.
Mr Justice Peter Jackson notes that Sam received the decision with apparent equanimity. Mr Justice Peter Jackson has been praised for using simple phrases in previous a judgment to enable the mother and the older children to follow it. This judgment also reproduced an ‘emoji’ which featured as a point of evidence.
To read the full judgment and letter from Mr Justice Peter Jackson in Re A (Letter to a Young Person), click here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2017/48.html
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:
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.
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.
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.
Christmas is traditionally a time for families to come together. However for parents who are separating, Christmas can be a very stressful time. Contact arrangements that work well over the year can become strained over the festive season whilst parents and children adapt to life after divorce. Avoid any unnecessary upset over the Christmas holidays this year by planning ahead and arranging child care agreements well in advance.
Here are a few ‘top tips’ to help separating couples to ensure that the holiday runs as smoothly as possible:
1. Plan ahead – Do not leave difficult decisions to the last minute. Although the conversation may be difficult and it is tempting to put discussions off this will make negotiations between you and your former partner more pressured which is likely to result in unnecessary animosity.
2. Communicate – Putting disagreements aside, co-operating and keeping your former partner informed of any unexpected changes during the Christmas period will make trying to arrange time spent with the children much easier.
3. Put children first – It is easy for parents to forget to ask the children what they want or consider what is best for them when trying to reach an arrangement which works for both you and the other parent. It is important to take a step back and think about what is best for your child when making contact arrangements. When you do spend time with the children over Christmas, try your best to relax, put your differences with your former partner and enjoy the time spent together. Couples often try and ‘recreate’ the Christmases they enjoyed prior to separation however it may be beneficial to embrace the change and try celebrating in a different way – as you can imagine, many children enjoy celebrating Christmas twice every year!
4. Look at the big picture – Think about the long term rather than just focusing on Christmas. It is likely that both parents will want the children to be with them on the first Christmas Day after separation; however there will be many others and other special occasions in the future. The most helpful approach is to alternate arrangements from one year to the next or even to share Christmas Day if you do not live too far apart.
5. Be flexible – Due to work commitments or extended family traditions it can be difficult to share time equally over busy holidays. Be willing to compromise and consider agreeing for the other parent to have the children on Christmas day this year, and swap the following year.
Don’t leave Christmas arrangements to the last minute. If Christmas contact is a problem, or if you need general advice in respect of child contact arrangements, please contact one of our family law specialists today on 0161 927 3118.
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.
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.’.