Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What You Need To Know About Child Maintenance


The number of children benefiting from Child Maintenance has decreased by 17% according to the DWP’s Child Support Quarterly Summary. This is the lowest since March 2012. The recent Child Support Agency (CSA) case closures have had a dramatic contribution to this reduction.

The report also shows that outstanding Child Maintenance arrears currently stand at a staggering £3.584 bn. Cases with outstanding payments have increased since January 2012 from 54.7% to 55.5%.

The number of male Non-Resident Parents (NRPs) accounts for one in nine live cases, the same as previous quarters. When you consider that 48% of couples divorcing in 2013 had at least one child under 16, it’s clear why there’s a real need to be crystal clear on the subject of Child Maintenance.

What Is Child Maintenance?

Child Maintenance, also known as Child Support, is a weekly amount paid to the Parent With Care (PWC) by the NRP. This helps towards the child’s living costs and ensures their wellbeing isn’t affected following the breakdown of the relationship.

Child Maintenance is so important because it helps to pay for things such as food, clothes, and other essentials. It also ensures both parents provide a healthy relationship for their child.

It’s worth noting that paying Child Maintenance is a legal responsibility. If you miss your weekly payments, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will take action to recoup the money.

How Can The Child Maintenance Service Help?

The CMS will help to determine how much Child Maintenance is due. They take into account a number of factors, which we will discuss later on, in order to calculate how much money the NRP needs to be pay each week to the PWC.

Before you apply to the CMS, it’s worth talking to Child Maintenance Options (CMO) to get a clearer understanding of how much the NRP needs to contribute. You can call CMO free on 0800 988 0988 or find out more on their website.

How To Apply For Child Maintenance

Once you have discussed your arrangement options with CMO, you will be given a reference number. If you choose to apply for Child Maintenance, this reference number tells the CMS which route you would prefer to go down.

You will need to provide the following information about you and your family:

  • Details of the child you’re applying for
  • Your National Insurance number
  • Your bank account details 

The application fee for this service is £20. However, you won’t have to pay this if you are:

  • A victim of domestic violence
  • Under 19 
  • In Northern Ireland

This information is then used to set up and manage the Child Maintenance payments, and sometimes locate the paying parent if an amount goes unpaid.

If the CMS isn’t provided with the necessary information, this can also be taken from:

  • The ‘paying’ parent’s employer
  • Government organisations such as Jobcentre Plus
  • Prison services
  • Local councils
  • The paying parent’s bank or building society

Most Child Maintenance cases are set up within a month of application. It may take longer if there is an issue contacting the paying parent. The first payment is ordinarily made six weeks after making the arrangements.

Are There Different Payment Methods?

The CMS provides two payment methods. The first is Direct Pay. The CMS calculates how much the paying parent must contribute. Then both parents must come to an agreement on how and when the payments will be made by the PWC.

If the NRP doesn’t pay in full or on time, the CMS may choose to move the case to Collect & Pay.

Collect & Pay is the second payment option that the CMS offers. With this method the CMS collects the amount due from the paying parent and passes it on to the receiving parent.

If the NRP fails to make their payments in full or on time then the CMS may take immediate enforcement action.

Application and enforcement fees were introduced in 2014. This means that if you choose the Collect & Pay service, you will also need to pay for the collection and payment of the Child Maintenance.

In addition to the application fee, there are a number of other costs to take into account when applying for Child Maintenance. There’s a 20% collection fee for paying parents using the Collect & Pay service. This is on top of the Child Maintenance amount.

Receiving parents must pay a 4% collection fee for using the Collect & Pay service. This will be deducted from the amount received. Paying parents may have to pay enforcement charges if they fail to make their payments in full and on time.

Parents who have set up a Family-Based Arrangement or have opted for Direct Pay do not have to pay any additional charges.

How Is Child Maintenance Calculated?

There are a number of factors that the CMS takes into consideration when calculating how much Child Maintenance is due.

These include:

  • Your weekly gross income, before tax and National Insurance is deducted but after pension contributions have been taken
  • If you receive certain benefits
  • How many children you are paying Child Maintenance for
  • The number of other children you support in your household
  • How often your child stays with you overnight

Leading international family law firm Cordell & Cordell has created an innovative Child Maintenance Calculator that provides an estimate of what you can expect to pay.

By answering a number of questions, you will be able to get an idea of how much Child Maintenance you or your ex-partner should be paying. The calculator provides an estimated amount, so it’s worth seeking guidance from the CMS for further information.

What If My Circumstances Change?

If your circumstances change, for example if your salary increases or decreases, you need to inform HMRC and the CMS straight away. This is because any changes to your personal details may impact the amount of Child Maintenance you should be paying.

___________________________


This post was written by Haroop Ahluwalia, Divorce Solicitor at Cordell & Cordell.

Monday, September 26, 2016

News Essentials: 26th September 2016


A brief summary of the essential family law news and cases from the last week:

NEWS
Family Drug and Alcohol Court’s ‘humane’ approach keeps more families together
New research has found that mothers reunited with their children after care proceedings in the Family Drug and Alcohol Court are more likely to stay off drugs and alcohol for longer, and their family life less likely to be disrupted when compared with cases heard in ordinary care proceedings. Full story: Family Law.

Court directs solicitor to travel to Saudi Arabia to meet Amina Al-Jeffery in private
The solicitor representing Amina Al-Jeffery in High Court proceedings concerning her removal to Saudi Arabia from her home in Wales, is to visit Riyadh in order to take instructions in person from her client. Full story: Family Law Week. See report, below.

Courts face “imminent crisis” with rise in care cases, warns top family judge
The family courts face “a clear and imminent crisis” as a result of the rapidly rising number of care cases, the President of the Family Division has warned. Full story: Local Government Lawyer.

CASES
Al-Jeffery v Al-Jeffery (Vulnerable adult; British citizen : No 2) [2016] EWHC 2309 (Fam) (13 September 2016)
Further hearing relating to a vulnerable adult who claimed to be held against her will in Saudi Arabia. Direction for solicitor to meet her in Saudi Arabia, to ascertain her wishes. Full report: Bailii.

Zdravkovic v Serbia - 28181/11 (Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) : Court (Third Section)) [2016] ECHR 770 (20 September 2016)
Complaint by mother that failure to enforce interim access and custody orders breached her Article 6 & 8 rights. Held, there had been no violation. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

To subscribe to the Family Lore Focus free weekly Newsletter (which includes links to all of the week's top family law news stories, cases, articles and blog posts), go here.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fraudulent, banal, dismal...


Well, I hope my posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog are none of those things:

Lord McNally does have a point, but only up to a point - Are lawyers being “quite fraudulent” when stating that the legal aid cuts implemented by LASPO are denying people access to justice?

Transforming our justice system: the obvious, the banal and the old - A look at the MoJ's consultation on the reform of the justice system.

A dismal view of a care system in crisis - Looking at the latest View from the President's chambers.

Failure to enforce custody and access orders does not breach mother’s human rights - The ECHR case Zdravković v. Serbia.

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Is Social Media Is Destroying Marriages?

Family law solicitors at Carter Law’s Manchester based practice have noticed a trend for social media to be the cause, or a catalyst in an increasing number of divorce cases. As people are becoming emotionally attached to their smartphones, it seems that Facebook, Twitter et al, are becoming factors in an increasing number of divorce cases.

A study in 2014 shows the use of social media negatively correlated with marriage quality and happiness. The more a person used social media, the more problems appeared in their relationship. The study claimed that 1 in 7 married individuals consider divorcing their spouse due to social media issues.

So what exactly is it about social media that is causing problems for married couples?

Social media has its positives. It allows you to share your life with family and friends, and keep in touch and up to date with what’s happening amongst your network. But there is a dark side to social media which is becoming more apparent; the potential temptation for spouses to have affairs and cause daily arguments in relationships.

Social media can make affairs more accessible. Affairs that may have taken almost years to develop in the past are a lot easier to have with access to social media. When people are experiencing a rocky patch within their marriage they tend to seek outside support and with accounts such as Facebook, an old flame is only one ‘Add Friend’ button away.

People tend to have people on Facebook who they see as potential back-burners if their marriage was to break down. Affairs don’t have to be just physical relationships; they can be purely a digital based affair. This involves talking to someone online who you are attracted to and keeping this a secret from your partner.

Partners in marriages are getting caught out for bad behaviour on social media, as this heightened connectivity has created a world that means no matter where you are, who you are with, you can be watched by someone. Social media accounts such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram make it easier for spouses to catch their partners in the act.

58% of people admit to knowing their spouse’s passwords, even though their spouse had no idea. Partners may be inclined to snoop into their spouse’s social media account to find out who they are talking to, who they are meeting and where they are going. A co-worker could tag a person in the pub who their spouse sees and become suspicious as their partner told them they had to work late.

As well as the opportunity for affairs, the trend of ‘facebragging’ on social media is contributing to the increased number of divorces. ‘Facebragging’ is when people use social media to cultivate an online image of success. Couples are comparing their relationships with other marriages that post about their happy lives, often striking up feelings of envy in viewers; the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, however.

Some husbands and wives put pressure on each other to outdo friends and their spouse’s on social media in terms such as physical appearance and splurging out on luxurious holidays which they can’t actually afford to brag about how much better their life is, causing financial stress to the marriage.  Social media is giving couples unrealistic expectations of marriage and resulting in unhappy partners being dissatisfied with their lives.

The amount of time spouses spend online is also a contribution to divorce cases. A study suggests people that use Facebook more than once an hour are more likely to experience Facebook-related conflict with their partner. This is down to spouses feeling undermined when their partner is failing to pay attention to them.

Spending a lot of time on social media can make a spouse feel like their partner is more interested in what is going on elsewhere, rather than what’s going on with them. When was the last time there was an ad break on television and you paid attention to your partner rather than checking your newsfeed?

Social media can be a catalyst for jealousy in marriages, which leads to further problems in the relationship. Spouses can become envious of the amount of a time their partner is spending on social media, they can become jealous of images they are posting including pictures of nights out with friends, or irritated by the people they are adding on Facebook. People can often feel less supported by their partner if they are choosing to post images of events rather than their family.

Some people use social media as a way to escape from their relationship problems, but being in a relationship takes work and sometimes it might seem easier to bury your head in a smartphone and see what’s happening across social media rather than talk about issues in the relationship and making the effort to make things work out.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Internet Newsletter for Lawyers September/October 2016


The latest issue of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers is now published.

In this issue
  • Continuing Practice Development – Nick Holmes explains the changes to CPD being implemented by the SRA and the BSB
  • Data protection – David Flint of MacRoberts considers two recent developments relating to data protection and trade secrets
  • Customer care – Mindy Gofton of I-COM looks at the potential of using chatbots for customer service
  • IT security – Lynda Minns considers the measures independent practitioners need to take in relation to IT security
  • Legal software – Delia Venables describes the products from 30 suppliers offering cloud-based software for lawyers
  • Data protection – Alex Heshmaty of Legal Words introduces the new General Data Protection Regulation

Access the Newsletter online

News Essentials: 19th September 2016


A brief summary of the essential family law news and cases from the last week:

NEWS
MPs call for end to abusive men using courts against families
Government urged to review family court system which is ‘allowing men to re-traumatise women and children’. Full story: The Guardian.

Changes to legal aid Special Children Act applications
The Legal Aid Agency has made changes to applications under the Special Children Act and standard cost limits to improve processes in the Client and Cost Management System. Full story: Family Law Week.

Transforming our Justice System
Consultation and Statement seek to map out future for the court system. Full story: Family Law Week.

Smile: High Court judge uses emoji in official ruling
One High Court judge has gone to previously unheard-of lengths to make a judgment in a family court case comprehensible even for the children it affects. Full story: The Telegraph. See Lancashire County Council v M & Ors, below.

First children arbitration heard
The first arbitration held under the children arbitration scheme introduced in July 2016 has been determined. Full story: Family Law Week.

Mr Justice Moylan appointed as Lord Justice of Appeal
Mr Justice Moylan has been appointed as one of six new Court of Appeal judges. Full story: Family Law.

Munby calls for action on England-Scotland enforcement
The president of the Family Division has called for urgent action to fill gaps in the law relating to cross-border issues between England and Scotland. Full story: Law Society Gazette. See X (A Child) and Y (A Child), below.

Government service puts domestic abuse survivors at risk
Domestic abuse survivors are being put at risk by the government’s new Child Maintenance Service, finds new evidence from Gingerbread and Women’s Aid. Full story: Gingerbread.

Solicitor dismay over Munby care case comments
Lawyers have expressed concern over comments made by the president of the Family Division about the representation of children in public law cases. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

Shot girl Mary Shipstone's safe house revealed by solicitor error
The address of a girl fatally shot on her doorstep by her estranged father was accidentally sent to him by her mother's solicitor, it has emerged. Full story: BBC News.

The Family Procedure (Amendment No. 2) Rules 2016
These rules amend the Family Procedure Rules 2010. Statutory Instrument.

Care cases received by Cafcass in August up 34% on a year ago
1,258 care applications received. Full story: Family Law Week.

New private law cases received by Cafcass in August up 23% on a year ago
3,535 new private law cases received. Full story: Family Law Week.

CASES
W (Minors), Re [2016] EWHC 2226 (Fam) (10 August 2016)
Application by father for child arrangements order and for order forbidding mother from removing child from the jurisdiction. Cross-application by mother for non-molestation order. Full report: Bailii.

Lancashire County Council v M & Ors [2016] EWFC 9 (04 February 2016)
Care proceedings concerning four children, in which there was a concern that the father of the youngest two children might take them to Syria. Full report: Bailii.

X (A Child) and Y (A Child) [2016] EWHC 2271 (Fam) (12 September 2016)
Two cases which raise cross-border issues as between England and Scotland in relation to the making of secure accommodation orders. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

To subscribe to the Family Lore Focus free weekly Newsletter (which includes links to all of the week's top family law news stories, cases, articles and blog posts), go here.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Conspiracy theories, civil partnerships and more...


There was a real variety of topics in my posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog, which included:

Conspiracy theorists are skewing the debate - Conspiracy theories can most certainly be harmful.

Should we keep civil partnerships, or allow them to die? - In the light of the latest statistics in civil partnerships from the ONS.

Is the new child maintenance system putting domestic violence survivors at risk? - As suggested by the charities Gingerbread and Women's aid.

The use and abuse of ex parte injunctions - Mostyn J's judgment in Re W (Minors).

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The future of judgments...

Mr Justice Jackson’s judgment in Lancashire County Council v M & Ors, written in plain English for the parties and older children to understand, has received much praise amongst family lawyers, who clearly see it as a model for judgments in future. I therefore wondered just what those future judgments might look like…


IN THE COURT WHERE CASES LIKE THIS ARE HEARD
Case Reference: [2025] CWCLTAH 1
1st April 2025
Before:

The Nice MR JUSTICE FLUFFY-WUFFY
_____________

Between:

MRS NODDY      Wifey

-and-

MR NODDY      Hubby


1. I will keep this judgment and the words in it as short as possible, so that any idiot can understand it.

2. Once upon a time there lived two very nice people, named Mr and Mrs Noddy.

3. Sadly, children, Mr and Mrs Noddy did not live happily ever after.

4. One day last year poor Mr and Mrs Noddy were attacked by the Big Bad Divorce Dragon, and they have been unhappy ever since.

5. Mr and Mrs Noddy have asked me to kill the Big Bad Divorce Dragon, so that they can live happily again, in two separate nice thatched cottages in Happilyeverafter Land.

6. So that they can buy those two nice thatched cottages I have decided that their howwible house where they live now should be sold, and the pennies that the buyer pays them should be put on a big scales and divided equally between Mr and Mrs Noddy.

Etc., etc…

Monday, September 12, 2016

News Essentials: 12th September 2016


A brief summary of the essential family law news and cases from the last week:

NEWS
The Access to Justice Act 1999 (Destination of Appeals) (Family Proceedings) (Amendment) Order 2016
Article 2 of this Order amends the Access to Justice Act 1999 (Destination of Appeals) (Family Proceedings) Order 2014 to provide for the route of appeal from certain decisions or orders of Circuit judges and Recorders sitting in the family court to be to the High Court, rather than the Court of Appeal. Statutory Instrument.

Civil partnerships registrations halved since introduction of same gender marriage
Dissolutions increase by 14% since 2014. Full story: Family Law Week.

Acquitted dad Craig Beattie 'killed baby son' family judge said
A judge found that a father killed his baby son in a ruling made a year before he was cleared of manslaughter by a jury, it has emerged. Full story: BBC News.

Violent crimes against women in England and Wales reach record high
Director of public prosecutions says use of social media to threaten and control is driving factor behind 10% rise in number of cases to 117,568 in 2015-16. Full story: The Guardian.

Hayden J expresses concern about preparation of ‘habitual residence’ cases
Such cases are a factual exploration and must be ‘child driven’. Full story: Family Law Week. See B (A Minor : Habitual Residence).

CASES
M (Children), Re [2016] EWCA Civ 937 (09 September 2016)
Appeal concerning the extent of the court's jurisdiction, if any, to make orders in wardship and/or under the inherent jurisdiction for the accommodation of a young person who is 17 years of age. Full report: Bailii.

Hart v Hart [2016] EWCA Civ 497 (24 May 2016)
Renewed application by husband for permission to appeal in ancillary relief proceedings. Permission refused. Full report: Bailii.

K v K [2016] EWHC 2002 (Fam) (29 July 2016)
Appeal by father against order recognising order of Russian court, on the basis that the 1996 Hague Convention was not in force between England and Wales and the Russian Federation on the date that the Russian order was made. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

To subscribe to the Family Lore Focus free weekly Newsletter (which includes links to all of the week's top family law news stories, cases, articles and blog posts), go here.

Friday, September 09, 2016

DV, costs and some well-deserved praise...


Domestic violence, excessive costs and a few grateful words for a vital but under-appreciated member of the team: my posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog:

Coercive control and the problem of proof - Some thoughts as to why there have been so few prosecutions for coercive control.

Women’s refuges: a vital service that needs protecting - The appalling news that two-thirds of refuges could close.

In praise of the legal secretary - As the title says.

A salutary lesson on costs - Excessive costs: the case K v K.

Have a good weekend.