Two systems at odds

As we all know, the child support system is rife with unfairness. Yesterday I received an email from a father aggrieved that "even if the courts have decided the parents have equal responsibilities, the CSA still define one parent as the 'parent with care' and take money from the other as a consequence". He concludes:

I presume that the 'parent with care' has responsibilities over and above those of the other parent, and is required to pay more towards the care of the child as a consequence. Can you tell me where I can find information about what the requirements are of a 'parent with care' and what action is taken if they fail to fulfil those responsibilities?

The answer is that the term 'parent with care' is simply one used by the child support system to define the 'payee', and has no bearing upon the responsibilities of that parent. Anyone with parental responsibility has a duty to maintain the child, but subject to this once child support is paid to them they are free to use that money as they see fit. The 'parent with care' is the parent with whom the child spends most nights, or if this is equal, the parent in receipt of Child Benefit (which is more likely to be the mother).

It has, of course, long been complained that the child support system actually works against the principles of child law, for example in the way it encourages the parent with care to restrict the number of nights per week that the child spends with the other parent, irrespective of what is best for the child, in order to maximise the child support that the absent parent should pay. In this instance, the system is discouraging shared residence arrangements (despite the courts nowadays being far more likely to consider that such arrangements are in the child's best interests), by financially penalising one of the parents, even though he/she is sharing all expenses for the child equally with the other parent.

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