I received a letter this morning from Resolution, requesting examples of cases in which the child support '12 month rule' has caused difficulties, either in respect of settling cases, or where there have been problems because of a subsequent approach to the Child Support Agency.
For those who are not au fait with the arcane mysteries of the child support system, the 12 month rule is part of the peculiar interface between the old court-based system of child maintenance and the child support system. Contrary to popular belief, the child support system did not do away with the court-based system, just took jurisdiction away from it, in most cases. One instance in which the court can still make a child maintenance order is where the maintenance is agreed as part of a divorce settlement. However, after 12 months have elapsed from the date of the order, either party may then apply to the CSA for a child support assessment, which may obviously be for a different amount to the order, and the assessment will replace the order. As Resolution state, this 12 month rule has caused considerable difficulties, either in settling cases, or "where after a carefully negotiated agreement, one year later, one parent then takes matters to the CSA and 'all hell breaks loose'".
The Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill, reforming the child support system, has just entered into the House of Lords, who have requested anecdotal evidence from Resolution as to why they state that the 12 month rule does not work, hence the letter that Resolution has sent to members. I certainly don't like the rule, and have often feared for its consequences in my own cases, but I am presently struggling to think of an instance where it has actually caused a problem. Perhaps I have been lucky.