Senior Judge dissatisfied with maintenance rules

A Judge this month called for a change to the rules the Child Maintenance Service (previously the Child Support Agency) apply to determine how much maintenance a non-resident parent should pay.

Under the current framework, introduced back in 2012, payments are based solely on actual income.

This means that those who have significant property or investments are likely to be asked for relatively meagre sums if their income is low.

Over the past five years this arrangement has prompted concerns that some parents are organising their affairs to take advantage of the way that contributions are calculated.

Now Mr Justice Mostyn has suggested that Judges should order lump sum payments to help those who have lost out.

He was prompted to speak out after handling a case in which a woman was receiving just £7 a week to support her teenage son, in spite of the fact that her former husband was a multi-millionaire who owned property in excess of £5million.

Commenting on the issues arising from the case, he criticised the current policy and indicated that family courts were likely to intervene to address the perceived injustice.

Mr Justice Mostyn said: “If the ground is not reinstated then I foresee more cases seeking singular awards of capital, such as the one which I have determined, coming before the family court. And the family court taking an ever more expansive view of what does constitute singular expenditure.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman sought to defend the current system.

“In most cases, the simplest and fairest way to calculate a child maintenance payment is to look at the non-resident parent’s income,” she said.

“We can take into account a broad range of unearned income and other assets which generate funds, at the request of a parent.”

Peter Martin, OGR Stock Denton’s head of family law, said: “The old CSA rules allowed the CSA to take account of lifestyle and capital – even where capital was not an apparent income producing asset.  It was rarely properly applied.

“The Courts need to be given jurisdiction to make appropriate orders where a non-resident parent has huge capital but little income.  This should include a maintenance order rather than just lump sum orders.

“An experienced Family Judge is much better at weeding out the evaders with capital assets from those genuinely having non-income producing non-realisable capital and no income.”

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