Legal clinic on ITV’s This Morning

Children|Stowe Family Law|October 3rd 2012

Today I took part in a legal clinic focused on children law on This Morning. There were a real variety of questions that concerned contact arrangements, child maintenance payments and parental responsibility – and I’m grateful for all those who got in touch.
Issues surrounding children can be complex and emotionally charged at times, and understanding the relationship between the law and your own situation can often be difficult.
One caller to the show sought advice because her estranged husband wants to take her three children to see his family – something they don’t want to do and haven’t done before. An issue concerning contact, I suggested three options: undertaking mediation, working with charity Relate to arrive at an agreement, or applying for a contact order (further information is available on the DirectGov website).
Another interesting call to the show concerned parental responsibility. The caller in question has three children with her ex-husband and has subsequently remarried. She now wants their step father to have parental responsibility for them, in instances such as medical emergencies. I advised that she should ask her former husband whether he would sign a Step Parent Agreement, giving her new husband parental rights over the children. If he isn’t amenable then she could go to court and apply for a Step Parent Responsibility Order under Section 4A of the Children’s Act  1989. Again, further information about parental responsibility is available on the DirectGov website.
We also touched upon changes to the Child Support Agency (CSA) in relation to another question.  From this month child maintenance will be calculated as percentage of gross income for the first time. The CSA will also begin liaising with the Inland Revenue to uncover an accurate impression of earnings, something that is often difficult to obtain if a parent is self-employed. If you require more information on child maintenance visit the Child Maintenance Options website.
As always there were plenty of people calling into the show, and I wasn’t able to address everyone’s questions. If you have a question, you are welcome to contact me or to leave a comment below and I will endeavour to answer as many as possible.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. Guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. JamesB says:

    I was very saddened to head about the increased powers given to the CSA. I do think that is the final nail in the coffin of marriage in this country, essentially men relegated to the role of sperm doner and walking wallet.
    There is no penalty (but instead rewards given) to women for treating men in this appalling way and using them and then stealing their children away from them.

  2. JamesB says:

    Given the three major parties support of the CSA and the UKIP’s support of Grammer Schools, I think I am now forced to either not vote or vote BNP based on policies and my intense disgust for the work the CSA do.

  3. JamesB says:

    To spell it out, child maintenance should be at the discretion of the court.

  4. Observer says:

    “One caller to the show sought advice because her estranged husband wants to take her three children to see his family – something they don’t want to do and haven’t done before.”
    1) They haven’t done so before because a control freak has not allowed them to.
    2) They don’t want to because an abusive parent has made them believe they don’t want to.
    That is all there is to this. The pattern is very well known.

  5. JamesB says:

    Although I would worry about the BNPs attitudes to ethnic minorities (such as my partner) so not sure who that would leave. Perhaps a single issue party or the greens. I’d probably read the BNPs portfolio (unlike most who slag them off) then vote for them if I could stomach them (which is probably the best of a bad bunch). Not that the vote will count given the system we have for Westminster. That said, looks like my vote may contribute to a BNP MEP for the South East of England, the way things are going. Yet another disgruntled voter, disillusioned with the unrepresentative mainstream parties, it’s sad really.

  6. John says:

    I have suffered at the hands of the CSA for 12 years, as both a non rersident parent and a parent with care. “Repeated incompetence and Wilful unfairness”, “Huge embarassment and Profound and unnecessary stress”. Not my words, but the words of my M.P.
    I was also ‘stitched up’, with £6,400 worth of debt because of further incompetence after my M.P. made his comments.
    It is what I can only call a complete and utter shambles.
    What happens between parents regarding children, is for them to sort out, either by consent or using mediation where necessary. Where that fails, it should be a matter for the courts to deal with, and not a run for profit quango, running ‘rigged tribunals’, where Executives receive gold plated pensions for performance!

  7. JamesB says:

    I completely agree with you John, it is not an unreasonable ask. It shows the quality of our westminster politicians as a whole that they ignore this and pursue an amoral policy instead.

  8. Fiona says:

    “From this month child maintenance will be calculated as percentage of gross income for the first time.”
    I would like to find out more information on this to assist a friend. However, all the maintenance calculators, including the Child Maintenance Options one you have provided, still use the net salary calculation.
    My questions are :
    1. What are the percentages of this new gross income calculation, and when does it start to be used?
    2. What does “gross income” include exactly – does it include bonuses? Car allowances? Private pension or other perks? How are these calculated?
    3. What about employee and employer pension contributions? Pensions are deferred salary, after all.
    4. Can the NRP deduct the full percentage for “other children living in the household” – ie the children of the NRP’s new partner, even if they only live with the NRP for 50% of the time?
    Any help with this or links would be much appreciated – I just can’t find any information anywhere!

  9. John says:

    Throughout divorce, I also encountered issues regarding contact, even though I sought a contact order from the Family court with which the Judge and the respondent agreed with the contents. Within 3 months the order was breached by the respondent. I informed the court who wanted me to throw another few thousand pounds on a worthless piece of paper. I gave up!
    Where I no problem providing finances for the children, what I do object to, is being embroiled in flawed system and a shambolic agency.
    Also, maintenance issues should be linked to contact, where appropriate, with penalties, where breaches occur!

  10. Fiona says:

    Marilyn, thank you for the links.
    Through them I found this:
    I was able to establish that the gross income calculation covers all earnings, and that occupational and private pension contributions are excluded.
    Receipt of child maintenance is the criterion for deciding whether other children living in the NRP’s household are “other relevant children”.
    The “start date” is gradual and it will only apply to certain families initially, from October 2012.
    The gross income calculation has been brought in to enable information to be gathered from HMRC, but it will not increase the maintenance as the percentage to be deducted has decreased.
    So my friend will be no better off under the new calculation – in fact she would be worse off by about £30 per month.
    Anyway, I thought you might find the results of my research interesting – and thank you for your assistance.

  11. JamesB says:

    Thanks, although I think you meant receipt of child benefit as I do not think that widow’s children would be excluded.
    Also, do you mean the employees or employers contributions to occupational pension scheme is excluded from cslculation?

  12. JamesB says:

    If so,, the scum bros could avoid paying by increasing payments to their pensions in the 2 month assessment period? Or will all calculations be done on yearly p60s?

  13. Fiona says:

    Yes it was meant to read “receipt of child benefit is the criterion”.
    As for the pension contribution issue, they are supposed to be looking at ways to stop that being abused. No information as yet, but the inference is that a sudden increase in pension contributions would be regarded with suspicion and it is open to the SoS to make a finding based on a historic average.

  14. Russel says:

    My ex-partner has suddenly decided that she won’t let me take my son to Scotland to see his aunts and cousins. She said that if anything happened to him that it would make her a bad mother. He has been many times to Scotland with me and to other places visiting me and relatives. She is just doing this to try to take some sort of control. She knows that I am a great father and I always watch him like a hawk. I pay child maintenance and try to see him as much as I can (unfortunately I live about three hours away and can’t afford a car). I would like to know what my rights are when taking him on a trip in the same country. Is she allowed to do this? He is my son too and she is actually preventing me from spending quality time with him and preventing him form having a great time with his cousins.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Hi Russel
      Scotland is a different country with it’s own legal system. You will need your ex’s consent to take your son to Scotland but if she won’t agree it’s quite easy to make an application to the court for permission to take him on the trip. Go along to your local court and ask for the forms to complete. There is a fee but it depends on your income. You will have to send her a copy of your application and appear in front of a judge but dont be nervus about this:- they are human and approachable:- and I expect he or she will make the order. I doubt you will have much trouble after that because the courts do expect a father to play a role in their children’s lives assuming it’s safe, and will not be happy with her if she keeps behaving badly. The courts do not tolerate ‘shenanigans’ either way.
      Best wishes

  15. Susan says:

    Hi Marilyn,
    My partner and I seperated approx 6 months ago. I moved out of the family home with my 3 yr old daughter as at the end there was violence in the relationship and our safety was my priority. My ex didnt take the split well and become abusive via text messages although he insists he is attending counselling for his anger issues. I have always tried to maintain contact between my ex and my daughter, unfortunately this hasnt always been consistent on his behalf until very recently. I do not let her stay overnight at our old family home as I believe this will only upset and confuse her further (she has a development delay) and needs routine. I have always tried to remain amicable with my ex, however since he has discovered I have started dating again he has become increasingly hostile towards me, he wont communicate when collecting our daughter leaving me unsure of what her routine or behaviour has been like. When calling around to our old home to collect some belongings I found a list taped to the fridge with a list of words I can only presume describe myself including liar, disrespectful and tart, of which he 2 other children from a previous marriage were able to see. Since this I have stopped access as I am concerned that he cannot distinguish his relationship with our daughter with his apparent hatred of me which scares me as she is the only thing left which he can control/hurt me with. My daughters behaviour also changes following time spent with him and I am concerned what she may be hearing whilst there. Have you any advice at all. Many thanks in advance.

  16. robert smith says:

    i have three kids have paid maintenance from day 1 each month direct debit although voluntary have always paid the csa rates.Over and above that I buy my three kids lots of stuff take them on holiday etc which is a struggle as i had to buy another house post divorce.My question is this,how is the proposed “gross income scheme” via the csa going to work ? my ex will think there is a possibility she will get more money and end up going there ripping up a perfectly fair well run long standing agreement.Do i end up paying more,do i still pay income tax on it as gross income or is it deducted pre tax ? another tax on parents who do all they can for their kids it seems another tax or hard working mostly fathers as you get hit twice and still pay tax on that sum can anyone advise

  17. Name Witheld says:

    I was wondering if you could help with a problem my husband and myself have. We have a thirteen year old grandson who we have brought up, our daughter lived with us and him until five years ago when she met and married her current partner, they now have two children. Our grandson’s father has been in and out of his life and also now has another family, we have received absolutely no financial help for his entire life, we seem to have nowhere to turn for help as the CSA are not remotely interested. Whilst we are happy to raise our grandson we have had financial hardship but no help is forthcoming, not only do we get no financial help but the child does not get any birthday or Christmas present or card from his father. We try desperately to maintain a relationship between both parents and child and our daughter does have a relationship with him. Any advice at all would be gratefully received

  18. julie Taylor says:

    Hi My Husband has got a Confiscation Order on my house and has been told that he has got to pay back 37,000 by May 25 or he will spend the next 365 days in prison He is 70 on 27 of this month .he has a pacemaker also incontinence and also has cancer . Before he had his pacemaker put in he could not walk far I put down the Deposit for the house and I am also paying the Mortgage please can you help me

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