Child contact and support are two separate issues

Divorce|June 20th 2016

I don’t normally like to give publicity to such things, but the fathers’ rights protesters who gate-crashed ITV’s Loose Women programme the other day appeared to be shouting “No kids, no cash!” In other words, if they didn’t get contact with their children, they wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) pay any child support for them.

It’s a hoary old argument that has been wheeled out for many years. However, antiquity does not make it right. There is no quid pro quo between seeing your child and paying for their support, and nor should there be.

The determining factor regarding any issue relating to a parent’s contact with their child is the child’s welfare. The questions are: is it best for the child’s welfare that contact takes place and, if so, how much contact is best for their welfare? What is best for the child’s welfare is determined by looking at all of the circumstances of the case, in particular the seven factors set out in the welfare checklist. Those factors include such matters as the child’s wishes, the child’s needs, and any harm they may be at risk of suffering. Whether the parent seeking contact is paying maintenance is not one of the factors.

And this is surely how it must be. We cannot, for example, say that the risk of harm to a child is reduced because the non-resident parent (‘NRP’) is paying child support, and that the more the NRP is paying, the less that risk is. Nor can we say that just because the NRP is paying child support that means they are capable of meeting the child’s needs. Conversely, we cannot say that just because the NRP is not paying child support the child is at greater risk of harm, or that the NRP is not capable of meeting the child’s needs.

Of course, in the vast majority of cases the child’s welfare will determine that there should be regular contact with the NRP, irrespective of whether or not they are paying child support. Courts take the view that contact is usually best for a child’s welfare, and only refuse contact in exceptional cases, where it is clear that the child’s welfare would suffer if contact were to take place. If the court has taken such a decision, then obviously no amount of child support paid by the NRP should make any difference.

Of course, the protesters are not just aiming at the courts. They are also aiming at the parents with care of the children, usually the mothers. They say that if she doesn’t let me see the kids, then I won’t pay her any child support. This, of course, is the wrong approach – if the parent with care is refusing contact, then the remedy is to apply to the court for a contact order, not to refuse to pay child support.

This leads me to my next point: just because an NRP is not having any contact with his child, he still has to pay child support, provided he can afford to do so. The child’s financial needs don’t change just because the NRP isn’t having contact. Save where a child is adopted, the responsibility to maintain them lasts until the child is no longer dependent, irrespective of the arrangements for contact. It should be remembered that this, of course, applies to both parents: the parent with care is also obliged to contribute to the child’s financial needs, so far as their means allow.

Unfortunately, the government in its infinite wisdom chose to make a link between child support and contact, by including in the child support formula a deduction for the amount of time that the child stays with the NRP. This can obviously lead to some NRPs seeking more contact not because they think that is best for the child, but simply to reduce their child support liability. Whilst no court is likely fall for such a ruse, the formula can obviously lead to further unnecessary disputes between parents.

Linking contact and cash, therefore, is both wrong for the child and wrong for the parents. It disregards the child’s welfare and increases the chances of parental conflict. All parents are obliged to maintain their children, and NRPs refused contact should seek redress through the courts. And if the courts refuse them contact, then they should consider very carefully the reasons for the refusal, which will usually have nothing to do with the issue of child support.

Author: Stowe Family Law

Comments(11)

  1. Sitting on a fence says:

    Question. How much contact have you had denied John ?

    It’s all very well writing about detail that you have absolutely no experience of enduring.

    I have had two court orders and breached at least 1000 times.

    I have also spent money that could of provided a private education, surely, my sons ” best interest”

    You can pontificate, but, realistically, you have never experienced the emotional toil.

    Your detached and realistically, you cannot understand the real dynamic.

    The parameter regarding csa is obscene. They are not interested in knowing where the money is spent.

    That is not, ” in any child’s best interest”

    I explained, I spend my money on my child. The best of everything.

    If I “give” money, to my term an “Alienating Parent “she will keep for her own selfish desire.

    For me, most of these alienating parents are sociopathic.

    Devil’s.

    “How would you feel, giving money to a Devil ” ?

  2. Andrew says:

    Agreed but it cuts both ways. Some PWCs make the failure to pay an excuse for refusing contact and that is equally wrong. Children are not pay-per-view. A relation of mine once had to beg his ex on the doorstep for a day with his children because the CSA had failed to pass a payment on, and it won’ do.

  3. Jo Archer says:

    However, if the father goes out of his way to ‘divert’ his income in order to evade his financial responsibilities to his child, and if the father forces the mother to spend all her time dealing with the CSA, the Fist Tier Tribunal and eventually the courts – all while living on nothing, does that not show a certain lack of concern for his child? I would say the father’s ABILITY to pay should have no bearing on the contact he has but his ACTIVE UNWILLINGNESS must be damaging not only to his child but the other parent’s ability to care, on their own, for their child to the best of her ability.

  4. Andy says:

    In this example, it showes that any body can talk or blog crap…
    The endless tactic used by the PWC to keep the NRP lets say carrot and donkey situation..
    In many examples this age old situation that mother either suspends the children from seeing the Father and as now shown why pay for something you both cherished now used as a bargaining tool..

    You ask any father as I am one who organises day trips out and having to give detailed account of where,when and time for the days events because if I didn’t the mother used the system to say or create such lies about my conduct with the children and you get the rest of the crap of how this will turn out.
    Example, I go to pick children up from the once marital home.Door opens no discussion but children are not about ,then mother screams bangs her head on wall..I have done nothing, you have hit me!!! I’m amazed at what is happening, police called ,who gets arrested..yea.Now this is where it gets stupid…
    I now have to prove I did nothing, prove that I am not violent..she can now get legal aid to fight for no contact..
    No support for my attempt to sort this out and criminal record or assault etc..So when I hear the crap that children are not used as weapons.Lies and of course full support by the courts for her Oscar winning performance then I fully support the NRP fighting against the corruption the courts dish out.
    If no one agrees then tuff just ask any divorced dad..you will see..

    Yes,you should contribute but not forced to by external agency who promote themselves as a caring agency for child maintenance..bull shit…
    You watch if you did not pay you will see the sly tactics used to force you to pay….
    What if we all did not pay what can they do..nothing because like idiots we moan and do nothing..see the French sorted the fuel crisis out brings the world to a stop….
    Before any one tells me that I have the wrong attitude I have not, I have the right one, the system has made me have the wrong one..Because of the rules that are in favour.As for going to court to fight for structured and contact rights how on earth can the NRP support that he has lost all his disposable salary via S assessment.lost marital home court in favour of mother, now has to find finances to go to court with..and your telling me go to court with what, buttons, as payment. God help us all.

  5. Andy says:

    I do apologise..I have wound myself up on these subjects because every one knows its all very amicable in divorce isn’t it…

  6. Paul Apreda says:

    John is very consistent in his approach. He is of course habitually wrong – but most people who read the blog have come to appreciate this. But even someone of John’s talent for consistency cant be wrong all the time. I completely agree with him that there should be no reduction in child maintenance based on the amount of time that one parent spends with the child. Of course John sees this as a ruse by NRP dads to see their kids more often so they don’t have to pay for them. I would see the dynamic as coming from the RP who refuses contact to increase the cash they receive. The fact that John asserts the former must mean that he also sees the latter, mustn’t it?! I must admit that John has acknowledged that the RP must also provide financially for the child ‘as far as their resources permit’. It is such a ludicrous position to see a child as a possession which one parent owns and requires money from the other. But of course the Family Justice system couldn’t possibly work if we moved away from that winner takes all way of thinking. So lets get our priorities right. Spare a thought for all those poor judges and lawyers who wouldn’t know where their next crust is coming from. The last thing we need is for a child focussed non adversarial system that prioritised collaborative shared parenting. John – another triumph! Well done

  7. mike says:

    OMG are you deranged???

    So, if we go by your preposterous assumption that no matter what, the man should pay Pay PAY! EVEN IF the female denies him access to his child; what in your feverish mind do you think the vast majority of females will do then????

    The only reason the courts deliberately disconnected money from visitation is because they knew females would practice parental alienation and that would cause lots of repeat business with men bringing their reprehensible ex’s back year after year after year. As the court get a cut from all of fathers monthly Mommy-Support ransom payments it stands to reason why the courts are almost 100% completely mother bias.

    Females are the GOLDEN-GOOSE!!!

  8. Nick Langford says:

    You write, “Unfortunately, the government in its infinite wisdom chose to make a link between child support and contact, by including in the child support formula a deduction for the amount of time that the child stays with the NRP”, John. Are you saying that there should be no such reduction? That would make contact with the average father financially impossible. While some fathers may use this link in order to reduce payments, it is equally true that mothers use it to increase payments – which you neglect to mention. There is good research, too, which shows that increasing contact in order to reduce payments is not a good strategy for fathers, and that contact actually costs fathers more than any child support saved. It is cynical to suggest fathers only want contact for financial reasons.

    I would also add that many protesters have been awarded contact by the courts and are protesting the facts that the orders are not obeyed and not enforced, another factor you conveniently ignore. Fathers who have been denied contact by the courts for good reasons are seldom welcome in protest groups.

    I am not defending the simplistic and crude campaigning of the protesters, but this is a more complex issue than you make out, and needs to be debated more openly and thoroughly.

  9. Andrew says:

    I remain of opinion that deliberate disobedience to an order to allow contact should be treated like deliberate breach of a non mol: suspended sentence the first time and activate it the second.

    I also remain of opinion that both should be more risky than not paying CM because imprisonment for payment of civil debt is wrong. Any and every civil debt.

  10. JamesB says:

    I remain of the opinion that we should vote Leave and that doing so will help resolve these family law issues. In the same way as Scottish devolution helped them resolve their family law issues, we could do with taking a leaf out of their book and sorting things out rather than paying lawyers to pontificate and come up with the nonsense headline above. It (voting Leave) will also improve our gdp per head and economy and standard of living and happiness.

  11. Yuri says:

    The below American comment sheds much needed light on John Bolch’s unconvincing contentions .

    John Bolch so very far out to lunch.

    nationalparentsorganization.org/blog/23007-john-bolch-so-very-far-out-to-lunch

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