Shared Parenting Information Group (SPIG) UK

- promoting responsible shared parenting after separation and divorce -

Reforming Child Support - Shared care

Supplementary submission of the Shared Parenting Information Group to the Consultation exercise based on the green paper: Children First: A New Approach to Child Support. Children First: A New Approach to Child Support. Cmnd. 3992. HMSO 1998


We would like to take this opportunity to expand our comments on shared care.

Shared care

We are pleased to see that the green paper recognises the growing concepts of 'shared parenting' [p 15 para 11] and 'shared care' [p 27 para 22-23 and p 49 paras 5-6].

However, despite stressing the value of children having contact with both their parents, there is an unfair distinction between 'care' and what is termed as 'merely contact' [p 27 para 23]. Contact and care are equally important and are really indistinguishable, and in recognition of this a number of jurisdictions in the USA have introduced the term 'parenting time' to cover both.

Many non-resident parents care for their children in the day, feeding them, getting them ready for school, picking them up at the end of the day, and buying clothes for them. This may be because the other parent is at work, or the non-resident parent works nights, or has no suitable accommodation for the children, or just because this is what works best for those parents, but the green paper pays no recognition to this and continues the artificial concept of equating care with where children sleep.

Daytime contact is important and is just as valid a parenting function as having children sleep overnight, so proper recognition should be given to it - otherwise the proposals will be seen as decidedly unfair.

The proposal to reduce support by one seventh of the weekly rate for each overnight stay [p 49 para 9] is flawed, because for 50-50 shared care the non-resident parent is still expected to contribute for the time the children are with the other parent - in addition to the expense they have to meet when they are in their own care - they are thus still meeting all the child care costs.


  1. The terms 'care' and 'contact' should be replaced by 'parenting time'.
  2. A simple formula which equates mornings, afternoons and overnights, averaged out over the year should form the basis of assessing child support liability.
  3. In situations where the parents share the care equally, each parent should shoulder the responsibility for looking after the children when they are with them, and in this case there should be no child support liability for either parent.
  4. In recognition of the importance of contact, allowance should be made for the travel costs incurred for contact.
  5. Where the non-resident parent buys or pays for clothing, the cost of this should be offset against their maintenance liability.

Last updated - 29 November 1998

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