The consultation period was far too short and it is not clear what effect, if any, it had on the Bill.
By comparison, the Australian Child Support scheme was developed by a group including representatives from mothers and fathers organisations, who unanimously agreed the final formula.
In fact the figures in Vol 2 of the white paper show that 60-70% of court orders are never in arrears. The question we should be asking is "Why are there so few court orders ?" - could it be that the parents involved do not have the means to pay?
The great majority of parents care very much for their children and have not chosen to absent themselves. Whilst liable for maintenance, we must be aware that they may have wished to remain with their children.
There are many oppressive clauses in the Bill. It could be just as effective, but cheaper to operate and less antagonistic if the procedure were to be voluntary
The formula is complex and untested. We must allow for the courts to intervene in cases where it produces undue hardship.
There is a very real risk that the increased cost of child maintenance will result in some parents being unable to afford to stay in contact with their children - particularly when the parent with care has moved away. This amendment will prove that we are concerned about children - by introducing a safety net for access.
These procedures are entirely inappropriate for delicate family matters.
Parents on access visits who buy toys and clothing for their children are paying twice. Agreed purchases of this kind should be offset against the maintenance bill.
By making the provisions of the Bill voluntary, these punitive clauses are not required. Fees should not be charged
Clause 41 is at variance with the Children Act, where parents on benefit do not contribute to the cost of their children in care. Clause 41 discriminates against divorced parents and should either be deleted or complemented by deletion of clause 21(4) of Schedule 2 of the Children Act 1989.
Clause 43 has already been thrown out by the House of Lords and has no place in this Bill.
This Bill should reflect the concept of shared parenting embodied in the Children Act, by apportioning maintenance in direct relationship to the proportion of time the children spend with each parent.
This requirement appears punitive and will only serve to exacerbate existing difficulties in relationships between parents.
Many parents caring for children work full time, making appropriate child minding arrangements. It would be grossly unjust to force the other parent to provide a meal ticket in circumstances where the other is capable of working, but elects not to do so.
There is very real concern about a catch-all clause of this sort in primary legislation. Can we allow a clause which might result in an absent parent paying for the mortgage and passported benefits ?
The costs of access can be considerable - particularly where the parent with care has moved away. Once the maintenance bill is met, the formula should allow for the costs of access
This clearly covers the cases where absent parents intentionally create a low income for themselves. But the parent with care may similarly deprive themselves of capital or income, to gain state benefits or for other reasons. It would be unjust to apply sanctions only to one parent.
The clause must apply equally to both parents.
16 July 1991
Last updated - 7 July 1998