Posted on 4th July 2007

Give Power to Tees Valley's Parents

As MPs prepare to debate the new Child Maintenance Bill for the first time in Parliament today, Judith Middleton, family lawyer and partner at Darlington law firm Latimer Hinks is calling for parents to be allowed to take their own enforcement action. Judith is a member of, and spokesperson for, the national family law group, Resolution, which has long been campaigning for changes to the child support system. Judith said: The two previous Child Support schemes both failed because they could not handle the volume of cases that came to them. The Government created a system where the only way to enforce child maintenance was via the CSA the result is a debt mountain of 3.5 billion in uncollected maintenance. The Government is promoting voluntary agreements on child maintenance between parents to avoid overload on the new version of the CSA, C-MEC. Resolution says there will have to be a large number of voluntary agreements if C-MEC is not to be overwhelmed. Yet the Government is not proposing that such arrangements will be enforceable. So couples unable to agree or enforce a voluntary arrangement will still have to go through C-MEC. Judith said: The Government hopes to cut the workload of the new child maintenance agency by encouraging parents to make voluntary arrangements. But the reason the CSA was established is precisely because so few people can arrive at voluntary agreements. If the Government is serious about empowering parents and reducing the burden on C-MEC, they should ensure that those who choose to are free to use the court process to enforce their own maintenance arrangements. Where the Courts are already examining the minutiae of a familys finances for the purposes of divorce, the most cost effective and practical course would be to enable them also to cover arrangements for child support payments.