Shared Care and Child Support.
Under the 2012 scheme rules, which apply to those cases that entered the child support system in November 2013 onwards, where parents are considered by the Child Support Agency to share the care of their children to exactly the same extent, then neither parent can be considered to be the “non-resident parent” i.e. the paying parent, and on this basis the Child Support Agency will not have jurisdiction and no child support will be payable.
This is a significant change from the rules under the earlier schemes, which specify that even though the care of the children may be shared to the same extent, one parent will still be considered to be the non-resident parent and will be liable to pay child support, albeit at a reduced rate.
These rules were considered to create unfairness in that in a number of cases, it seemed inappropriate that the non-resident parent should still have to pay child support, when the children lived with him/her for 50% of the time.
However, under the new rules, it is not difficult to envisage a scenario where unfairness may arise. For instance, if one parent lives in modest circumstances but the other parent is extremely wealthy, then is it fair that there should be no child support paid in these circumstances?
The other unfortunate repercussion of the new rules is that some parents may seek equal care in order to enable them to be exempt from having to pay child support. And likewise some parents may resist equal care even though this may best suit the needs of the children, in order to avoid losing child support.
It is an established principle of family law that decisions concerning where children should live must be taken by reference to what is in their best interest, as opposed to any financial advantage/disadvantage to the parent.
Whilst the new rules will be welcomed by some parents they may, equally, create problems for others.