Child maintenance payments still in arrears

The collection of outstanding child maintenance payments is still a major problem for families, with more single parents struggling to obtain the necessary support for their children from absentee parents.

Child maintenance arrears

According to recent figures from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), outstanding child maintenance arrears have increased from £3.802 billion in June 2012 to £3.814 billion in September 20121.

The figures also show that:

  • In the quarter to September 2012, the CSA collected or arranged £305.6 million in child maintenance (regular and arrears), of which £28.1 million was arrears.
  • In the year to September 2012, the CSA collected or arranged £1,204.5 million in child maintenance (regular and arrears), of which £113.2 million was arrears.

The Child Support Agency

The DWP took over responsibility for the work of the Child Support Agency (CSA) on 1st August 2012. Before this, the CSA was managed by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission.

As well as changing the child maintenance organisational structure, the Government is also proposing a number of controversial changes to its operation, designed to encourage parents to make their own maintenance arrangements without resorting to a statutory collection scheme.

This new Child Maintenance Service will handle cases where parents cannot make their own arrangements – but it will charge for the service.

As well as a £20 application fee, the parent paying maintenance will pay an additional collection fee of 20% on top of each assessed payment. The parent receiving maintenance will have 7% deducted from each assessed payment.

These proposals have attracted a great deal of criticism, with single parent charity Gingerbread claiming that they will penalise  thousands of families who have no choice but to use the statutory scheme.

Current child maintenance figures

The latest figures from DWP regarding child maintenance also show that, in the quarter ending September 2012:

  • the CSA live and assessed caseload stood at 1.11 million,
  • 80% of all cases in which maintenance was due had either received maintenance via the CSA collection service, or had a maintenance direct arrangement in place,
  • maintenance had been collected or arranged by the CSA via the statutory maintenance service on behalf of 899,400 children,
  • At the end of September 2012, the average maintenance calculation was £23.60 per week (including zero calculations).

About the author

Guest post courtesy of Austin Lafferty, family law solicitors in Glasgow, East Kilbride & Hamilton in Scotland offering expert legal advice to people and businesses. They have particular expertise with adoption and child cases. Contact Austin Lafferty for free initial advice.

Offshore holiday homes become a millstone in the necks of divorcing partners due to falling value of the property

Family lawyers have warned that the Euro crisis has had tumbling effect on property values across the EU leading to holiday homes becoming into a toxic legacy for couples who are in the midst of divorce.

Number of cases that are currently on the pipeline centre around the question of which partner would be taking on the villa in Spain, Greece or Italy rather than who would not.

One family lawyer described the task of dividing the assets between warring couples who own a holiday home as like a game of pass the bomb.

Case notes in one separation being negotiated currently include discussions about how to deal with a ‘dead duck’ villa in Spain which has lost its value but still has a hefty mortgage to service and little prospect of being sold.

Another case has a couple who are wrangling over what to do with a house in Cyprus which was now worth £53,000 less than its original value, and after calculating currency exchange issues and steep local taxes to transfer ownership.

In other cases, the added complexity of disposing of a property abroad has become a weapon used by one side or the other in already acrimonious splits.

One British divorcee is being forced to go through a lengthy legal challenge in France to recover proceeds from the sale of their former home, awarded to her by an English court but being withheld by her ex-husband.

A partner of family law solicitors firm said that fighting over overseas houses had become one of the biggest headaches in divorce proceedings in the last year.

The firm estimates that at least one in six of its cases involve the division of domestic and foreign property.

When everything is going well in a family it feels really great to own a property abroad but as soon as the relationship becomes rocky the same assets become a disaster the lawyer said.

The lawyer said that she always encouraged her clients to get rid of property abroad or let the other side have it because they are more trouble than they are worth. They become millstone around the neck of a divorcing partner’s neck.

She added that the majority of people who’ve got these second homes in places like France and Spain, were not the super-rich they but just normal middle class families who could managed to purchase a holiday home.

Another partner of the firm added that some divorcees who received Continental homes before the financial crisis have attempted to “unpick” the terms of their settlements in light of the crisis but were rebuffed by the courts.

Married couples to become a minority

Guest post from family lawyers and psychological strategists, GE Law http://www.gelaw.co.uk/

Families headed by married couples will be in a minority by 2050, according to a new report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). The report also finds that marriage is increasingly the preserve of the middle and upper classes.

According to the independent think tank, only about 50% of new parents on low income are married. This rises to nearly 80% for couples on £21,000 to £31,000 a year and to nearly 90% for those earning over £50,000 a year.

The report concedes that there have been some “promising” moves by Ministers to promote family stability, such as the publication of their Social Justice Strategy and the release of public money to provide relationship support. But overall the CSJ is deeply dismayed by the lack of progress since the Coalition was formed in 2010, warning that official efforts to promote stable families are “dwarfed by the scale and cost of family breakdown”.

The CSJ study draws on new data from the 2011 census and the Millennium Cohort Study to chart the decline of the married family.

The proportion of families headed by a married couple has dropped by 5% over the last decade while there has been a % rise in cohabiting couple families and a 2% rise in lone parent families.

The rise in cohabitation is actually fuelling lone parenthood because cohabiting couples with children are far less stable than those who are married, says the CSJ.

The report calculates that on current trends, by 2031 only 57% of families will be headed by married couples. By 2047, 35 years from now, families headed by a married couple would be a minority – 49.5% of all families.

How To Evaluate Your Family Lawyer

If you are in need of some legal assistance for a divorce, child custody or even an adoption issue, you will need to retain the help of a family lawyers. To ensure that you are making the right decision and are choosing a lawyer who will be able to help you out of whatever sticky situation you have found yourself in, you will need to put them through an evaluation process that should give you all the answers you need.

Step 1: Begin by asking around for referrals. If you know anyone who has gone through a legal battle similar to the one you are about to embark on, ask who they used to represent them. Lawyers that receive several recommendations are generally a good bet.

Step 2: Arrange a meeting with each family lawyer that you are interested in hiring. Make sure that, when you arrive at the meeting, you have prepared a list of questions that you wish to ask. These questions should surround their experience, how many cases they’re working on at the moment, which courts they generally practice at, and so on.

Step 3: If you are satisfied with your initial meeting, you should call your state bar association to enquire as to whether there have been any complaints filed against the lawyer. The bar association should also be able to tell you whether the lawyer has been sanctioned.

Many people also like to use the initial meeting with their family lawyers to evaluate their personality and demeanor. Whilst this is not an imperative part of your decision regarding legal representation, it can give you a good idea of what kind of person you are dealing with. Remember that a good relationship increases your chances of a more favourable outcome.

Parents Access Rights ‘Enshrined’ in Law

One of the reasons that divorce law is so complex is that very often the rules are a matter of fine interpretation. Deciding what is the best case for a child as young as two or three can come down to a few difficult paragraphs of wording or just a better argued case.

Sometimes, however, the law is perfectly clear cut and in an attempt to simplify divorce legislation, the government has recently put through an amendment which will ‘enshrine’ the rights of both parents to have access to a child. In essence, what was once a complex and subtle issue is to be made explicit and the law will serve the rights of both parents in most circumstances. So do these changes make sense? Has the government made the right move?

Protecting Fathers
Though at all times divorce solicitors will attempt to set out the proper, just way of dealing with an issue, this amendment will undoubtedly benefit fathers seeking access rights. In just under 10% of divorce cases children reside ‘mainly’ with their father and this legislation seeks to correct this bias.

Of course, this should not overrule what is in the child’s immediate interest if, say, a father or mother is violent or unfit for the role, but it does give genuinely willing fathers a leg-up.

Admin over Justice
Plenty of family law solicitors have expressed their discontent with the changes  and they claim that the new legislation is simply not required – in calculating the interests of the child, courts already take into account the benefits of having influence from both parents.

When parents are given rights to access, disputes start arising over whether the right to access should be equal or properly apportioned. Undoubtedly, this will put a good deal of extra strain on courts for what will be more or less the same end result.

The Paramountcy Principle

After all is said and done, what realistically and legally matters is the interest of the child – this is the paramountcy principle. Though there are many cases in which both mothers and fathers fall unfortunately the wrong side of the legislation, family law experts do understand and appreciate the benefit of enabling joint access wherever possible. Though these changes might redress the balance between those living with dad and those living with mum, the statistics really aren’t the point – what matters is the child’s well-being and at the moment, judges do all they can to ensure fair access to children.

Though we’ll have to wait and see what the real effects of these changes will be, it’s likely that they will be pretty unpopular throughout the justice system and, as happened in Australia, we might well see a reversal of the law in the future.

Clough & Willis – Manchester based divorce solicitors . Contact 0800 083 0815 for specialist advice & information about divorce law, divorce settlements & child custody.

Top Factors To Consider In US Child Custody Litigation

If you’re facing a divorce and you legally share a child or children with your spouse, you may already be dealing with a variety of legal issues. Many times, the process of divorce brings along with it questions regarding property division, financial responsibility and future asset obligations; however, one of the most important and difficult issues to deal with is that of child custody after a marriage has been dissolved. Before you begin the process of divorce with children involved, here are some factors to consider:

1.) Financial Means

Raising a child with two parents can be difficult enough, but when that responsibility falls on one parent or the other individually, the stress can be magnified. When considering the amount of custody you would like or can handle, it’s important to consider the income-to-expenditure ratio you and your spouse can offer in order to provide the best life for your child or children. If you feel that you may not be able to provide completely for your child or children as a single parent, you may need to consider shared custody and child support options in the future.

2.) Personal Responsibility

Along with your financial means, you should also consider the personal and social obligations that come along with child custody arrangements and parenting. Are you working late into the night each workday? Is your spouse able to offer adequate family time for your child? You may want to write out a schedule of your typical week in order to get a good, overall picture of exactly how much time you and your spouse will be able to devote to your parenting obligations. This can be done using a chart or a software program, and it may help you and your spouse to determine exactly how much custody each parent can handle versus how much each parent may be willing to give up.

3.) Family Life

While it goes without saying, being a parent means being able to raise a child in a mature, loving household. Unfortunately, you may be seeking a divorce because their spouse is not able to provide a warm, loving household, or they may have trouble with anger, drinking, drugs or other potential hazards. In some cases, abuse and neglect may even be taking place, and if these are the reasons for your divorce or custody concerns, then you need to factor in your spouse’s actions and attitudes when seeking custody arrangements. If needed, you may find yourself involving an attorney, the Department of Social Services and law enforcement agencies in making your custody decisions and arrangements.

4.) Seek Out an Attorney

If you find that you are having a difficult time deciding upon child custody arrangements, then you will want to seek out the best divorce attorney for you. A divorce lawyer can assist you with all facets of child custody, including the percentage of custody you should be seeking, visitation arrangements and more.  Consult the best divorce attorney for you and your location, such as an Orlando divorce lawyer if you live in the greater Orlando area; a local attorney will be aware of any specific jurisdictional procedures.

When you work with a divorce attorney, you can also receive expert advice regarding child support payments, alimony payments and visitation rights during shared custody. Additionally,  can represent you in court during your divorce proceedings, allowing you to concentrate on taking care of your child or children. To find such attorneys, you may want to use the Internet, or you can search through your local phonebook.

Molly Henshaw is a freelance writer living in the DC metro area. She is also a contributing author for the divorce team of Katz & Phillips. Consulting a third party professional is essential when dealing with the divorce process!

Benefits of Hiring a Child Support Lawyer

(US family law and general legal info) Child support laws are in place to ensure that adequate financial aid is given to the children from their parents, who are not staying with their children. Usually, child support is associated with divorce or separation, wherein both the parents are not raising their child together. Thus, a financial aid is generally paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to meet the financial requirements for care and support to the child. Child support amount can include expenses such as food, clothing, medical care, health insurance, education, housing, and other special needs of the child.

A child support lawyer is a specialist lawyer, who has studied family laws and gained legal experience in handling cases related to divorce and child support. If you are facing a separation or divorce case with children, you may need help of an experienced family lawyer.

Benefits of Hiring a Child Support Lawyer
Representing your divorce case may or may not be simple. If the decision is not mutual, it is likely to be emotionally distressing. You may not be able to represent your divorce case on your own. Thus, appointing a lawyer for the same is a wise option. One more reason to appoint an attorney to handle your divorce and child support case is that the divorce laws are complicated, and those related to child support are complex too. In addition to being complex, child support laws are different in every state of the United States.

A lawyer experienced in child support cases can be abreast with all the updates and has expertise in calculating the child support amounts. In case, there is any difference in the calculated figure and the amount announced by the court, your lawyer can protest the same. Your lawyer can also educate about other factors involved in child support such as how to make the payments, whether or not the child support can be recalculated, and when does the child support will stop etc.

Responsibilities and Duties
Job as a child support lawyer entails performing various tasks right from evaluating your case, advising you, conducting counsellings with you and your spouse for possible ways to handle the case.

Child support cases are filed with Department of Child Support Services. A lawyer has to oversee all the cases related to child support with the department. He has to be involved in advising department staff. He advices parents related to legal issues, and who are involved in support actions and paternity.

He prepares for the pleadings, hearings, motions and conducts discovery required for the case trail, and other legal proceedings. Creates and maintains accurate case records. He is also involved in negotiating settlements with your spouse.

A child support lawyer similar to other types of lawyers, focuses on one arena of the legal system representing child support. Such cases are associated with divorce and separation cases. These lawyers obtain a Juris Doctorate degree and should be active member of the state bar association. A child support lawyer will explain to you your rights related to visitation and the extent to which you can be held liable for child support, depending upon your monthly income and other relative factors.

This Guest post is written by Lords Screw. He is a writer for Typeoflawyer.com

Is relying on the integrity of a solicitor appropriate in Hildebrand cases? Is lodging documents with a third party solicitor the answer?

Vardags Solicitors are a Top Divorce Lawyer  based in Central London that specialise in complex and substantial cases

The Court of Appeal decision of Imerman v Tchenguiz [2010] 2 FLR 814 confirmed various principles, including but not limited to the following, in summary:

  1. The need to ensure full and frank disclosure in family law proceedings does not allow a party, or another person on their behalf, to breach the other party’s right to confidentiality of their documents / information.  Likewise, the process of disclosure does not entitle a person to breach the law (for instance, committing theft, or hacking into a person’s computer in order to obtain their confidential documents).
  2. It is an actionable breach of confidence for a party, without authority, to review confidential documents belonging to another person.  This is also the case where the party makes and retains copies of the confidential documents, or provides copies of those documents to a third party, or seeks to use the information contained in the confidential documents.
  3. In principle, spouses enjoy rights of confidence as against the other in respect of documents and information which would otherwise be confidential if they were not married.
  4. Confidence may be lost in respect of documents that are left out in the open in the matrimonial home (for instance, on the “shared desk”).
  5. For the reasons outlined above, “self-help” disclosure is not acceptable.  Where a party has concerns that the other party intends to conceal or dispose of assets, or destroy or conceal evidence, then there are remedies available to that party in the form of search and seize, freezing, preservation, and other similar orders.

If a party does have possession of confidential documents, they must promptly return those documents to the other party and destroy any copies they have made.  If the party is represented by solicitors, those solicitors must not look at the documents nor retain copies (or else they may be required to cease acting for their client).  In default of compliance, the aggrieved party will be able to seek appropriate injunctive relief with possible costs and other consequences.

However, there are corresponding obligations in respect of the owner of the confidential documents.  The breach of confidence does not override the obligation to make full and frank disclosure of all relevant documents within the family law proceedings.  If the owner of the confidential documents is represented by solicitors, those solicitors are obliged to take reasonable steps to consider and advise on the documents, with a view to ensuring that their client complies with their obligations of disclosure.  If the owner of the documents ceases to instruct their solicitors, then those solicitors are obliged to retain copies of the documents unless otherwise agreed or ordered.  These obligations are designed to ensure the preservation of the confidential documents, with a view to a party complying with their obligations of disclosure or alternatively the other party seeking the production of the documents by way of an application to the Court.

Clearly a great deal hinges upon the solicitors for each party doing the “right” thing and following the correct protocol.  Is it therefore appropriate to rely on the integrity of the solicitors who are obliged to retain the Imerman documents?

Unless there is significant and persuasive evidence to suggest otherwise, it must be assumed that the relevant solicitors will comply with their obligations to retain copies of the documents and advise their clients to make any relevant disclosure.  Solicitors are under strict professional and ethical obligations, and their duties to the Court extend beyond even their duties to their client.

This, however, may be of little comfort to the party who came across the confidential documents, particularly where the matter is fiercely contested as can often be the case in family law cases and associated litigation.

An alternative approach going forward might be to require that Imerman documents be lodged with independent third party solicitors.  This may provide the party returning the confidential documents with some peace of mind and ensure that the issue is dealt with, at least at first instance, by solicitors entirely independent of the parties and removed from the adversarial process.

However, one can also perceive some possible difficulties with this approach.  For instance, to what extent would the third party solicitor be involved in the process of reviewing, considering and advising on the relevance of the documents?  It may be that they are simply required to prepare a list of the confidential documents, but this in turn gives rise to further questions regarding the subsequent disclosure of that list and the appropriate procedure going forward.  Finally, the use of independent third party solicitors is likely to increase the costs of the case by some degree (which could be significant depending on the extent of their role) and will be even more problematic when the parties are self-represented or on legal aid.

An alternative to the use of independent third party solicitors might be for the confidential documents to be lodged with and considered by a Judge, who can then make appropriate directions.  This idea is also problematic for various reasons, not least because wide-spread use of such an approach might inundate the Court system with significant numbers of applications in respect of documents with little or no relevance to the case.

There is little doubt that the issue of Imerman documents and related procedure is and will continue to be fraught with difficulty – and many agree that greater direction and clarity is required to enable parties and practitioners alike to navigate this challenging legal obstacle course with greater confidence.

To find out more about Vardags Solicitors, visit their website.

My spouse and I are looking to divorce but are worried about the costs involved in the process, is there any help we can get on this matter?

The result of a divorce or separation is that two households will often have to exist on the same amount of money as one did previously. This is unfortunately made worse by the costs that will flow from your divorce. There are three main ways in which you can reduce on your legal costs in this procedure.

The first method would be to attempt to carry out the divorce informally, known as informal separation. If you and your partner are married, you can separate by such an informal arrangement. If you and your partner agree, you can also make arrangements about children, money, housing and other property without going to court. However, any informal arrangement made when you separate may affect future decisions if you do ever go to court. You should be aware that a court may change an arrangement you and your spouse made if it considers it to be unreasonable or, in the case of a child, not in their best interests.

Another method that can be employed to reduce legal costs is through what is known as a separation agreement. This is a written agreement between you and your spouse when you intend to stop living together. It sets out how you wish to sort out financial arrangements, property, and arrangements for the children. It is advisable to consult a divorce solicitor when drawing up a separation agreement, but you should work out in advance the general areas you want to cover. This will help to reduce your legal costs.

A final method that may be used in such circumstances would be for you to utilize the services of Legal Help. Legal Help allows people with a low income to get free legal advice and help from a specialist divorce solicitor or an experienced legal adviser. The solicitor or adviser must have a contract with the Legal Services Commission (LSC) to be able to provide Legal Help. You should be aware that in such cases the divorce solicitor will only be able to help you with legal advice and not with the drafting or endorsement of any legal documents.

Welcome to Family Blawg

Welcome to Family Blawg, a legal news blog on family law for family lawyers, the general public and potential clients of family solicitors.Family Law Justitia Image

A complex area requiring advice from specialist solicitors with an understanding and appreciation of sensitive issues, family law and practice involves divorce, separation, wills, children’s rights and divorce settlements.