Until now I have deliberately ignored this story but… here goes… don’t say I didn’t warn you…
The barrister? legal clerk? (reports vary) Michael Cox, has been jailed and subsequently freed for refusing to pay Child Support. The BBC reports that given his children spend 50% of their time with him he argues that the law is wrong and he should not have to pay their mother anything towards their care.
Why are the CSA involved?
This is where the story starts to get confusing. The CSA is not like the Crown Prosecution Service, they act upon the Parent with Care’s instructions, unless he/she is in receipt of State Benefits in which case they plough on regardless. According to reports, again confusing, the ex-wife works part time in a taxi office and pleaded with the Judge that if dad was jailed she would have to give up work and go on State Benefits to look after her 16 year old and 13 year twins without dad’s help. Given that 16 year olds can legally marry and have their own children in this country it is unsurprising that the Judge did not fall for that one. By all reports it’s one big happy family, dad having remarried and having 2 further sons and living nearby, so why can’t the 3 lads stay with their step mum and brothers while dad is in prison anyway?
So, the mother is not in receipt of State Benefits but does receive Tax Credits which is why the CSA is seeking the £43,000 arrears, according to reports. This is contrary to the whole ethos of the Tax Credits system! Tax Credits are paid regardless of what maintenance the Parent with Care receives. Such income is disregarded in their assessment. This was deliberate to encourage Parents with Care back into work, as their maintenance was always taken into account in assessing their State Benefits.
Curiouser and curiouser
If what they claim is true however, and it is baffling in the extreme, a simple solution would have been for the mother to cease making her Tax Credits claim, but it would still appear that she must have made a CSA Application in the first place. Insufficient facts are provided to work out how this situation arose, it is atypical because normally the Parent with Care embraces the help of the CSA in order to collect Child Maintenance because she needs it. Clearly this barrister/legal clerk’s ex-wife did not need it (again according to newspaper reports) so why make the claim in the first place? One is left to assume, and I emphasise assume because the facts are not supplied, that she was on State Benefits which is why the CSA marched on, to reclaim tax payer’s money, and why not?
Of course, this assumption may be wrong. His ex-wife may never have received State Benefits and may never have made a CSA application.
Who did then?
Why is this nightmare happening to Mr Cox? The CSA was renowned for its inefficiency and lack of proactive chasing of recalcitrant absent parents. It would appear that they set this claim up themselves. How very singular.
Who is this £43,000.00 payable to?
Mrs Cox or the State?
If it’s Mrs Cox, why doesn’t he just give her the money and she give it back to him? We are talking about 12 years arrears, that is a lot of State time and money (your taxes and mine) spent chasing this guy. Why?
Why should he pay anything?
The now disbanded CSA was set up to assess child maintenance. The Family Courts take the view that a child has the right to share in the living standards of his parents. The CSA rates are reduced to account for how much time the child spends with the absent parent and at the time this was introduced it was considered controversial as it was thought it would encourage additional contact in order to reduce the maintenance levy.
In any event the assumption was that the main carer required support from the absent parent and in the vast majority of cases this is true. The best way to achieve this is via Child maintenance and perhaps an additional capital order or topping up order in favour of the child, even where care is split. For example, dad could be earning £70,000 per annum and mum could be on minimum wage. Clearly mum needs help in this instance even where the care is shared. The aim was to ensure that children did not fall into poverty.
In the unusual cases where incomes were similar and care was split then couples could make their own arrangements and did not need to involve the CSA. Lots of couples make their own arrangements. The CSA was only there to support parents with care in the sad cases where the absent parent did not pay.
The law is wrong says Mr Cox
Given that most old people don’t have any school age children why should they pay towards our education system? Given that a lot of people live fit and healthy lives why should they pay towards the National Health service? It is the law of this fair and pleasant land. The welfare system helps to support our society’s weakest members and it is a matter of public policy to be lauded that absent parents are expected to financially support their own children.
What of Mr Cox?
As I have pointed out, I do not have the full facts of his case, I am more than prepared to change my opinion if the facts are supplied and it turns out that Mr Cox is indeed a helpless victim of the system.