This section gives short responses to many of the questions that Shared Parenting Scotland is asked. Links within the answer lead to more detailed information. If you need more information on any of these topics please contact us on 0131 557 2440 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This site offers legal information, not legal advice. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options. However we do not provide legal advice – the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult a lawyer.
What are Child Maintenance payments supposed to cover?
On the child maintenance front, payments are made based on an overall assessment of how much needs to be contributed by the paying parent, rather than for specific purposes.
The person paying has no control over what the money is spent on. Once payment of the assessed amount has been made there is no obligation on the paying parent to contribute any more money, but it also doesn’t stop the paying parent from contributing more voluntarily. Often people do this to keep things sweet or when unexpected expenses are incurred. If both parents are struggling financially this will be difficult, but it is worth trying to keep on good terms if possible.
How does the Child Maintenance Service decide on equal shared care?
When both parents are looking after their children for equal amounts of time neither of them should be assessed by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to pay maintenance. Equal care is not just equal numbers of overnights – it relates to day-to-day care. If there is a dispute about whether maintenance should be due, the CMS sometimes wrongly presumes that the parent who receives child benefit should receiving maintenance. But according to an Upper Tribunal Decision evidence provided about the equality of day-to-day care by both parents can be used to decide neither parent pays maintenance even when one of them is in receipt of child benefit.
As a ‘non-resident parent’ can I volunteer to be a parent helper at my child’s school for school trips etc outwith my court ordered contact time?
When do I stop paying maintenance for my child?
A maintenance calculation stops when a child aged 16 or over leaves non-advanced education or becomes too old to be counted as a child. Non-advanced education is up to Higher, Advanced Higher or SVQ level 3 and below.
Young people aged from 16 to 19 qualify for child support if they are still in full-time non-advanced education – more than 12 hours of weekly contact time. After leaving school or college a young person still counts as being in full-time education until child benefit stops being paid.
Parents also have an obligation to support children up to age 25 if they are “reasonably and appropriately undergoing instruction at an educational establishment, or training for employment or for a trade, profession or vocation”. The amounts to be paid aren’t subject to a formula like child support, and both parents are liable. The young person would have to raise a court action to enforce payment.
How can I prove equal care to the CMS?
If day-to-day care of children is shared equally between parents then neither parent is treated as “non-resident” and so there is no liability for child support to be paid. The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will accept a shared care court order or written agreement as proof of equal care. If you don’t have either you can submit a summary of care arrangements over the past year.
For equal care the CMS has to consider overall care arrangements, not simply overnights, This Upper Tribunal case decision has more detail on this. See also our Notes from CMS training.
Where do I start?
Start with the FAQs, which have been written to answer questions that are asked on our helpline, at group meetings or in WhatsApp groups. When necessary we consult experienced family lawyers to help ensure the accuracy and we try to avoid using legal jargon. Links to more detailed information are included where possible. If you can’t find the answer to your question try searching the whole site using the magnifying glass at top right of the screen. If nothing is found email or phone us with your question.
My case is due in court soon: will it be heard?
Scottish courts are only hearing urgent child protection cases at the moment, so almost all family court hearings are paused (sisted) or postponed (continued). In each part of Scotland all cases have been moved to a few key courts – details here.
How much parental leave can a father take?
Fathers in the UK may be eligible for one or two weeks of paid paternity leave, paternity pay and shared parental leave and pay. See the government web site for full details. Employment issues like this are not devolved to the Scottish Government. This level of support for fathers is far poorer than many other countries. Shared Parenting Scotland considers that improved paternal leave would lead to increased involvement in childcare by fathers. Consequently this should make shared parenting more likely. The Fatherhood Institute’s research study on paternity leave reports on research evidence supporting this view.
Do I have the right to obtain health information about my child?
If both parents have parental rights and responsibilities they should have equal rights to obtain health information about their children, unless there is a court order preventing one of both of them from having this information. In practice the parent who has most care of the children may restrict or prevent this communication. Health providers can be reluctant to go against such restrictions, and we would suggest that it is best to make a formal request by letter or email to a senior staff member if this problem occurs. For children aged 12 or above, the health provider has to respect the views of a child or young person if they don’t want one or both of their parents to receive information (Gillick Competent) The British Medical Association issues BMA Parental Responsibility guidance on this issue.
Should I represent myself in court?
We always advise people that it is best to have a lawyer if you are taking court, but we know that some people either can’t afford representation or have had such poor legal support in the past that they end up conducting their own case in court. Our Guide will help you LINK and we may also be able to link you with a lay supporter LINK. It is also worth trying to find a lawyer who can comment on what you are putting on the court papers before submitting them. There will be a cost for this service, but it costs far less than full representation and can help you avoid making errors in the way you present your case.
Can a 12 year old decide what happens about contact?
The current current Children (Scotland) Act says that the court should allow a child to express views and have regard to them as far as possible. It also says that the court should take account if the child’s age and maturity and that “a child twelve years of age or more shall be presumed to be of sufficient age and maturity to form a view” (section 6).
The Children (Scotland) Bill may extend or remove the mention of the age of 12. Whatever the age, the views of a child are not the deciding factor, although the older the child the more impact their views will have on the final decision.