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 maintenance 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.
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.
I have contact time with my kids coming up but my ex has told me they won’t come because of Coronavirus. What should I do.
If communication isn’t good with the other parent there is a tendency to be suspicious, quite apart from the upset that comes with losing time with your children. At the present moment (though the situation is changing at short notice) if neither the children nor their parent – or you – have been in direct contact with someone diagnosed with Coronavirus then contact ought to take place if there is agreement between parents or a court order. There is official guidance supporting this and the lockdown law includes this as an exclusion in the movement restrictions. Parent Club also has useful information
The decision might be being made in good faith, although overcautious. However, even if you are suspicious there is no great purpose in having an argument. Our advice is to demonstrate that you are a responsible parent with concern about your children’s health. You could reply – by text or e mail so you have a record of it – asking for some form of Face Time with your children during the time you should have had them. If the other parent is being genuine there will be no reason to refuse. If there is no prohibition on sending anything through the post you can send a cheery card saying that you hope to see them soon. Government guidance is that self-isolation should be 10 days if no symptoms have developed in the meantime.
How can I obtain a parenting agreement?
A parenting agreement sets out what has been decided between parents on the arrangements for the children, usually in connection with separation. There is a model structure for such agreements published by the Scottish Government as a Parenting Plan. Parents who find it difficult to reach agreement can try using Family Mediation as a way of putting an agreement together. Lawyers can also assist in making an agreement, and then make it more official by registering it with the court.
How can I obtain Parental Rights and Responsibilities?
Unmarried fathers whose name is not on the child’s birth certificate or whose child was born before 4th of May 2006 do not have parental rights and responsibilities (PRRs) for that child. PRRs can be obtained easily if the mother agrees to sign and register an agreement that gives the father PRRs. If the mother does not agree to sign this form, the father can go to court to seek PRRs, often doing this at the same time as seeking a contact order.
What can be done to prevent parental alienation?
First, be careful before attaching the label “Parental Alienation” (PA) to something which is worrying but not as extreme. Children of separated parents can find it very hard to manage their divided loyalties, and may show signs that they are rejecting a parent, whether or not they have been influenced by the parent they live with most.
The signs of the far more worrying PA are more extreme, as listed here. As noted by Dr William Bernet, these symptoms still need to be studied further but do give a strong indication of the disorder. At the simplest level, building up contact with the child is the best way to prevent alienation. And if the child is already so hostile that this is impossible, there are now family therapists and child psychologists who have experience of working with children to undo the alienation. Amongst the mass of information on this topic, try Nick Child’s Alienation Experience, and Karen Woodall’s blog.
How to start family mediation?
Family Mediation is a service that helps parents and other family members to resolve differences and reach agreement after separation. You can arrange an intake interview with your local family mediation service by contacting them – use this link to find your local service. Following your intake interview the service can invite your ex-partner to attend an intake meeting but cannot insist on attendance. After intake interviews have been completed the mediation can take place if both parents agree. When you contact the service in your area you will be advised whether they ask for a suggested donation or if they have a set charge. See this note about choosing a mediator. Lawyer mediation is also available, ask your lawyer or see the CALM Scotland site.
Who can apply for a child’s passport?
Someone with parental responsibility for the child must apply for the passport. Both parents’ details need to be provided on the application but both signatures are not required. If you cannot provide the other parent’s details, you need to say why (for example, you’re the only parent named on the birth certificate or you adopted the child on your own). If a passport has been obtained for your child without your details included, try contacting the passport advice line.
Does Housing Benefit allow for shared parenting?
Parents who rely on housing benefit may only be able to take shared accommodation without bedroom space for their children to stay with them. Most single people under 35 in the private rented sector are restricted to the shared accommodation rate (SAR); their housing benefit is set at a level to cover the rent on a room in a shared house. New applicants may have to apply for Universal Credit rather than Housing Benefit. For further information on housing issues see the Shelter Scotland or Citizens Advice Scotland sites.
Can the surname of my child be changed?
A child’s name can be changed through National Records of Scotland. A parent who has parental rights and responsibilities can object to the child’s surname being changed, although this opposition can be over-ruled by a court decision. In a recent name change decision the children were given the surnames of both parents.
How paternity can be established?
When a contact or maintenance request is made, the response is sometimes to deny paternity. DNA testing now provides a quick and reliable way of establishing who is the father of a child, but it can only be carried out if the parent with responsibility for a child agrees for samples to be taken. If testing is refused, a court can make a presumption of paternity in certain circumstances.
What is the difference between supervised and supported contact in a child contact centre?
During supervised contact a staff member to be present throughout the period of contact.
The level at which staff members are involved in contact will vary depending on centre policy and the requirements of contact. Generally supervisors will abstain from intervening as much as possible but will provide support to the parties and children where required.
Supervised contact will result in a written report being completed by the supervisor which is
then sent on to parties solicitors and the court. During supported contact staff members will be present but will not take specific notes or monitor conversations.
See our Child Contact Centre User Guide for further information. LINK
How can I complain or appeal about child support issues?
We have recently launched the Shared Parenting Scotland website and are continuing to develop the content, please bear with us whilst this happens. In the meantime, if you have specific questions, please contact us
Can child maintenance be recalculated if your income changes?
An assessment of child maintenance remains in place for 12 months unless income has increased or decreased by at least 25%. If your income change is 25% or more, request a revision or supersession. Lesser changes will be included in the annual recalculation.
Other changes such as an increase in the number of nights that a child stays with you above the 52, 104 or 156 night thresholds in the past year, becoming responsible for a child in a new family or a 16-19 year old child leaving full-time, non-advanced education will reduce maintenance liability. Further details can be found here or by contacting Child Maintenance Options.
How is child maintenance calculated?
If separated parents cannot agree on the amount of money that has to be paid to the parent who has the majority of care of the children then the Child Maintenance Service formula is used.
This calculation is based on the income of the paying parent and the number of children that have to be supported. Factors such as the number of nights the children spend with the other parent and whether that parent is also responsible for maintaining other children. Further details can be found here or by contacting Child Maintenance Options
Can I stop my ex-partner from moving away with the children?
If a move means that it will be more difficult to maintain regular contact with the children it may be possible to oppose this move in the court or have the children returned. Each case will be considered on its own circumstances, and the court will decide on the basis of what is best for the children, not what is best for one of their parents. You cannot prevent the other parent from moving, but it may be possible to stop a move by your children.
It is possible to object to a move within Scotland or to another part of the UK, not just to a move to another country. Don’t delay in taking action, as it is harder to force a return if children have settled in a new location.
Can my children be taken abroad without my permission?
If the children are being taken to live outside the UK you can take action to have them returned so that a Scottish court can decide whether this removal should be allowed. Consult a lawyer who has experience in such cases and see the Scottish Government guidance. If the children have been taken to a country which is part of the Hague Convention this process will be easier. You can also seek support from the Central Authority for Scotland and Reunite.
If the children are simply being taken for a holiday, you should have been asked to give your agreement if you have parental rights and responsibilities. Rather than making this into a conflict, we suggest that you should agree to holiday trips and offer to provide the other parent with a letter giving your authority in case there is any problem when leaving the UK. In return you can ask for details of the trip. Trying to stop a holiday trip won’t be popular with the children, and if you go to court to try and stop it you may find that a sheriff will allow the trip and you risk being accused of controlling behaviour.
Can denial of contact be considered as coercive control?
The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 introduces penalties for abusive behaviour towards a partner or ex-partner that a reasonable person would consider would be likely to cause physical or psychological harm to that person. We consider LINK that the controlling behaviour in some contact disputes could be within the scope of this legislation. The Act has only been in force since April 2019 and we wait for this to be tested in court.
Does a divorce have to include consideration of contact arrangements?
Married parents with children under 16 have to include consideration of arrangements for their children if they are divorcing or dissolving a civil partnership. Try to reach agreement about these arrangements, using the parenting agreement guidelines. Family mediation will help you reach this agreement, but if you still can’t agree it may be necessary to go to court.
What happens if we go to family mediation?
Before the mediation starts, each parent has their own intake interview with the mediation service to discuss what needs to be discussed and to explain how mediation works. After this mediation can start to involve both of you. Normally you then meet together with the mediator, although sometimes the parents sit in different rooms and the mediator goes between them (shuttle mediation). Either parent can refuse to take part in mediation, which may mean that you have to raise a court action to resolve the dispute.
My name isn’t on the birth certificate of my child, how can I deal with this?
If possible, try to persuade the mother to add your name. There are forms for you and her to fill in and this adds your name to the birth certificate. See https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/registration/re-registration-of-birth-or-stillbirth for more details.
If she doesn’t agree to do this, you can raise it in court at the same time as obtaining a contact order. If she disputes that you are the father you can ask for a DNA test – do this via the Child Maintenance Service if you are being asked to pay maintenance.