A Fair Shared-Care Formula for Child Support
by Barry Pearson
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1 A Fair Shared-Care Formula for Child Support

1.1 The principles of child support

It costs a lot of money for a parent to care for a child while the child is staying with that parent. It is justice for the other parent to contribute financially towards that care.

Where one parent cares all the time, and the other never cares directly for the child, the latter must be encouraged or constrained to pay a fair share. The White Paper states that this should be 15/20/25% of net income depending on the number of children. I don't intend to discuss that amount here.

The White Paper, like the Green Paper before it, totally forgets to apply the same principles and logic to the case where at different times both parents directly care for the child for significant amounts of time. It tried to handle shared-care as an adjustment (a "fudge") to the non-shared case. This inevitably fails.

1.2 The key to a fair shared-care formula

The most important need for a shared-care formula is not to think that there is a person who is a "parent with care" and a person who is a "non-resident parent". These concepts were intended to cater for the case where one parent really is separated from his/her children, and they lead to a range of anomalies when parents share care.

Instead, each parent in turn takes on the role of parent with care, while for that time the other parent is an absent parent. Each parent with care incurs the direct costs of the child for that period, while each absent parent has a continuing financial responsibility during that time.

The second key need is to accept that: it is impossible to have a fair shared-care formula that doesn't look at both parents' income. Impossible!

The key is "at any time, the parent who isn't caring for the child needs to be paying the parent who is incurring this cost". And the White Paper already defines how much that should be: 15/20/25% of net income for the period concerned.

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Page last updated: 29 October, 2002 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2002