"Children First" & Sharing of Care: Problems with the proposed formula, and a revised proposal
by Barry Pearson
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Rejected alternatives

The simplest revision to the green paper formula would be to reduce the maintenance liability by two sevenths each night of care by the NRP rather than one seventh.

Unfortunately, this has poor behaviour where the incomes differ significantly. It is approximately right if the separated parents have about the same net income, but otherwise has the unacceptable feature that it favours the better-off person at the expense of the poorer-off person:

- If the NRP is better-off it reduces too fast, so that a rich NRP caring for 3 nights per week would pay only about 2% of net income to help a poorer PWC care for 4 nights per week.
- If the PWC is better-off and the NRP is poor it fails to provide sufficient money for the NRP to care for the child.


Other nations also modify the basic formula to take into account the incomes of both parents where care is shared. For example, Wisconsin and Canada both do so where sharing is significant. Maryland uses a "netting" scheme for shared care which appears to be similar to this proposal.

Another case where the basic formula would apply to both parents is where they have split responsibility for 2 or more children. They would presumably both be assessed, and the result netted. The revised proposal is similar to treating shared care in a similar way to split responsibility. This has the benefit of simplicity.

The "simplicity" argument

The Green Paper claims that one advantage of the formula is that it is simple, and predictable for the NRP. (However, it is not predictable for the PWC, because it depends on the NRP's income). This revised proposal is also reasonably simple and predictable.

Where there is no sharing, this revised proposal makes no difference.

Where there is sharing, an additional piece of information is needed - the PWC's net income. Often this is already known - for example, where the PWC is on benefits. It is certainly no more an invasion of privacy for the NRP to be aware of the PWC's income than vice versa. (It is already taken into account with the existing CSA formula).

Now the NRP can predict the maximum liability, not the actual liability. Both parents will use the same tables, picked up at Post Offices, etc, to identify their own portions of the resultant liability.

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Page last updated: 3 November, 2002 © Copyright Barry Pearson 1998