(Court of Appeal; Mummery and Wilson LJJ; 23 November 2006)
The mother applied for a reduction in the contact between father and child. On the basis that the child, now 11, was reluctant to go on spending alternate weekends with the father, for a variety of reasons including her own social life, the judge ordered a slight reduction in staying contact, from 105 nights to 93. The family were assessed for child support under the old scheme, and the reduction of 12 nights contact resulted in an increase of £1,445 pa child support, because the child was now spending less than 104 nights with the father. The father argued that the judge had failed to have regard to the impact which the reduction in contact would have on the child support liability, as a relevant factor.
There were anomalies in the current child support legislation which could give rise to substantial injustice, but the government's failure to date to migrate absent parents from the old to the new regime was not relevant to a determination of the optimum level of a parent's contact with child. It would not merely be inappropriate to make an order for contact with a view to reversing or mitigating the consequences of the current legislation, it would be unlawful because it would introduce a consideration unrelated to the child's welfare. In relation to the assertion that the increase in child support liability had a detrimental effect on the child, it would be impractical for a court hearing an issue as to contact or shared residence to discern the beneficial or detrimental effect upon the child of the consequences of alternative possible orders, and it would be wrong in principle for the court to do so.