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Trapped in the million pound pad: self-determination, children's rights and relying on a child maintenance cheat

Date:23 AUG 2017
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Emma Gill

The parliamentary review into the operation of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has highlighted some chilling facts. Children of wealthy parents are being left destitute. Rich parents, able to manipulate their income so as to exploit the rigid CMS formula means that assessments are being made at zero. These are children whose parents have fortunes rooted abroad, live from capital or have income which is does not appear on a UK tax return. A sophisticated income structure simply foxes the CMS system, resulting in a nil assessment.

The issue is compounded for those who depend on the other parent for housing. A court can only look at increasing maintenance once the CMS threshold is reached which mean the courts have the impossible task of making financial provision for a child, including housing, where the child's interest is the paramount consideration yet they cannot determine income unless the CMS threshold is reached.

The CMS also has only limited avenues for reassessment, the most important of which is 'lifestyle'. This means that the paying parent can enjoy super cars, yachts and the associated trappings of a superior income, but the CMS cannot consider this. Thankfully, the select committee has determined that this ground for appeal needs to be reinstated but this simply does not go far enough.

The full version of this article will appear in the September 2017 issue of Family Law

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