Can I get child support if I have joint custody of my child?

22 January, 2015

Under the 2012 scheme rules (which apply to those cases that entered the child support system in November 2012 onwards) where parents are considered by the Child Support Agency to share the care of their children to exactly the same extent, then neither parent will be considered to be the “non-resident parent” i.e. the paying parent, and on this basis no child support will be payable.

This is a significant change from the rules under the earlier schemes, which specify that even though the care of the children may be shared to the same extent, one parent will still be considered to be the non-resident parent and will be liable to pay child support even though the children spend an equal period of time with him/her as the other parent.

Generally speaking, it was the parent who is in receipt of child benefit who is considered to be the “parent with care” and the parent who is entitled to child support. These rules were considered to create unfairness in that in a number of cases, it seemed inappropriate that the non-resident parent should have to pay child support, when the children lived with them 50% of the time.

However, under the new rules, it is not difficult to envisage scenarios where unfairness may also result from the new rules. For instance, if one parent lives in modest circumstances but the other parent is extremely wealthy, then is it fair that there should be no child support paid in these circumstances? The other unfortunate repercussion of the new rules is that some parents may seek shared care to the same extent in order to enable them to be exempt from having to pay child support. On the other hand, some parents may resist shared care to the same extent even though this may best suit the needs of the children, in order to avoid the situation where no child support is payable.

It has been an established principle of family law that decisions concerning where children should live should be taken by reference to what is in their best interest, as opposed to any financial advantage/disadvantage to the parent. Whilst the new rules will be welcomed by some parents, they may create problems and issues that did not previously exist.