Shared Day-To-Day Care
Shared Day-To-Day Care
I am often asked, “if my daughter spends at least as much time at my house as she does at her mother’s, why do I have to pay child support?”
The logic behind the question is fairly obvious, but it is not the logic used by the Child Maintenance Service. As far as they are concerned one parent is the “non-resident parent” and he or she (usually he) pays maintenance to the “parent with care”. They apply that template in 99% of cases, but to understand the law properly, you have to delve into the detail of the child support regulations.
The regulation in question is reg 50 of the Child Support Maintenance (Calculation) Regulations 2012, which is worded in quite a complicated way. But essentially it says that a parent who shares the day-to-day care of a child equally is not a “non-resident parent” and therefore cannot be assessed to pay Child Support.
But what is meant by “day-to-day care” and precisely what amounts to sharing it equally? There is no clear definition in the rules. When the question has come up in the Upper Tribunal, judges have said that it is a phrase in common usage which does not require definition. The difficulty with common usage is that although most English speakers use words in the same way most of the time, usage can vary in unusual or marginal situations. But clearly the concept of “day-to-day care” goes beyond the child being under your roof, to something more. It might include mundane decisions like when they are expected to do their homework, and broader concepts, such as providing support and guidance, and dealing with outside agencies like schools and doctors.
The list aspects of day to day care is pretty much infinite, and if you and your fellow parent take responsibility for different aspects in practice, how can you say whether or not you are sharing it equally overall? You could argue that you are sharing day-to-day care equally even if your child does not spend precisely half the time under your roof – but you will probably have difficulty if it is much less than half.
So you can come up with your own definition of “day-to-day care,” apply it to your situation, and argue that you share it equally, but in the end, if you get involved in a dispute about this what really matters is what the Tribunal thinks. The Upper Tribunal suggests that equally shared day-to-day care will be very rare, so you are likely to have an uphill struggle.
In the world of the child support regulations shared “day-to-day care” is a different concept from “shared care” which relates to a different. Shared care is simply the formula which is applied to a non-resident parent, who gets a discount on his child support assessment, based on the number of overnight stays. So it is just a matter of counting the nights.
But if you’re going to get involved in a dispute about child support to this level of detail you really need to speak to a solicitor who understands the subject properly.
John Pratley is an expert divorce lawyer, who has more than 25 years experience advising clients purely about divorce and related family law issues, such as the financial consequences of separating and divorcing. After establishing the first niche family law practice in Bristol, and going on to senior management roles in a national firm, John set up Apple Tree Family Law in 2018. Apple tree family Law solicitors specialise in advice about divorce and financial issues.
We are based in Bristol and Exeter, but we have clients all over the UK and further afield. We offer, simply, clear and accurate advice about divorce and family law issues, and the very best client service, for a clear and reasonable price.