This review is a guest post written by Jody Atkinson, barrister at St John’s Chambers, Bristol. Jody is instructed in both children and money cases, and has a particular interest in the trickier areas of family law, such as cohabitation and child support.
Child Poverty Action Group, Child Support Handbook 2012/2013, (20th Edition, CPAG)
The complexity of the law surrounding child support and the problems with the organisation that is responsible for enforcing and collecting it, the CSA/CMEC (characteristically whilst having changed its name, CMEC continues to refer to itself as the CSA), are both well known.
When a family lawyer is confronted with a client who is facing difficulties with child support, they would be well advised to reach for this book. It provides clear and sensible guidance on all areas of the law concerning child support. It deals both with working out how much an non resident parent should be paying, and enforcement. At £28 it is reasonably priced for a law book (and by buying a copy one supports a charity).
CPAG are well known for publishing an annual book: Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits. This makes them well placed when dealing with child support. The reason why child support law is so confusing and alien to family lawyers is because it uses the same legislation and tribunals as welfare benefit law. Family lawyers are used to judges with wide discretionary powers taking all the circumstances into account. Child support law is meant to be administered by CSA robots who cannot be trusted to exercise a discretion. The language of revisions and supersessions is completely different to that of the County Court, and it is not just a change of terminology but a substantively different approach. This book is very good at navigating the reader through some of this maze.
Difficult areas such as variations and shared care are well covered. If I had a complaint it would be the citation of cases. Child support cases do not generally have names, but are referred to as either CCS/1129/2005, or if 'reported' as R(CS) 1/09. It would be helpful if the authors could give all of the available citations for the cases, rather than just one, as it can be hard to find them on the internet otherwise (if one does not subscribe to CPAGs online database). I could also question the need for an annual edition, as little has changed in the last twelve months in child support.
Other competing volumes are the Resolution guide to this area, which I have also reviewed. This is, unsurprisingly, more of a guide for ancillary relief solicitors, and is not as comprehensive as the CPAG book. CPAG also publish Upper Tribunal Judge Jacob's book Child Support: The Legislation (10th Edition). This, as the name suggests, is an annotated statute book. It is not recommended unless you already have this book and some idea of how the system works, but is essential for those who actually plan to attend tribunals.