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Child Support in Action

Gwynn DavisProfessor of Socio-Legal Studies, University of Bristol, Nick WikeleyProfessor of Law, University of Southampton, Richard Young, Jackie Barron, Julie Bedward

ISBN13: 9781901362701
ISBN: 1901362701
Published: April 1998
Publisher: Hart Publishing
Format: Paperback
Price: £49.99

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This study of the Child Support Agency (CSA) compares the accounts of former husbands and wives with those of their respective legal advisers, and incorporates the experience and views of the CSA staff, who attempted to calculate and enforce child maintenance obligations in the same cases. The media picture of misery visited upon ""absent fathers"" is borne out in part, but the book also describes a catastrophic administrative failure which led to the abandonment of many of the basic tenets of administrative justice. The reasons for this do not lie in the perceived unfairness of the formula, but rather in the failure of those drafting the Child Support legislation to appreciate the impact of such change upon the rest of our hugely complex benefit structure, and their failure to grasp that the problems of inadequate disclosure and ineffective enforcement could not be tackled effectively by a distant bureaucracy.

Part 1 The birth of the Child Support Agency: the development of a political agenda for reforming child support; child support - the international context; children come first - the White Paper and responses; the Child Support Bill in parliament; the research project; the structure of the book.
Part 2 The formula: the formula in outline; the formula - the parents' perceptions; the formula - fundamental problems; the Child Support Act 1995 - departures from the formula.
Part 3 Child support, social security and the lone parent family: the balance between private and public support for lone parent families; child support, social security and the low paid single parent; the impact of the Child Support Agency.
Part 4 Inside the Child Support Agency: the official verdict on the Child Support Agency; agency structure and staffing; priorities; quality versus quantity; the moving target; enforcement strategies; opting out of the Child Support Agency.
Part 5 The Child Support Agency from the perspective of parents: the story of Malcolm Bridley and Selena Ericson; delay; targeting; pressure from parents; contacting the right person; resistance; the toothless dragon (or vegetarian tiger); arrears; from formulaic precision to discretionary rough justice; accountability.
Part 6 Redressing grievances through second-tier reviews: the two-step system for challenging an assessment; the story of Stuart and Doreen Mullins; analysis of key themes.
Part 7 The Child Support appeal tribunals: ithe story of Stuart and Doreen Mullins (concluded); analysis of key themes.
Part 8 Lawyers and courts: the Child Support Act 1991; the research agenda; the Child Support Agency and ancillary relief; the impact of the Child Support Agency upon the negotiation timetable; the story of Anne and Philip Hughes; anticipating an assessment; solicitor knowledge of and direct involvement with the Child Support Agency; the impact of the Child Support Agency upon solicitors' workloads; key comparisons between Child Support Agency and lawyer-led negotiations.
Part 9 Relationships and negotiations: the story of Lynn and Brett Enderby; new families for old; re-visiting the past; something else to quarrel about; misunderstanding the Child Support Agency; administrative failure; the Child Support Agency and voluntary giving; maintenance and contact; disputed paternity; the costs and benefits of an arms-length system; negotiating in the shadow of the Child Support Agency.
Part 10 Conclusion: introduction; justice between parents; what is the right balance between state and private resources in supporting children following relationship breakdown?; formula versus discretion; administrative effectiveness; the impact of the Child Support Agency 1991 upon parents' employment prospects and employment decisions; payment and enforcement; final thoughts. Appendix: research method.