SL v Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission: UTAA 11 Dec 2009

The mother and father had been married and had a child. They separated, and she claimed income support. The father was assessed to be liable to Child Support, but he was assessed to a nil contribution. He found work and the assessment was increased. When there was a brief reconciliation, he applied for cancellation of the liability order, saying that the fact that there had been a reconciliation meant that there was no ‘qualifying child’ and that the assessment had lapsed.
Held: M’s appeal succeeded against a decision of an Appeal Tribunal deciding that the Secretary of State had no power to continue a maintenance assessment affecting Mr Michael Brough as an absent parent, beyond 15 September 1999.
Levenson J concluded: ‘My starting point is the assumption that paragraph 16(1)(d) of Schedule 1 to the 1991 Act does in fact have a meaning and an application. I also adopt the view expressed by the Commissioner in paragraph 15 of CCS/4124/1997. The basis of the Commissioner’s reservations was the concern expressed in his paragraph 16 at the difficulties if the assessment continues in existence while the parents are living together. As I have pointed out above, the Commissioner in R(CS) 8/99 read into this concern a significance that went beyond the problems of the operation of the assessment during the reconciliation period, and went to the permanent cessation of the assessment.
It seems to me that the correct analysis is that paragraph 16(1)(b) is indeed about there no longer being a qualifying ‘child’, rather that being about the particular child no longer ‘qualifying’. This is one of the possible approaches suggested by Mr Scoon in CCS/4124/1997 and in my opinion it is the correct one. In the present case the child was still of the appropriate age and still with the parties during the period of reconciliation and therefore paragraph 16(1)(b) does not come into play.
However, it was the case that during the period of reconciliation the father was no longer an absent parent as defined in section 3(2) of the Act. Therefore, during the period of reconciliation there could be no duty on him under section 1(3) to make periodical payments pursuant to the maintenance assessment. If the reconciliation had lasted for at least six months, paragraph 16(1)(d) would have come into play. As the reconciliation does not last this long, and the child stayed with the mother, the father resumed the status of being an absent parent and the duty to make payments resumed (even though on the facts of the present case the amount of liability was nil until the 2003 decision).’
Levenson J
[2009] UKUT 270 (AAC), [2011] 1 FLR 322, [2010] Fam Law 1056
Child Support Act 1991
Cited by:
Appeal fromBrough v Law CA 20-Oct-2011
The parties had a child when they were married. A maintenance support order was made after they separated. They were briefly reconciled, and the father said that during that period there was no ‘qualifying child’ within the Act, and that therefore . .
ApprovedSM v Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission (CSM) UTAA 8-Dec-2010
Child support – jurisdiction . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 24 February 2021; Ref: scu.410694