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The goal of child support

The goal of child support


Highly-paid professional footballers perform a public service by clarifying the law on child maintenance, suggests Simon Bruce

Professional footballers are paid to entertain, some handsomely so, but they also pay richly in child maintenance when they foul up their relationships. It is striking that footballers’ problems are often tackled in the family law reports. It is, you might say, a public service, of sorts.

One unforeseen service that a footballer recently performed was to clarify the law on child maintenance. His appeal case is called TW and TM (Minors) [2015] EWHC 3054, and is a judgement by Mr Justice Mostyn – the same judge who famously ruled that bridge was not a sport.

The footballer in question had two children by two mothers, and had been ordered by a deputy judge to pay £30,000 for each child out of his overall gross income of £190,000 per annum. The judge found the footballer was a man who was determined to promote his own expenditure and enjoyment, and relegate the best interests of his children.

Unsurprisingly, Mostyn J allowed the footballer’s appeal against this excessive order. The deputy judge had taken her eye off the ball, so to speak. Mostyn J clarified that the approach to be taken should be as follows:

  • The goal of child support legislation must be to ensure consistency and fairness;

  • The kick off for all quantifications is, therefore, the child support scheme run by the Child Support Agency;

  • Under the 2012 scheme, the calculation of child support is carried out under a formula applied to gross, not net, income. The formula applies up to a maximum sum of £156,000 gross per annum. The mother can then claim a top up maintenance sum from the court, to supplement what she gets under the formula;

  • Where there are two qualifying children under your wing, the rate is 16 per cent for the gross income to £41,600, and then 12 per cent on the next £114,000. The effective rate for someone earning the maximum sum of £156,000 is therefore 13.06 per cent.

  • Where there are two children living in separate homes with different mothers, the amount is apportioned equally among them, half each;

  • The formula should apply even where the earnings of the father shoot to in excess of £156,000 gross per annum;

  • If the earnings of the father headed very much in excess of £156,000 gross per annum, there would be a good reason to depart from the formula downwards;

Equally, if the father has significant capital resources, the formula may be adjusted upwards to meet the child’s needs, generously interpreted; andIn this case, Mostyn J ordered that the footballer pay £15,200 per annum per child. That is, 16 per cent of £190,000. That was a reasonable percentage having regard to the formula figure of 13.06 per cent, and the deputy judge’s findings about the extent of the footballer’s capital.

Another penalty paid by the footballer was to purchase two properties for the mothers and children to live in.

Passing this on to the footballer earning around £10m gross per annum for a top Premiership team like Liverpool Football Club, and applying a 13.06 per cent formula as maintenance to his two children born from two mothers, that would be a score of £1.3m per annum, with equal division between the mothers. That is, child maintenance of £653,000 per annum per child.

That would probably be a ridiculously excessive amount of maintenance for a baby or child and a departure downwards from the formula would be appropriate there, based on needs generously interpreted. But you only have to start adding the costs of private schooling, nanny hire, security, mortgage repayments, and other trappings of the rich person’s life to begin to pitch for maintenance costs of £100,000 per annum for a child. That’s loose change for a £10m gross per annum footballer.

Simon Bruce is a partner at Farrer & Co