POP: The Consequence of One Rock Star’s Ruling for Child Maintenance 

Published on 13 February, 2020 | Andrew Newbury

Even though some people might bristle at the thought, there can be little denying the impact of celebrity culture on society.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that it seems to account for an increasing amount of space in both print and broadcast media, the lives of the rich and famous appear very different and distant to our own.

The bridge between rock stars and the rest of us might well, however, have closed just a touch as a result of a ruling in the High Court.

Just before Christmas, Sir Nicholas Mostyn handed down a judgement in private relating to the divorce settlement of a couple referred to only as CB and KB (https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2019/78.html).

It was arguably most notable not because the husband, KB, is a multi-millionaire and, as the judge described, “the bass player in a well-known band” or for the fact that he and his wife had six children during the course of their 15-year marriage.

My attention wasn’t even piqued by the size of award made to CB – £5.1 million, including a lump sum of £2.3 million – which animated some of our national newspapers (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7814409/Ex-wife-bass-player-three-member-band-half-10m-fortune-High-Court-rules.html).

What caught my eye was how it decided the amount of child maintenance which KB was ordered to pay was calculated.

Determinations about child support are made by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

Even though it replaced the much-criticised Child Support Agency (CSA), the CMS is governed by the same legislation (the Child Support Act 1991), which means that it assesses the income of non-resident parents up to a maximum of £156,000 or £3,000 per week.

The Family court has the discretion to make an addition or ‘top-up’ order in cases involving those individuals fortunate enough to earn more than that sum.

Furthermore, the CMS decision about how much absent parents should pay is guided by a specific formula, with the sums due relating to the number of children that a couple has.

In the case of three or more children, it is set at 19 per cent of the non-resident parent’s gross income.

However, the ruling on the circumstances of KB and CB concluded that the current maximum level should be ignored with income “which does not exceed £650,000” now being taken into account.

The Times’ Legal Editor Jonathan Ames has reported that the judgement effectively means the current statutory cap on calculating child maintenance is too low for high earners.

As I mentioned in his article, it’s not only myself and my colleagues at Hall Brown who have been drawn to the significance of the ruling.

Given that it is of broad application, it potentially holds considerable consequences for both divorcing and unmarried couples who are separating.

More than being of importance for new cases, it may even lead to existing maintenance offers being withdrawn as well as attempts to review those child support orders which have already been agreed.

Where the courts are concerned, it seems, wealthy spouses may not enjoy the fans, the fame or the other trappings associated with rock star life to face similar financial consequences.

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