Letter: Child support and the absent parent's right to appeal

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Sir: I refer to your leading article 'Australian rules worth following' (18 May), in which you report that the Australian version of our Child Support Agency has avoided most of the pitfalls into which the British version has been plunged by giving to absent parents an independent right of appeal against agency decisions. The Justices' Clerks' Society has consistently argued that family proceedings courts represent the ideal forum for such appeals.

At present a substantial percentage of family proceedings, with the exception of divorce, is dealt with in the first instance by specially trained family panels of justices throughout England and Wales. They are well placed to deal with appeals of this nature, and have much experience in dealing with child support issues.

If Parliament was minded to legislate to provide such a right of appeal against an over rigid formula, we believe that the additional expense of establishing new tribunals for such purposes would be unjustifiable and inappropriate, particularly when the family proceedings courts, established by rules made under the Children Act, remain ready, willing and able to deal with such appeals.

Yours faithfully,

PETER DAWSON

Justices' Clerks' Society

Bolton, Lancashire

18 May

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