Letter: Child support must avoid 'formula fetishism'

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Sir: Your leading article 'Child support: Major's poll tax?' (23 December) today requires clarification. So-called 'Clean Break' Orders have never been anything more than a clean break between spouses, because the courts have never had the power to terminate completely obligations to maintain children.

Although in some cases the courts have attempted to go as far as they can down this road by making no award, or a nominal award only in respect of a child, the door to future claims for child maintenance has never been completely closed in such cases.

The important difference is that in an application to a court to award child maintenance following a Clean Break Order, the court would undoubtedly take account of the previous clean break arrangements, but the Child Support Agency takes no such account and is free to operate as though an otherwise perfectly valid court order did not exist.

It seems to me that in thus stepping outside the established legal framework and creating a new set of rules of its own, presumably in order to produce the result it wants, the Government is setting a dangerous precedent.

Perhaps, to redress the balance, the Government should amend the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 so as to permit a review of Clean Break Orders where a Child Support maintenance assessment is subsequently made.

Yours faithfully,



P. T. Ryan & Co. (Solicitors)

King's Lynn,


23 December