NME’s Columnist Katherine Ryan On: Child Support

You made it! Dry January’s over and you completed your final sacrifice of keeping the family together for one last Christmas. As planned, you can now put the wheels in motion to separate from your partner. Hey, I don’t blame you. Though rough at first, being on your own is brilliant. You can finally get a pet! You’ll eat much less when it’s just you and the children – there’s been no red meat in my house since 2010. At bedtime, they’ll pile in your bed like puppies in a basket and, yes, you’ll be kicked relentlessly through the night, but it’s a happy trade for snoring. You never have to correct them for interrupting when there’s no adult conversation to interrupt.

Of course, you’ll miss them when they’re staying with the other parent (to the point that it physically hurts), but slowly you start enjoying the lie-ins and realise you can watch as much Making A Murderer as you like until they return. Their hair won’t have been brushed properly, but that’s not your business. Take a deep breath and remember how much fun they had all weekend. You can plait it later.

Society wants happy families. The whole ‘no sex before marriage’ threat is a device to prevent the discovery that you really can do it alone. If I’d known how wonderful it was to have my daughter as a flatmate and her lovely dad down the road in his own house, I’d never have bothered trying to make it work in the first place. For me, it’s the absolute dream. But I’m strange. Many people in my situation have a terrible time and it’s about to get worse. The UK Child Support Agency is a flaccid penis. Each time you ring with a query, you assume the position of carer for whomever has answered your call, explaining to them the step-by-step basics of their own job. It can take years to get a maintenance arrangement in place – and by then they’ve probably lost your paperwork, sent it to the wrong address or mistaken it for an orange and eaten it. I get a sick knot in my stomach every time I see a CSA letter in my postbox because there’s an element of shame that I have to deal with them at all – and I know it’s just as bad for my ex.

Never mind all the hard work we’ve put in, child maintenance arrangements made through the CSA will be ending between now and 2017. There’s a new Child Maintenance Service that, like a carrier bag tax, imposes a fee for both the parent paying and the parent collecting maintenance. “Well, why don’t you work it out on your own?” they ask. Yeah, we probably will. But God help the parents who can’t. Or who don’t speak English. Or those who have very little money for their children without the Government dipping their ham fist into the pot.

It’s an absolute outrage and it directly preys upon the most vulnerable. If everyone could work things out on their own, there would be no divorce in the first place. Asshats.