The test of parenthood
The current focus on DNA paternity testing to deal with child support disputes should not divert attention from the real problem — the growing burden of child support debt and the disheartening number of parents who blithely abdicate their responsibilities towards their children, writes The Press in an editorial.
The fact that the amount owed by errant parents spirals upwards every year — more than doubling since 2000 — does demonstrate significant problems with the Child Support Act, which has often been criticised as being too soft on parents who won’t pay up and too harsh on those who will. But at the root of this is a deeper failure. Parenting is a job for life and the most important responsibility most of us will ever take on. That this fundamental message seems to escape so many New Zealand men is disheartening. It says something unsavoury about the state of masculinity in this country that so many men feel untroubled by turning their backs on their children. Although fathers’ support groups reject attempts to label this as solely a men’s issue, it is nevertheless true that the large majority of non-custodial parents are men.
Although there are likely to be other Gordon Dowlers who are frustrated by the difficulty of proving a child is not theirs, there is a more significant element of ducking for cover by men who do not want to accept their duty.
The [law] commission also makes the valid point that the legal status of parent-child relationships has not kept pace with the increasing diversity of family structure arising both from social changes and new birth technologies. These are increasingly complex issues and ones that need addressing in law to bring both certainty to parents and children, not only in familial relationships but also in matters of child support. But again, at present these issues are still only a fraction of the picture.
Of course, deep hurts and emotions are involved in many cases — often bound up in fraught custody disputes — but often it is simply a case of parents not facing up to their responsibilities to the life they helped create. Those who criticise the Child Support Act for being too rigid around the rights of non-custodial parents do have a valid argument. Certainly, many cases of non-payment arise when the father feels alienated from the life of his child and wants better access. But there is no indication that these emotive cases make up the bulk on unpaid support.
Comment by JohnP:
With repeated anti-male / anti-father vilification and repeated assertions about incidence based on no known facts; this nasty bit of propaganda could have come straight from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. I thought ‘blaming the victim’ had become passÃ©, but it seems that males are still considered fair game.
This ‘editorial’ is the standard feminist response to complaints by fathers that the family law system treats them unfairly, and does nothing to advance the debate or inform readers about the true state of affairs. I was very disappointed to read this in what has until now been one of the best newspapers in the country at presenting gender issues in an unbiased fashion.