The Silent Killer
This is an article I wrote awaiting news paper publication.
THE SILENT KILLER
There is a killer moving among us that can strike at anytime. It’s been with us for the better part of thirty years becoming more lethal as time goes by. In 1991 it gained strength and became virtually unstoppable. Although it has been known to kill teenagers it’s main target is men, killing almost one a day.
As seemingly unknown as this killer is to the general populous there are many groups around New Zealand offering help and support as well as lobbying to get something done. Unfortunately all requests, letters and demonstrations have fallen on deaf ears. But this is no joke and the killer is a very real killer taking the lives of over 300 men each year. The name of the killer is The Child Support Act and it’s close cousin The Family Court.
The Government with it’s “no-fault divorce” started the process, which has made it easier and easier morally and financially for a Man and Wife to separate and divorce leaving the kids to wonder what just happened. That’s when the problems start, trying to figure out how to share the children and what’s in the best interest of the children. What is well known about these cases is that almost every time it’s the Mother that has custody of the kids.
Now for the other side of the story. The Mother usually cannot support herself and the children so needs financial help, this is were the government steps in with the DPB at the same time sending a letter to the Father advising him that they will be garnishing his wages until the children are 19. OK, so far there is nothing wrong with the system. Mum and Dad no longer live with each other and Dad has an obligation to meet to financially support his children. But wait, the story continues. An important point to make here is most of the initiators of separation and divorce are the women and a knee jerk explanation to this would be domestic violence and or psychological abuse but published statistics say this is simply not the case. Of course the Mother has to live and has to raise the kids and therefore needs the financial support, but lets not forget about DAD. He has suddenly been ripped away from his family and is no longer able to see his children on a day to day basis. Bare in mind that now Dad has to find a new place to live, he has to feed himself and is also being taxed more by the government. In other words, he is now paying for two households. On an average income this is not easy and just to rub salt in the wound he is likely just joined the weekend Dad club where access to his children is just one weekend each fortnight – if he’s lucky. It’s not surprising that it can be very hard for a man to start a new life and often with this change he has trouble paying the child support during this transition. The Child Support he pays is a percentage of his Gross earnings which, on an average wage, can be more than $100 a week. What does the government do to help him find his feet? Well, the IRD CSA finds it important to impart their dominance on the “Dead-beat Dad” by penalizing him for late payments and then adding interest to this penalty every month it’s not paid. Meanwhile this estranged Father is missing his kids like crazy and tries to get more time with them… enter the Family Court.
If it has come to this point it means communication between the separated couple has not gone well and mediation has not worked, it’s now time for Mum and Dad to get themselves a lawyer to represent them in this Court system. As the Mother has no real income she is entitled to legal aid and pays around $50 for her lawyer, meanwhile the Father is on an average wage and will end up paying between $2-8K in lawyers fees. The sad fact is in most cases he will be no better off when it comes to seeing his kids as the Judge has ruled in favor of the Mother and ostensibly in the best interest of the child/ren. So the burden of not only late payment penalties and interest thereof but the extra rent, power, phone and food are now really taking their toll – and now he has to pay off his lawyer. It’s no wonder some men are a little bitter.
It’s not uncommon that the judge rules one to two hours a fortnight of supervised contact with the children. This is in the situation of alleged domestic violence cases which, by the way, are only proven in around 20% of the rulings. Guess who has to pay for the supervised contact? The Father is now faced with some difficult choices on how to deal with these issues and that’s when he suddenly realizes that there is no money left, he is in debt up to his eyeballs, it’s very possible that he may go bankrupt and to top it all off he barely sees his children if at all. Some politicians call this man a “Dead-beat Dad” and try to pass more legislation to come down harder on him. In truth, out of the fathers that are unable or not allowed to see their children at all, more than 60% are still paying their Child Support. There is only a very small percentage, around 10%, of the total number of Fathers who are forced to pay Child Support that are not paying and around 64% of that is due to afford ability. In other words, there is only a handful of non custodial parents that are “Dead-beat Dads” but it seems that brush tars and scars most of the Men paying Child Support. The upshot of this is that Fathers who do not live with their kids are seen much like criminals. They are looked down on. They are no longer needed by society and feel useless because their role as the provider has been taken over by the government and all they face now is persecution. This is all fueled by the CSA and the Family Court and it gets to a point where the man will admit defeat, see himself as a failure and commit suicide. This happens almost once a day – to more than 300 men a year.
There are around 300,000 fatherless children in this country and growing. There are around 170,000 Fathers (and the occasional Mother) who have had their children removed from their day to day lives and sometimes for good. Statistics are widely published illustrating graphically the horrific consequences of children growing up without their Father including the greatly increased likelihood of depression and suicide . And we are told that this is in the best interest of our children.