MENZ Issues

Child Support Act – Accountability Between Parents

The Child Support Act was ostensibly passed into legislation, to try to stem the rapid increase in the cost of the Domestic Purposes benefit (DPB), by trying to pass on this cost to the fathers of the children.

Rather than directly address the people making the decisions, that led to the DBP being drawn, the Government generalised the tax target to all Non Custodial Parents (NCP), whether in fact they were currently making reasonable financial provision for their ex-spouse and children, or not. The Child Support Act (CSA) mixed together two distinct groups, one where the Custodial Parent (CP) was drawing DPB and the other where the CP was not drawing the DPB.

In applying one formula to both groups and not separately accounting for spousal support and child support, the iniquitous situation was created, of spousal support being paid after the CP took up a job or was supported by a new partner. In several thousand cases, this Government generosity with father’s money, was extended by business minded CPs, who bore children to several well earning men and receive a full spousal support from all of them. This is a very perverse incentive, as it financially rewards women who bear children into the type of family situation that gives the highest possible hazard to the children.

Although the CSA allowed for voluntary agreements, by offering a forced transfer much higher than the actual basic costs of supporting the children (for the cases where the NCP had an above average income ie about 70% of cases) it incentivised the CP to use the CSA.

In perhaps 20% of separations, the father may have decamped, due to unwillingness to provide financially, or more commonly inability or having been driven out. In many cases the inability results from mental health problems and applying tax law to mental health problems does not protect children. On the contrary, many of these men are driven out of NZ and their children are pretty much in the situation of orphans. Orphans have a better explanation of what happened to their lost parent. The decamper’s children are left in a vacuum, sometimes filled by poisonous stories. These factors bequeath a much higher suicide rate to these unfortunate children, as a result of inappropriate Government intervention into their lives.

The same CSA that was passed for decampers, is applied to fathers who are making appropriate financial contribution for their children. The compulsory CSA transfer of far more than the basic costs of supporting children, removes accountability of the CP to the NCP. This Government Act reduces the degree of responsibility required of the CP and results in much poorer parenting of these children. When there are problems with the children, the CP often will not allow the children to live with the NCP, due to the loss of CSA payments. This perverse incentive is strongest for women with poor market incomes, the same ones who are most likely to have mental health issues and thus have difficulties with parenting skills, especially when separated.

Solo parenting requires a higher level of parental skill, than parenting while together. However, generally the parents with poorer parenting and negotiating skills, are the very parents most likely to separate, resulting in hazard for the children. Thus accountability between parents is essential for successful separated parenting.

Thus the CSA is a barrier to the children receiving the best parenting that collectively their parents can offer.

The social damage done by the reduction of accountability of CP far outweighs the small financial take for DPB recovery.