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Child Support Formula fundementally flawed

Filed under: General — Scrap_The_CSA @ 10:16 am Wed 23rd June 2010

SEPARATED parents owe their ex-partners more than $1 billion in child support payments, the Auditor-General reported yesterday.

The Australian National Audit Office investigation into child support reform found that half of separated parents are failing to pay all, or any, of their child support liabilities.

The audit report, tabled in parliament yesterday, criticises the Child Support Agency’s performance, despite a five-year reform process that cost taxpayers $877 million.

There has been much talk from Dunne Nothing about making changes to Child Tax modelled on the Australian changes. What the changes in Aussie are starting to show is that no amount of tinkering with the fundamentally flawed Wisconsin percentage of gross income formula approach works.

When will the politicians and officials admit that the formula approach is fundamentally flawed and unworkable,? What amount of evidence will it take? Formula based child tax systems are failing world wide and tinkering makes them worse, not better. Why? Because a formula assessment for calculating child tax is fundamentally flawed.

IRD is blinded by the concept of the formula being a “best practice’ approach to child tax. Before accepting any best practices at face value, it’s a good idea to determine what evidence underlies them.

Given the evidence showing world wide failure of formula based child tax assessments I suggest that, in relation to child tax, we have a world wide worse practice approach that derives from a methodology that is ideologically driven by some vague notion of parental responsibility that is only applied to separated parents and not to parents in intact families.

To sum up look around the world and you will see example after example of worse practice in supporting children post separation.




  1. For this post I am going to avoid discussing the NZ child tax and focus on international examples of child support. The difference is that these systems can claim to have some relevance to supporting a child, whereas the NZ system has nothing what so ever to do with supporting a child. Even so these international examples are in practice fundamentally flawed.

    I’d like to know where you are going with your argument Scrap. If you are proposing that the family court decide case by case then I think we would have worse outcomes. (if that is possible).

    The fact there is a formula may not in itself be the issue.
    I think the issue is failed ideology. Child support systems around the world are based on the assumption the father must be forced by the government to support the mother’s life style choices. This is more or less the basis of them all but couched in gender neutral words.

    We could go on all day about the flaws in this thinking. However the key problem is that in fact this approach gives the child the opposite result to that intended. It provides powerful incentives and motivations to avoid paying. It also dismisses fathers wishes to take responsibility and make decisions about the child’s well being and up bringing.

    If you treat people as disposable wallets how do you expect them to behave?

    The reality is that current child support schemes are by design and implementation engineered to work against parental responsibility. The euphemism of “parental responsibility” to mean child support is one of the greatest examples of double speak in our times.

    The fundamental flaw is that it is not possible to legislate people to be good parents. All the state can do is put a safety net in pace to prevent the worst scenarios. Beyond this the state can only encourage and educate people about what it thinks are good parenting practices.

    What is required is a safety net to prevent parents from making absolutely no contribution to their child’s care. And also encouragement (not compulsion) to be an involved and contributing parent to the child as much as their innate kindness and instinct allows.

    You don’t draw out a father’s instinct to provide for his child by treating him as a disposable wallet. That approach works powerfully against a good outcome for the child.

    What the state can do it make sure the absolute basics are provided for the child. Just the same as it does for children of unemployed people. Encouraging parents to contribute more can happen in a myriad of ways. However if compulsion or coercion is used, it is bound to fail.

    The Australian system is vastly superior to the NZ system. Unfortunately this because the NZ system is such a complete failure, rather than the Australian system being a shining model. Where the Australian system slips is in still trying to be an income balancing scheme. In other words the levels of liability are too high.

    This appears to be where the current NZ review is heading as well. Remember the failure to explore the “basket of goods” approach. The levels need to be set at providing for the child’s requirements – not to try and balance incomes.

    Comment by Dave — Fri 25th June 2010 @ 5:22 pm

  2. Wise analysis Dave, and thanks Scrap for the thread and persistence in critiquing this system of child abuse.

    Comment by Hans Laven — Fri 25th June 2010 @ 10:34 pm

  3. Hi Dave,
    Your thinking could make our jobs so much easier.
    Our own Auditor Genereal here in NZ is currently analysing our own Child Support debt mountain which is significantly made up of fictitious penalties that just motivate avoidance and non-compliance.

    Comment by Ms IRD Officer — Sat 26th June 2010 @ 12:02 pm

  4. The new art of alimony:

    Comment by Dave — Mon 28th June 2010 @ 3:18 pm

  5. The IRD and government and so many mothers think that financial support is the only kind of support fathers are good for. That is where the flawed thinking starts!

    Comment by Scott B — Wed 30th June 2010 @ 4:13 pm

  6. Apparently in Mexico you need a court order to have child support awarded. You can’t get a court order without a DNA test to prove paternity. If the father refuses to turn up for paternity testing then he is assumed to be the father.

    All very simple and logical.

    Just shows we do not live in a “developed” country after all.

    Comment by Dave — Wed 30th June 2010 @ 5:35 pm

  7. Wow! What a fantastic idea… the feminist PC brigade here would never allow that!

    Comment by Scott B — Wed 30th June 2010 @ 6:14 pm

  8. Time to move to Mexico…

    Comment by MAX — Wed 30th June 2010 @ 6:24 pm

  9. I have always deemed that child support (generally a debt held by the father) is resented because the funds have little to do with helping the child in question. This resentment is also deepened up by the difficulty of the father to gain REASONABLE access to the child. Have not met a father yet that didn’t want to spend a fortune on their child but met plenty who were broken hearted and full of resentment regarding the Govt’s lack of aknowlegement in thought and deed for the value of fatherhood.

    Comment by Bryan N — Thu 1st July 2010 @ 12:08 am

  10. Let’s also remember that in the eyes of the NZ law there’s no way of NZ men ever even knowing if they’re the real father or not in the first place!
    The legal powers that be in their wisdom outlaw DNA paternity testing in NZ and won’t accept genuine finding from DNA paternity tests done overseas either!

    In NZ Men are the new niggas.

    Comment by Skeptik — Thu 7th April 2011 @ 4:38 am

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