I have been giving this Child Support and Family Law question a bit of thought lately. Rather than prattle on about the inequities of our Family and Child Support Laws, which in this forum we all know so much about, I thought I would offer up some ideas about where I think it should go. I believe that we, in little ol’ NZ are probably in an ideal situation to pioneer the reforms that need to occur, to begin to rectify many of the fundamental ills of every western society, (yeah ok, we were the first to give wimmin the vote — look where that has got us.) because we are Â small enough to gather the ears, and large enough to have some credibility, as a nation.
So this is what I think:-
It is absolutely essential the Western Society is restored to a place where the family is the cornerstone of social development, (which is in direct opposition to feminist doctrine, so this is probably doomed before it starts.) However, didn’t that recent survey say women valued family above all else. Yes, but Legal Systems need to reflect that.
Every bit of NZ (for a start) Legislation that deals with Family, Children, Marriage, Parenthood etc. should be repealed and replaced with a single piece of Legislation that serves them all; one which engenders and fosters the establishment and maintenance of family values, social awareness and personal responsibility. At present the opposite is true.
Rather than being prefixed with the (implied) premise that :-
“The Government will ensure that the no-fault Divorce principles and all ancillary laws will prevail, and those that suffer from the effects of the implementation of those principles and laws will be hunted almost to the ends of the Earth, and every ounce of their self-esteem, self-worth, self respect, sanity, honesty and integrity, not to mention any available cash, will be extracted, and they will be condemned to a life of poverty, depression, desperation, cynicism, bitterness and emotional wilderness, thus exponentially elevating the likelihood of family violence, abuse, homicide, infanticide and suicide, as well as fostering the wholesale displacement of children who will grow up to repeat their parents failures.”
– the new Legislation would be (expressly) premised with the rather radical and perhaps extreme statement that:-
“Every person is responsible for the consequences of their own decisions and actions.”
The new Legislation would approach family considerations from a completely fresh direction and would provide consequences, for varying personal decisions which relate to family matters, founded on principles such as:-
Children, Marriage and Families.
- Where there is a ‘union’ which is not in the nature of a marriage, i.e. a fling, brief encounter, one night stand, or where there is no commitment to a ‘relationship’ by at least one party, and which results in a pregnancy, the contributors to the pregnancy are both liable to make an equal contribution to actual costs of raising the child. NOTE: This may appear a bit ‘band-aid’ with a cursory look, but in fact, it will encourage individuals, male and female, to each take responsibility for the prevention of any pregnancy which is not deliberately anticipated. ‘Actual costs’ can be researched ONCE, and ascribed a weekly value, adjusted annually, upwards or downwards by movements in Consumer Price Index, and half of that cost is payable by the non-custodial parent, where applicable, to the custodial parent, until the child is 18, or married etc. See ‘actual costs’ later.
- Where a couple enter into any other ‘union,’ whether it is a marriage, a civil union, de facto or other relationship in the nature of a marriage, or cohabit, and there is a proven resultant child or children, whether by natural means, or by adoption, the couple is automatically bound by a standard contract which includes the promises and vows included in a traditional marriage ceremony, whether the ceremony has taken place or not, and also includes responsibilities with respect to the child(ren) of that union, and the taking on of responsibilities for the children of any previous union, which may be in the custody of either partner. For these purposes the relationship is a ‘Marriage’ and the unit is a ‘Family.’ The children of any previous union, in the custody of either of the parties, are included in the ‘family’ as if they were living with both natural parents, whether or not a legal adoption takes place.
- Where a family, comprising mum, dad and the kids stays together, they are rewarded while that family unit is maintained, by Government incentives (diverted from the present Domestic Purposes Benefit setup, but may be as simple as being in the form of tax concessions). Further benefits are available where it is proven that the children in such families are succeeding (by meeting high academic thresholds) in school activities, are productively involved in extra curricular activities such as sport, cultural activity, music and theatre etc, and are actively supported in these activities by both resident parent figures. This elevates the likelihood of parents taking a real interest in the education and social adjustment of the children in their care. These incentives are not available to sole parent situations, but second or subsequent ‘marriages’ do qualify, and expressly include children in that family, who are from a previous union.
- Where a party to a ‘marriage’ elects to end the marriage, retains custody of the child(ren), (by whatever means, agreement, custody order etc), and excludes the other party from contact with the child(ren), they accept that they release the other party from all of the responsibilities of the (assumed) marriage contract, including imposed financial liability for maintenance of the children. The exception is where such an annulment is as a direct result of proven violence or other quantitative abuse on the part of the other party, which is considered to be a good and valid reason to quit the marriage, and renders that other party responsible for the breakup and so liable for maintenance of any children in that family.
- Where a party to a ‘marriage’ elects to end the marriage, and abandons custody and care of the children, they assume responsibility for the continued care of those children in a financial sense, and would be liable to half the actual costs. Again, the exception is where the initiator of the breakup is the victim of domestic violence, in which case the perpetrator retains that burden.
- Where such violence is cited, it must be current, subject to criminal or other retributive proceedings, attracting the same standard of proof as any criminal matter, and the breaking of the marriage should be immediate and final. In such cases, where the perpetrator does not become the custodian of the child(ren), they will be liable to pay half the actual costs of raising the children as in para 1. If they do have custody, they become a sole parent. If a victim of such violence subsequently elects to return to the same marriage, the history of violence cannot be used as a reason for another subsequent election to quit.
NOTE: The above paragraphs are intended to reflect the maxim —‘You are responsible for your own decisions”
i.e if you have a drunken night out, without protecting yourself, you pay. If you enter into a relationship for the long haul, you accept the responsibility it brings, even down to your partners existing children. If you choose to leave that situation, take the children with you, because you can no longer be bothered, you accept the responsibility that brings as well, including bringing up the children yourself, until you can provide another safe family haven for them. If you choose to bash, rape or otherwise abuse your partner or the family children, you get removed and you pay. If you are bashed etc, and choose to keep going back to the relationship, it’s back to square one each time. If you maintain your family until the children grow into secure responsible adults, you are rewarded. It is all pretty simple really.
- Subject to paras 1 and 5 above, where a parent chooses to ‘go it alone,’ that is exactly what they do — go it alone. There would be no Domestic Purposes Benefit to support them, and they will need to rely heavily on support from their own extended family. They may still qualify for the Unemployment Benefit, perhaps with a nominal allowance for each pre-school aged child, with the proviso when applying for such a benefit, that it will not be renewable when the youngest child at Application time, reaches school age. Further children while on this benefit will not qualify or extend the time.
- If circumstance dictates that a sole parent has to give up their child(ren) to someone other than the other natural parent, they then become liable, upon Application, to the full cost of rearing the child(ren), payable to the guardian. If custody is given up to the other natural parent, the liability is for half the cost.
NOTE: This is not as draconian as it seems. If we accept the statistics that show that the bulk of domestic violence occurs in single parent homes, and we accept that children are much more likely to flourish in a home where there is both a mother and father figure, then it follows that any Family oriented Legislation should vigorously and actively discourage the setting up of home situations where those adverse conditions exist, and where they do exist, should deliberately withhold any form of endorsement. Again, at the moment, the opposite is true.
Questions will be asked. What about the welfare of the children who do not have the choice, and who may be in a Sole Parent situation, but who would have no real Govt support, or support from the absent parent? The answer is contained within what happens presently. Single parents get the DPB free of accountability for its use, The children do not get it. Single parents get the liable parent Child Support contributions, if there is any left after the Government has had its bite, likewise with no accountability. Again, the children don’t. So, is there any real difference?
Except where a valid existing Protection or Restraining Order etc. provides, nothing in the new Legislation would prevent any parent from maintaining contact, having a parent/child relationship, privately making financial contributions or undertaking any of the many things parents take for granted, where they have children that reside elsewhere. The Legislation would allow as few expectations on the part of either parent as possible, so that absent parents can feel worthy and appreciated for voluntary involvement of any kind, and in fact would be more likely to do so, and custodial parents can do the same. Goodwill between separated parents of children is almost as essential for the children’s sense of ‘place’ as having a resident parent figure representing both genders is for social adjustment. Legislation needs to reflect that, and needs to provide frameworks for that to be engendered and fostered.
Second Marriages with existing children.
I am not sure of the statistics relating to numbers of divorcees with children, who remarry or enter another committed relationship, but I am sure that the percentage is significant, and may even be overwhelming, and probably, it doesn’t matter. Whereas new Legislation should be designed to promote the maintenance of a ‘first’ family; in my experience, Â the new partners of those custodial parents that take a second or subsequent plunge, inherently absorb by osmosis, many of the parenting roles left vacant by the absent parent. This should be commended and recognised, which is why I elevate such family situations to the same status as first families, in terms of the rewards suggested.
In any case, as often as not, in current ‘blended families’, the family receives child support contributions from an absent parent, and then pays child support contributions to another family, because there is a resident absent parent as well. The Government gets involved in this money-go-round, at a cost to the tax-payer, and with benefit in tax-take but there seems little point, outside the Govt tax benefit. If a person says, “I want to be with this person and we will marry (or not) and live together”, I believe they are declaring that if that other person has resident children, then they accept them also. If this was legally recognised, it would be embraced.
Actual Costs of raising child.
This needs some detailed work, which I have not done. The main thing is, you need to compare Apples with Apples. And it depends who you talk to.
(Thanks Skeptik) – we are asked to believe that the ‘value’ of running a household is $47500. This figure is arrived at by stay-at-home women who believe their work is undervalued, and is a real value. Note the word ‘value’ is expressed. Ok, so if running a household is ‘valued’ at $47.5K p.a. by women who don’t actually get paid to do it, and so don’t have to pay any of the ‘real and actual costs’ of running a household, what is the ‘value’ of running a new household when it is run by a man who is booted out of his original household and has to set up another one and run it, whilst also working for a living, and paying the real ‘costs’ of his new household, and probably much of the ‘costs’ of the old one? Remember, if there are children, he has to provide space for them as well, even if he only sees them infrequently. If one household’s work is worth $47.5K, why not the other? Anyway, these figures are arbitrary and the point is moot— no one gets paid for this work. But, it does illustrate some inequity, because, even though ‘value’ is expressed, ‘cost’ is implied. And you can bet yer boots, women do it better, so there is no need for equity value.
Last time I looked, my Living allowance for the purposes of calculating C.S. liability was $19,379. Everything else is up for grabs. I get taxed on my gross income, and after deducting the living allowance from the gross income, child support for two children is taken. That’s 24% of gross income less $19,379. That money has already been taxed. I could be wrong, but then, the childrens’ mother, who receives that tax paid contribution, has it taxed again as part of her income. I thought it was a contribution for the children. Isn’t that what they tell us. Multiply that little tax double dip by the number of NCP’s out there — staggering. Pretty good racket for the coffers. Is it any wonder why it is so difficult to get the powers to listen and take notice?
New legislation should begin at a default position, in the event of a relationship break down, of 50-50 shared care, where child costs lay where they fall — neither parent pays the other child support. School fees and extra-household costs are shared by negotiation. It moves pro rata in one direction to where a parent insists on 100% custody and 100% care, and assumes 100% responsibility, including financial, and in the other direction to where a parent abandons 100% custody and 100% care, and therefore assumes 50% financial responsibility. Child Support obligations cease when the custodial parent enters into another relationship, whether there is a working party in that relationship or not.
Can the Government afford a change of this Nature?
I believe we cannot afford NOT to make a change. The current Legislation has systematically dismantled the sanctity of the family, and shredded the fabric of nurture for the children who are our future. I won’t go on about it. We all know this. What Western Governments do not seem to understand is that this is already showing signs of destroying western civilisation, and it may already be too late. For today, while Governments are raking this in from the divorce industry, everything is ok for them. But what about tomorrow? While Governments insist on planning only as far as the next election, looking for as many dollars as they can get in the interim, society as we know it is doomed. – But maybe not.
The DPB budget is not entirely funded by recoveries of Child Support: making child support liability equitable and reasonable will reduce the levels of absconder: and making people responsible for their own decisions will enable the Government to concentrate more on Governance and less on Policing. There will be much more stability in families, in workforces, less dependence on welfare handouts, and more capacity for Government to positively deal with problems when it faces more contented communities.
The first problem is to identify, beyond any doubt, that there is a need to change, point out the consequences of failing to change, and have the Government recognise, accept and buy-in to it. Good luck with that – I hear you scream in fits of laughter — or maybe disdain.
These notes are not intended to be exhaustive or comprehensive, or provide any definitive or absolute solution. These ideas will throw up some fish-hooks, perhaps many, but I have yet to see any alternative to the current Legislation presented or proposed anywhere, for ordinary people to look at, analyse and consider. I have no idea what has been banging around in Peter Dunne’s head regarding changes to Child Support, but I have been rather hoping that it is because his ideas are so at-odds with current thinking that the delays we are experiencing are inevitable. I wanted to offer some ‘bones’ as a starting point to present somewhere, as an alternative to existing policy, something positive rather than another treatise on how crap things are at the moment.
I acknowledge that it is very much ‘in your face’ stuff, and pretty much turns everything over, and I AM looking for reaction – considered reaction. But what then? – I don’t know what to do with it. I have deliberately refrained from huge volumes of explanation, preferring instead to see whether readers can make sense of it and formulate their own opinions of what something like this would mean. I am sure there are many other ideas out there and I am sure you will add yours.