Towards a child focused support system.
In New Zealand we do not have Child Support. We have a child tax. This tax has absolutely nothing to do with supporting a child.
In my view the entire premise of child support is flawed anyway.
Inside a marriage, the government does not define how much one of the parents must pay to care for the child. In New Zealand, after separation, in every instance the government defines a liability for one parent. Suddenly one of the parents has no right and no say on how much of his income should be spent on the child and what it should be spent on. In other words, in New Zealand when a mother separates from her partner, this man has a forced separation from his child. He automatically looses all rights and control over the finical support for that child.
This is not rational. It is also not child focused.
It is not rational to remove the father’s rights and control over his contribution to the financial care for the child. He cared for the child and spent some of his income on the child when he was married. It is not rational to assume that every father would suddenly abandon this aspect of fathering simply because the parents separated. In fact this flies in the face of available evidence. The vast majority of fathers willingly support their child after separation. Studies have further shown that the more a father is involved with the day to day care of the child after separation then the more willing they are to provide financial support for the child.
There is simply no basis in fact to assume all separated fathers are bad, uncaring, ineffective and uninvolved parents. Yet this is the assumption behind child support.
It is also not child focused. 75% of separations are initiated by wives. So most likely it was not the father’s choice to separate from her. Yet what occurs is a forced separation between the child and father. The financial fathering of the child is instantly removed. This is a double blow to the child. Not only is the child denied the day to day contact but the financial aspect of fathering is also denied the child. Allow me to explain.
Parenting is less about resources and more about interaction. Transferring money from the father’s bank account to somewhere else does not mean the child has any awareness that the father’s efforts are providing the child with a benefit. Quite the reverse, it hides this key aspect of financial parenting. When a child directly experiences various day to day consequences of the father’s financial efforts and decisions then the child is influenced. The child may react in various ways thus providing feedback to the father about the influences his financial decisions have. We can describe this as a parenting dynamic. I am coining the term financial parenting to describe this dynamic.
No rational person can support the concept that removing this dynamic is a positive thing for a child. The only way this can be supported is in the situation where the father has absolutely no concern about how his financial decisions affect the child. An extremely rare occurrence when the child is allowed to provide day to day feedback the father. Yet child support removes this parenting dynamic this for every child of separated parents.
In the USA an assumption is made that most parents are good parents. Children are better off is the government does not intrude. This is overwhelmingly confirmed in the research. If one parent does not accept a voluntary arrangement, that is the time when the courts can step in. The Court then considers all the circumstances and makes a ruling. Unfortunately these orders in the USA have been used to create grievous human rights violations in the USA. However that is another issue. There are other problems with the rulings made in those courts but the assumptions behind the system are sound and child focused. That is more than can be said about universal compulsory child support systems.
Unfortunately in NZ the powers that be as well as much of society are not rational when it comes to this subject. Furthermore the NZ family courts have such a low degree of public confidence that few people would expect that court to make child focused and fair decisions. Some middle ground that excluded the NZ family courts would have to be found. Unfortunately the political will for this is not evident. We are unlikely to see any move to assume, encourage or incentivise voluntary arrangements any time soon in NZ. The most that will occur is some meaningless lip service in this regard.
In any case NZ has such a deeply flawed system it seems a step too far to strive for an ideal child focused system. The fundamental flaw about the NZ system is the simple fact that it is not a child support system at all. It is a child tax.
More about the NZ system soon.