Dads weigh in over child support
By PHIL HAMILTON - The Press
Last updated 05:00 31/08/2009
Fathers are backing a Families Commission proposal for more shared parenting ahead of a review of the child-support scheme.
Inland Revenue will shortly release a discussion document on possible changes to the child-support scheme.
In response, the Families Commission has released an issues paper that suggests child support should be based on the needs and costs of the child, rather than on the income of the liable parent, and payments should be passed on to the parent who is getting the domestic purposes benefit or other social security benefit.
Jonathan Young, a former Father and Child Trust social worker and father of one, said the Families Commission proposals made sense and would be fairer for fathers.
He said most fathers with whom he had dealt wanted to support their children, but objected to paying money to Inland Revenue which did not help their children.
"A lot of these guys were having the kids a couple of days, paying school fees and clothes, and then paying child support on top," he said.
"That child support wasn't benefiting the children; it was just going into the government coffers because the mother was on the DPB.
"They would much rather pay that money if they knew it was going to be spent on the kids."
Union of Fathers spokesman Darrell Carlin said the proposals would be more equitable and balanced.
"But the key is equal-shared custody," he said.
"Then the costs are shared equally. I think it's inevitable that we head to solutions like that, but it's a case of how long do we dance for? The pace of change is glacial."
Carlin said when he separated from his wife 10 years ago he was prevented from seeing his child, but still had his salary garnered.
"I was reeling from the fact I had a young child I suddenly wasn't able to see," he said.
"Then the child support kicked in. My employer came in and said we're taking this money out each week and that was the first I heard of it."
Eventually, Carlin got shared custody.
"When he's with me I pay, and she pays when he's with her, and it becomes so straightforward at that point."
Carlin said child support based on income, rather than the children's needs, was always a problem for the person paying.
"I don't find many fathers who don't want to support their kids, but they're troubled supporting their ex's lifestyle.
"We try to get the guys to bring payments down to a minimum and then they can say `I will pay for shoes and uniforms'.
"Then we find they will pay more than required. It's human nature. If you're told you must do it, it's irritating and you try to buck the system."
Chief Families Commissioner Dr Jan Pryor said with one in four children living in a sole-parent family at some point in their lives, the issues of separated parenting were of vital concern to New Zealand families.
"We must make the most of this opportunity to do the best we can for these children and their parents," she said.
Figures released this month show that almost a third of liable parents are shunning their child-support obligations, the highest rate in five years.
At June 30, the shortfall totalled $1.5 billion.
Inland Revenue is chasing more than $527 million owed by parents, with more than $1b owed in penalties.
However, one third of all debt is owed by Kiwi parents living overseas.
Figures issued under the Official Information Act show more than 127,000 parents have child-support obligations, but 37,702, or 29.5 per cent, fail to pay.
The debt owed by 547 parents earning six-figure salaries has nearly doubled in three years to $10.9m.