New Child Support System Creates Wider Divide
Written by Chantelle Campbell
From the 1st of April 2015 the new child support changes come into effect. These changes were to mean a much “Fairer” system for all, however you only have to browse through social media to see that this is not the case. The new changes which were passed into law in 2012, impose that both parents incomes are taken into account, shared care will mean any time spent with either parent above 28%, partners of non-custodial parents will not be taken into account, and each parent is given a living allowance leeway. The previous system saw only the non-custodial parent’s income taken into account, partners of non-custodial parents taken into account for the living allowance, and shared care being anything above 40% of care. On the outset these changes may sound fairer, but in reality there are still far too many parents paying either too much, or not enough, with many refusing to pay anything and clocking up huge debt with penalties added on top.
There has been a huge outcry by non-custodial parent’s partners, with many angered over the non-custodial parent having to pay more child support due to partners and in some instances their partner’s children (non-custodial parents non-biological children) no longer being factored into the living allowance. Some would call this fair, while others would outright disagree.
Non-custodial parents who have limited access or no access at all to their children due to the custodial parent alienating the child are arguing that the changes are incentivising the custodial parents to keep denying access so they can receive more money. This was happening well before the new changes, but with the percentage rate of shared care dropping, this could well become a realistic problem for many more, and some parents are having to pay a lot more money due to this change. You then get the custodial parent arguing that the non-custodial parent only wants more access due to having to pay more money. Whatever the reason, if a parent wants to spend more time with their child and there are no safety factors at play, then non-custodial parents have just as much right to their children as custodial parents do. Parents time spent with children should never ever be about money, it should be about parent and child being allowed to share their relationship together.
Another factor in the changes is that with both parent’s incomes taken into account, you are seeing transfer of wealth from one household to the other when both parents have 50/50 shared care. How is this fair at all? Child Support should not be passing between parents in 50/50 care arrangements. Parents should be sharing costs of extra curricular activities etc, but not in living costs.
No Child Support System will ever be 100% fair for everyone, but there are ways to make it fairer for the majority. Child Support should not be calculated on incomes, or partners, or subsequent children. Child Support should be calculated on the average cost to raise a child in New Zealand, and split down the middle between both parents 50/50. Stuff published an article back in 2011 stating that the average cost to raise a child according to IRD was $14,000 per year, and another study quoted approximately $10,500 per year. This would mean that each parent would be liable to pay between $5250 - $7000 per child (a little higher if we factor in inflation). Then you factor in the percentage of shared care and calculate accordingly. That way both parents are sharing the responsibility of raising their child fairly, and the child is getting the financial care by both parents that they are entitled to.
What about those parents who refuse to pay child support? I believe that we should get rid of a system that imposes monetary penalties on top of unpaid child support, in which the government makes a cosy sum from each year. Yes I hear people saying “But how will the system pay for itself?”, I’m sure a small administration fee would cover it, or the interest that the government earns from monies collected that sits in their bank account until it is payed over to the custodial parent. What is the use of piling thousands of dollars in penalties on top of a parent who refuses to pay? All it will do is drive the non-custodial parent into a never ending crevice of debt, and the custodial parent and child would never see a cent. How about alternatives like it affecting credit ratings, or preventing people from leaving the country? I am sure there a many more alternatives to paying financial penalties.
The new changes have cost the country to the tune of $163 million – the initial estimate being $30 million. It’s another Dunne idea passed into law on the National Government’s watch. While child support will never be fair for all, we need a system much better than the one we have and the one that is about to come into effect. Our children deserve to be supported by both parents, and it is our parental responsibility to provide for them equally. Give our children the life that they deserve, we brought them into the world, let’s live up to our responsibilities.