Skip to content

Visionary Child Support ?

April 16, 2011

by Robert  Whiston FRSA   11th Feb 2011

Jan 2011 saw the DWP release a consultation paper entitled  “Strengthening families, promoting parental responsibility: the future of child maintenance”  which outlined the future changes to child support payments and the methods to be adopted.

Executive Summary

Overall, the vision, tone and content of this new Consultation Paper dealing with child support (CS) payments and the CSA has been one of being pleasantly surprised that after 10 years some of the ideas put forwards by fathers groups are being accepted.

It is not perfect but in the highly charged atmosphere that attends CSA matters one could not expect anything else, however, it is – or promises to be – a step int the right direction. There is much to commend and it is to be sincerely hoped that the ambitions outlined will reach fruition for they will benefit fathers and mothers.

In the past, it has to be freely admitted, that all advocates of men’s and fathers’ rights felt unable to fully support measures what were so clearly slanted against them.  Principally, every piece of legislation was seen as benefiting only mothers and children to the exclusion of fathers.

Compared with those earlier papers this 2011 paper appears to thrown open the shutters and partially redressed the imbalance.

However, the real obstacle to a smooth resolution of CS difficulties (the elephant in the room), is not money but has always been that of ‘custody’ with all its power ramifications including the exclusions of fathers (this is true of all counties).

Where a mother, upon divorce, is in effect ‘guaranteed’ custody then fathers are being discriminated against. Paying to be discriminated against (via the CSA) is unpleasant.

The 2011 DWP paper draws heavily on Sir David Henshaw’s 2006 report  into the  (non ?) functionaing of the CSA. It is Henshaw that provides most of the radical departures from the old failed tregime. At Footnote No 65 in Henshaw’s 2006 report he states that:

  • “Under the new scheme, shared care is when a non-resident parent has overnight care of their child for at least 52 nights a year. Maintenance is reduced accordingly.”

Fifty two nights amounts to 14% of a calendar year. If Henshaw is suggesting that14% is the lowest threshold that will trigger maintenance credits for shared care one has to ask why ?

Men’s and fathers’ groups have always advocated true equality. For them the goal must be that wherever it is possible, fathers should firstly enjoy 25% of their children’s time within the next few years with the longer term goal being 50% – and that maintenance credits should reflect that commitment. If, on the other hand, by “Maintenance is reduced accordingly”  he means fathers will have to pay less to the child mothers to off-set the increased costs associated with seeing their children more often, then it is to be supported.

Single fathers with custody of children have found obstacles placed in their path. Payments of basic state benefits due to them are more difficult to achieve, e.g. the care component in Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA). [1]

The payment of Child Benefits to fathers is also impossible. The head of the Child Benefit Policy section, Spawson, reported in 1999 that the DWP computer system (circa 1975) was the reason Child Benefit could not be paid to two parents when custody was shared. So ‘shared parenting’, legally possible since 1991, was defeated by an elderly computer. For the DWP’s 2011 vision to be realised these administrative shortcomings need to be addressed sharply.

Fathers deserve the same level of consideration that is extended to mothers and in one or two areas it looks as if the present deficits will be addressed by the Coalition government.

Governments have previously claimed that it was impractical to link ‘performance related contact’ by the mother with ‘performance related payment’ by the father, i.e. Child Support (CS).

As a result CS payments have been seen as largely separate from visitation (‘contact’), or visitation rights. In response to this discrimination/bias men’s and fathers’ groups have, in the past, supported the link between child support payment and access as a means towards a quid pro quo for fathers.

All that has now changed with the promise of ‘shared parenting’ as the future default custody position (statement by Tim Loughton MP, Dec 2010). The freedom given in this Green Paper for parents to arrange their own CS free of state interference is also to be welcomed. This returns ‘autonomy’ and self-determination  to the citizen.

With the pre-condition of better custody and increased parenting time for fathers all but met and agreed, better progress can be made regarding CS.

The transformation will not be total and nor will it be overnight. We should be planning to reach the Swedish standard of father participation and child care within 5 years. Swedish fathers account for 26% of single parents looking after children (see European Parliament, British MEP Marina Yannakoudakis). In England, at present the figure is around 2%. If the figure does not reach 25% by 2016 this Green Paper will have failed

Paradigm shift

Where a universal statutory collection system no longer exists to subjugate either parent and no automatic sole custody exists to exclusively benefit one parent, a paradigm shift can be said to have occurred. Stripped of the procedural straight jacket, it suddenly becomes possible to de-couple child support from custody and for both parties to become ‘winners’ in a freer, more flexible market.

With shared parenting in place and agreed beforehand, the subsequent negotiations regarding levels of CS payments will be free of rancour and gamesmanship. Money the state now pays to finance court time will reduce as cases coming to court will already have been agreed by both parties. This is the experience of other governments, e.g. Australia, Sweden, Belgium etc.

Transparency

The proposed introduction of the Universal Credit to replace the plethora of smaller state benefits will assist matters. It is proposed that benefits such as working tax credit, child tax credit, housing benefit, child benefit, income support, jobseeker’s allowance and income-related allowances will all be merged into one universal state credit.

Everyone will know whatthe value of the benefit will be and there will not be some mothers getting more than others. Under the proposed new CS scheme mothers will have access to additional income through private ‘informal payments’ that fathers make to them directly. In the past these were not counted for CSA purposes which aggrieved both mothers and fathers.

One of the worst features of the earlier regime has also been addressed, namely thatof the government collecting money from fathers and pretending to the public thatit was forwarded to the mother of the child when in fact it merely off-set the Treasury’s cost of benefits and running the CSA system.

In some areas the present Green Paper’s envisaged CS payment structure looks short on detail but if it encourages both parents to go out to work and be self-reliant it should be judged as more than reasonable.

Under the proposed changes we foresee the possibility where if one parent works full-time and the other part-time (yet they share the child’s time equally), the flexibility will allow CS to reflect this.

Enlightened view

Child maintenance payments have been used perniciously in the past and they have pushed fathers into long-term debt (10 to 15 years), suicide (permanent), and condemned them and their new families to lifelong poverty.

Governments and Whitehall Dept have preferred to remain deaf to pleas for them to urgently address policies thatwere diametrically opposed to one another and clashed with other government targets. Examples of contradictory messages and policies abound but three instances we cite include the Divorce Reform Act 1969, UNICEF and promoting families.[2]  The former was intended to increase remarriage but where numbers are stalled; child poverty meant to be eased by various state benefits has worsened in the last 10 years; and promoting families as the best option I n which to raise child has seen marriage ratesat their lowest in living memory.

Is it enlightenment of simply an excuse to claim, whenever challenged, thata child’s best interests are paramount ? See how quickly the pretence is abandoned when a same sex couple or an unmarried couple apply for IVF treatment.

Where is the child’s right then to know both its parents ?

Outcomes

For many years fathers groups (the Fathers Rights Movement) have been lone voices demanding that“outcomes” alone should drive policy. So we welcome the adoption of the need to put ‘outcomes’ ahead of ideology or political dogma.

The best ‘outcome’ for children occur when they see their father as often as their mother and feel part of both their father’s lives and their mother’s lives. The worst outcomes are where children are deprived of any input from their father.

For more than a decade our focus, in submissions to government, has been on the need to determine policies based on the proper interpretation of “outcomes” – not on a misuse of outcome where it is used to mean an immediate post-event ‘result’ The term ‘outcomes’ should be properly used to define downstream outcomes of, say, 10 or 15 years hence.

There is an indication thatgovernment is atlast recognising this distinction (Para3, “childhood is reflected in adulthood”). If this is now the Department’s definition then we fully endorse its approach to what is a difficult problem.

A 2007 Green Paper on joint birth registrations appeared to make the connection between fathers and children. [3] However, later in the present document the clarity of the connection appears to become blurred.

Shortcomings

If there is a serious criticism to be made it is regarding the state’s continuing generosity to mothers and its paucity towards fathers. Whether married or divorce ‘parent-with-care’, i.e. mothers, still receive funding (via husbands or the state). When married the money paid by the fathers is subject to a married man’s tax allowance reflecting in part his child support obligations. However, a divorced father funding his children in the same way is not entitled to any tax reliefs and so the burden of funding is disproportionately greater.

There is no attempt to deal with the issue of travel costs. These can be considerable when a mother moves to the other end of the country. The CSA regime expects the father to pay to bring up the child and to pay again to actually see the child. There is no mechanism to deduct his fortnightlyGlasgowtoLondonrail fare from the rigid demands made by the CSA.

Having at last recognised the validity and value of ‘informal payments’ there is no hint of retrospective reimbursements. Informal payments were raised in the 2006 report but not acted upon.  The result is that5 years have passed when punitive action has been taken against former husbands.

The Achilles heel of CS regimes the world over is the new boyfriend’s income conundrum. Policy appears to be still to ignore it and put the first family’s needs ahead of a subsequent family’s requirement.

In so doing it adds to the ‘trapped in aspic’ scenario of relationships today and perpetuates child poverty. The full impact is felt by second wives and the children of those subsequent unions.

The consequence of this lack of joined-up thinking is that marriage, divorce, illegitimacy (out of wedlock births), joint birth registrations, cohabitation, CSA, and custody matters are all misguidedly seen and dealt with as if they lived in discrete individual boxes.

 

Introduction

We are in full agreement with the ambitions stated in the opening lines of the ministerial Foreword. The ambition ofmost if not all pro-father groups map exactly on to the ideals expressed.

This is a radical Green Paper that re-shapes ‘statutory child maintenance’ into one that has a human face and is of human proportions. Rigid, centralised control which characteristised the CSA are to be replaced by a model that recognises relationships and families are organic and though multifarious, nonetheless, all share common elements. This Green Paper realises that lasting arrangements can only succeed where collaborative agreements are freely entered into by parents – not imposed from on high.

We therefore embrace the papers desire that families should be “empowered to take responsibility for the welfare of their children” – not the state – and that parental “responsibility is multi-faceted.”

We agree with the Foreword that “separation is a time when families are more likely to need support” and there is a need “to ensure that families receive the support they need through this difficult period.” One wonders what form such intervention will take once parliamentary approval is gained. We foresee this requiring special mediators and the need to recruit/train sufficient numbers – a situation faced when the ill-fatedFamily Law Act 1996  (FLA ), was enacted.

We are fully behind the stated policy objectives of supporting parents so that they can continue to co-parent (but not if this means a sole custody environment). [4]

We have some reservations about the cost and effectiveness of a ‘mediation services’: how will they be funded and who will be qualified to be mediators ? Not all families need support and we would not like to see intervention made mandatory when (and where) it is not needed. This has implications for the number of mediators required.

Previous CS (child support) legislation has left no scope for the liable parent, i.e. the parent who has to make the financial payments. The liable parent cannot make any decisions about how his CS is spent. We would like to see parents-with-care account for their spending and if the Green Paper achieves this it will be represent an equality milestone.

We agree that parental responsibility and obligations continue even when parents live apart or when their relationship breaks down. It is for this reason that we see shared parenting as the only guarantee of continuing parental responsibility and obligation (to put flesh on otherwise empty statements). Shared parenting is shown to be a helpful and positive influence on a child’s growing up.

For many years fathers groups worldwide (collectively known as the Fathers Rights Movement), have been the lone voice demanding that “outcomes” alone should drive policy. We therefore welcome the adoption in the paper of ‘outcomes’ replacing ideology or political dogma.

The best ‘outcome’ for children is when they see their father as often as their mother and feel part of both their father’s lives and their mother’s lives. The worst outcomes are where children are deprived of any input from their father.

For over a decade our focus in submissions to government has been on the need for policies to be based on the proper interpretation of “outcomes” and robust empirical research – not on a misuse of outcome where it is used to mean an immediate post-event ‘result’ or research thatis ‘fashionable’.

The term “outcome” when properly used defines downstream measurable data of, say, 10 or 15 years hence, and which are unambiguous and objectively measureable.

Shared parenting will augment the medium to long term outcomes with enhanced longer term outcomes measured in better morbidity and mortality rates, e.g. truancy, teenage pregnancy, drug and drink abuse, criminality, ill health, shorter life expectancy etc.

There are indications that government is recognising this distinction (Para3, “childhood is reflected in adulthood”), but later in the document the definition appears more blurred.

If outcomes are now the Department’s new guiding light then we fully endorse its approach to what is a difficult problem.

Fathers are ‘family’ too

In seeking to promote best ‘outcomes’ for families and children Consultation Papers are increasingly realising that fathers are just as much a part of families as mothers (modern fathers are far more ‘involved’ with their new born and infants than 2 or 3 generations ago). Much of the Consultation Paper talks about ‘families and children’ but the subtext is that benefits mostly accrue to mothers and children alone who are referred to as ‘clients’ This is the first of a number of serious shortcomings in the language used and the approach of the Consultation Paper. If mothers are seen as clients of the CSA apparatus then we suggest fathers are the overall clients as they finance everything (they pay the piper and shoudl have a say in how matters are run).

It is revealing that in a field abutting Child Support (and hard by its implications for parents), is the matter of birth registration. Government has long seen the need to encourage joint birth registration as a means to “promoting parental responsibility” (DWP Paper Ref. Command 7160, Session 2007 http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm71/7160/7160.pdf ). In the past official documents have not been even handed; problems which centered around women were described as ‘experiences’ to be shared and understood by the whole of society. Problems centered around men were never described in similarly benevolent and sympathetic terms. The result is a two tiered approach to problem solving.

Take as an instance the matter of registering a birth to a single mother. Nowhere is there the right or expectation of the putative father to register the birth (historically the father’s role). He has to do it in conjunction with the mother.

Further, a mother is not obliged to tell the father of his new fatherhood status. However, this does not obviate his obligation to pay CS at a later date (and at a time of her choosing ?).

The default position should be that it is solely the father’s responsibility to register a child’s birth within 14 days of its birth, subject to extenuating circumstances (death, illness, overseas etc).  If ffathers are to be encouraged to be involved, mothers must play their part too. Failure to tell a father of his new fatherhood status must therefore lead to a permanent forfeiting of any right to claim CS at a later date.

DNA & Paternity

Indeed, as the above 2007 DWP reference paper recognises, the whole process of birth registration and single mothers can get very complicated (and more complicated by organ transplant inconmpatibility and inherited deseases due to serial monogamy). Something very relevant to this Green Paper is one of the three options it outlined where the mother was unsure who the father actually was (“mother was unable to identify the father”).

There is no need to dwell on the reason why some mothers these days are unable to identify the father of their child but it has knock-on effects when demands for CS are made. The ability to question and seek proof of paternity through DNA at the father’s instigation is vital to any well run CS regime. Restricting that right to mothers and giving mothers a veto – as is presently the case – makes a mockery of the whole CS concept of “shared responsibility.”

By omission (if not commission), the state is complicit in ‘taxing’ putative fathers when proof of liability has not been established. The mother’s right to ask for DNA testing should be extended to fathers. In possibly thousands of cases this would clear their name (and liability). This would also ‘decriminalise’ innocent men.

The third of the three options in the 2007 DWP reference paper is the deliberate decision of the mother to exclude the father from the birth certificate. [5] This should not be allowed or tolerated. A child has the right to know both of its parents.

Having accepted the important role that DNA can play in properly identifying the putative father it is extraordinary that its use is dictated by gender. There appears to be nothing in the Green Paper to rectify this continued discrimination against fathers.

Paternity mis-assignment remains a smouldering issue and has been mismanaged for over 20 years. It is the elephant in the room. Someone has to speak out sooner or later as the magnitude is truly shocking.

  • As far back as the early 1970s, a school teacher in southern England asked his science class to work out their blood group by reference to their parents’ blood types. In 30% of cases the pupils discovered thattheir ‘fathers’ could not in fact be their biologically fathers. [6]
  • A British survey conducted between 1988 and 1996 by Robin Baker, a former professor atthe Universityof Manchester, confirmed the more normally accepted figure of 10%. However, Dr. Lipton, a psychiatrist with the SwedishMedicalCenterin Washingtonstated in 2001 that“Between 30% and 50% of women cheaton their partners, compared with 50% to 80% of men.” [7]
  • The American Association of Blood Banks reported, circa 2001, that30% of men who ‘suspect’ they are not biological fathers are later proven to be correct. In Britain, with its National Blood Transfusion Service these manifest shortcomings are not as obvious as there is no need to use one’s own blood to reduce medical bills.

Given that there are literally millions of children inBritainaged between 1 and 16 years old, both a 10% and a 30% figure for false paternity represents a colossal number. By improperly deducting money from a named person who is not the biological fathers of the child the state is embezzling millions of pounds every year.

The Fathers Rights Movement have long argued, even when it was unfashionable, that children who grew up in stable families have a better start in life. We cited educational attainment, lower criminality, lower mental health disorders and better future employment prospects. In short, better morbidity and mortality expectations.

It is pleasing to see these factors now being widely accepted by government departments as something they can encourage and support – but will Whitehall put words into action ?

The spirit of the Foreword in its supportive attitude to the family environment during childhood is especially rewarding. The economic and societal benefits both to the individual and to the state have long been advocated. In short, supported families and stable children become tax contributors – not tax recipients.

For that reason there will always be a background role for government in creating the right climate both for marriage and in the post separation scenario. It is unfortunate that in the past 15 years Whitehall ministries have succumbed to advice to let marriage whither on the vine and instead focus on making the divorce process ever more efficient.

The present DWP Green Paper is perhaps a departure – the first of a new breed – that recognises that blunders have been made in the past and in the handling of marriage and divorce.

Everyone is anxious for Whitehall to reclaim its intellectual primacy and rebuild its reputation both of which have been battered by its flirtation with discredited ideologies. The present Green Paper is a big step in the right direction that gives a hint that Whitehall is entering a new baggage free era.

 

Question 1:

Do you agree that maintenance should be more effectively integrated with other types of advice and support provided to families experiencing relationship breakdown to enable them to make arrangements ?

Yes. We are willing to be convinced by the ambitions itemised in this Green Papers.

In previous years we have been opposed to any state intervention or integration on the grounds that previous measures have tended to submerge and oppress the rights of the individual (especially those of the father).

Therefore, this support comes with the express condition that government’s stated policy of less state interference and more father custody and shared custody and autonmy becomes a reality.

By ‘integrating’ the various processes and advice we trust that the importance of a child seeing its father will be part of the ‘education package’ aimed at mothers (too often it has been fathers that have been the target of educational instruction, censure or reprimand when in fact it is mothers who need to change their perspectives).

Collaborative parenting in the form of shared parenting and shared residence as the default position, wherever appropriate, is the only way forward. It is someting that many have always lobbied for and many have always been appalled by the very negative impact that ‘sole custody’ has had on child ‘outcomes’ (ref. achievements, morbidity and mortality etc).

It has always been a disappointment to us that contact / access has been presumed or inferred and not made mandatory in law, as other countries have done, e.g. Holland’s Article 377a which gives a NRP the right of contact and visitation arrangements (see http://translate.google.com/#nl|en ).

We are therefore very pleased to read that the Green Paper accepts that parenting should be jointly undertaken and to read the Dec. 2010 confirmation of future shared parenting legislation announcement by Tim Loughton MP (see Hansard).

It is also pleasing to read that the Green Paper accepts a “need to rebalance the system” (see also our responses in Q.3 below). We have been reluctant to give our support to previous measures because the phrase support for families invariably referred only to mothers and children and not to fathers in any way.

“Supporting families and relationships, and supporting children’s development” was also the theme of a Nov 1998 Consultation Paper (“Supporting Families”). [8] It was a misleading title for it dealt almost exclusively with ways of ‘funding fluid families’, i.e. transient serial partners, unmarried mothers and cohabitees (all of which might be described as alternative lifestyles). As was pointed outat the time:

  • We agree with the Consultation Paper thatfamilies have not had the sort of encouragement and support for many years now (and still do not), thatother sectors of society have enjoyed – to which could be added marital contracts and family stability in general (Para4.1). – Supporting Families, Nov 1998

This 2011 paper, we are pleased to note, is different from all its predecessors – it speaks of fathers almost as equals in the triangle that is mother, father and child.

Commentators have yet to see whether the vision promises given in this paper are lived up to; they wil have to wait and see how much of the adversarial route is removed and how much consideration is given to fathers who can be just as distressed as mothers. They  will also be looking for what support is extended to fathers compared with that extended to mothers.

Events will prove whether the tyranny of Lord Justice Thorpe in dealing badly with house husbands is brought to an end or allowed to persist. [9] (See also Appendix A).

We agree emphatically with the view (Para 3) that holds:

  • “ . . . support for families to make their own, family-based arrangements,at the earliest possible stage so they are able to address issues of finance as they address other issues around shared parenting.”

However, this may prove a testing area for any reforms. In the past, when sole mother custody was effectively the only option courts permitted (95% of custody awards were to mothers), it was felt necessary among fathers groups to argue about the legitimacy of CS and to argue that payment should result in a guarantee of access. This was an attempt to bring a sense of symmetry and democracy to the situation. If the mother upon divorce was, in effect, guaranteed custody then fathers deserved the same sort of consideration and leverage.

It was for that reason alone that in a January 2011, in  response to an email request from David Norgrove  (Chairman of the Family Justice Review), that the the link between child support payments and access was supported . However, with the proposals already outlined elsewhere and several others in the pipeline aimed at giving fathers a far better deal than in the past (ref; shared parenting and pre-nuptial contracts), this linkage is no longer so vital. In that response we stated:

  • “. . . Governments usually claim that it is impractical to link ‘performance related contact’ by the mother with Child Support (CS) payment performance by the father. As a result Child Support (CS) payments have been seen as largely separate from visitation (‘contact’), or visitation rights.

No strategy has therefore been seriously considered at official level to counter an obstructive parent and consequently denial of contact brings no penalties to the mother while CS is still demanded of the father.”

From our interpretation of the proposals for change and the public announcements regarding shared parenting the views expressed in the paragraph above to David Norgrove have been overtaken and no longer apply. By government adopting the shared parenting default position the hard decision about which strategy to adopt to enforce compliance among access-hostile mothers evaporates.

We also wrote to David Norgrove that:

  • “The two deterrents to counter contact being denied or withheld is firstly through judicial action by way of fines, withholding benefits or prison against the offending parent and secondly measures to reverse custody.
  • Regrettably, the judiciary has turned it back on these options on the basis thatthey are impractical or draconian and harmful to children’s well being while forgetting thata small number of exemplar cases and sentences is all thatwould be needed before the problem would fade.”

However, if shared parenting is to be adopted and each parent treated as equal with no presumption or automatic right to custody the above paragraph immediately becomes redundant. Directing the judiciary to always begin from a presumption of shared parenting for both parents after divorce obviates the immediate need to fine, imprison or reverse custody.

This new landscape of shared parenting might initially represent a culture shock for mothers but it should not prove insurmountable or long lasting.

What will now have to happen is the acceptance by women who divorce that they will not have automatic custody rights in the form they once might have expected. Both parents will only be seen to be fairly and equally dealt with when each parent has the same chance of sole custody.

In creating a level playing field, women will have to have the same likelihood of being awarded custody, or part-custody, as any man, and this should foster better post-divorce cooperation as each will wish to be seen putting the interests of their child first.

Mediation as envisaged in the Family Law Act 1996 would never have worked because the two parties were never placed on an equal footing, i.e. both in powerless positions (and there were never enough trained mediators). The default was always that if the mother argued and disagreed enough mediation would be ruled a failure and she would be rewarded with custody. In those circumstances why should she mediate or trade-in her superior status by sharing rights with a husband she was divorcing ?

If – but only if – shared parenting is to be the new default custody position will there be no longer any need to seek a linkage between child support (CS) and custody. Shared parenting will erase difficulties over access or visitation rights by guaranteeing both parents the amount of time in days (rather than hours per week) that can be tailored to suit them.

Sometimes it is argued “What if there is disagreement; what happens then ?” The countries operating a shared parenting system have already crossed that bridge. They have developed means to overcome situations where the parties cannot find initial agreement, e.g.Sweden and Belgium.

We see shared parenting as an essential pre-condition to any integration which may include advice and support. Shared parenting, therefore, becomes a pre-condition to any proposed child support (CS) changes.

It also brings a step closer the ambition of many mothers (and all recent governments) to portray themselves in a positive light to their children as worthwhile working contributors to society and not as feckless women forever dependent on state hand-outs.

In a recent European Parliament survey of over 11,000 mothers across Europe, MEPs found that women with children wanted more flexible working times and easier access to crèches and more flexible school hours.[10]

  • “Many participants stressed the importance of empowerment and thatsimple cash transfers from the State do not necessarily help.”  Women’s Rights Committee debates, European Parliament.

There was no  survey of 11,000 fathers undertaken by the European Parliament, but from British MEP Marina Yannakoudakis we discover that in one EU country (Sweden), fathers account for 26% of single parents looking after children. Britain needs to replicate that level of paternal involvement.

Where no statutory CS collection system exists to oppress either parent and no mandatory sole custody exists to benefit one parent, it suddenly becomes possible to de-couple child support from custody and both parties become winners.

With shared parenting in place and agreed beforehand, the subsequent negotiations regarding levels of Child Support payments will be free of rancour and gamesmanship. They will reflect the incomes of the two parties, tempered by the time each spends with the child(ren) and thus not be viewed as onerous or unfair on either.

It is gratifying to learn tha tthe Green Paper recognises that “one of the most significant issues for non-resident parents is when contact with their children is denied or withheld.” By not previously accepting this fact of life, attempts to define a model acceptable to all have been defeated. By compromise, i.e. shared parenting, tension and hostility can be replaced by co-operation.

It is notable that academic papers looking into this question often find thatimpotency (real or imagined) by both parties can lead to deep hostility. Independent studies and the DWP own reports have underlined year after year how guaranteeing contact by the PWC brings more regular payments by the NRP, and with the changes now envisaged the PWC will have a tangible incentive to cooperate in parenting arrangements (re: informal payments etc).

Quintessentially this is the nub of CS and the CSA’s problems. It has always been maintained by the Fathers Rights Movemment that guaranteeing contact and custody rights will more or less eradicate CS problems and it would appear as if this simple, basic message has been taken on board.

Question 2:

How best can maintenance support be integrated within the network of support services to better support families experiencing relationship breakdown to make family-based arrangements ?

 The question of how best maintenance support can be integrated is one we don’t feel qualified to answer. The setting up of a support apparatus or system is perhaps best left to those with experince in such matters. However, it shoud lbe noted that such expert teams, in common with Green Papers, often overlook fathers. Were the question to be worded differently with specific alternatives given ,others, including fathers groups would feel more confident in answering. The authors of the Green Paper would then have highlighed for them zones that might foreseeably be problematic.

The nebulous  nature of the question and this organisation’s lack of expertise in delivering generalised services to the public at large will leave us and many others asking what pre-existing support service network is envisaged ?

At times the lack of Plain English found throughout the Green Paper ia barrier to the proper consideration, understanding and handsomeness of reply. If the content and intent of questions is misread then responses to them may well not provide the answers being sought.

If it is assumed that  ‘support services’ include some form of mediation service, namely, help for parents in assessing child support (CS), help with ensuring a child’s life chances are not irreparably damaged, then the support services need to show a positive benefit for fathers. Propaganda and teh political agenda has ensured that Joe Public fathers do not know that his involvement is vital if his child’s life chances are to be maximised. This element has been entirely absent in previous CS papers – and from the present Green Paper it is none too clear what a father will gain from this new initiative.

Question 2 could, of course, be asking something else ? It could be asking; “How can the setting of CS payments (i.e., £y per week) be made part and parcel of advice given to divorcing couples (i.e. how much time with their child each parent should reasonably expect) ?”

If we assume that“make family-based arrangements” is shorthand for custody matters after divorce and that the form of custody is to be the promised shared parenting of Dec 2010 (see Tim Loughton MP) we can easily work from that base.

The Coalition government is everywhere giving power back to the individual, be it to individual local authorities or voters. The age of  ‘Big Brother ‘ of ‘statism’ (and Hegel) of the past 50 years is set to be replaced the ‘Big Society.’

We see this as an essential move to give back to the citizen his rights and liberties and to treat him / her as an adult; a sentient being capable of making his / her own decisions (and of making binding contracts that will not be overridden by courts if they suspect they might be slightly unfair to one party).

A  new development  which we feel ties in with this ‘new thinking’ is the 2011 paper from the Law Commission which foresees pre-nuptial contracts not only becoming legally enforceable but capable of determination many aspects currently administered by the courts. It would not be unreasonable to suppose that pre-nuptial contracts might eventually contain some kind of limits to excessive CS.

At the beginning of February 2011, Ian Duncan Smith (minister at the DWP) announced a “£30 million programme of relationship support.”  The vision is that“British couples will in future be able to attend counselling sessions in Sure Start Children’s Centres.”

  • “Cohabiting partners with children as well as married couples will be offered the sessions if they are going through “relationship stress,” with advice given on how to stay together.”

Is this part of the network of support services that Question 2 asks about ?

We suspect that most men and most women who divorce have some regrets and regardless of their superficial answers to post-divorce Questionnaires, mourn the fact they were not able to “make a go of it” [their marriage]. Some voluntary organisations have, for many years, run Marriage Enrichment courses to shore up flagging marriages. They are positive solutions that need government encouragement.

We are in favour of support advice to allow couples to stay together whenever possible. Principally this is because it is better for children to have a stable and continuous family life but also because it relieves the burden on the tax-payer of perennially funding fluid families.

The drawback to the approach of providing support and advice is the same as that highlighted in 1995 with regard the Family Law Act 1996 and the ‘saving of savable marriages’. Firstly, there were not enough counsellors and secondly, there were not enough counsellors who believed that rocky marriages could and should be saved. A fog of confusion hung over the definitions with ‘reconciliation’ representing support and counselling aimed at bringing estranged spouses back together again while conciliation was a fait accompli, defined as:

  • “ …. assisting the parties to deal with the consequences of the established breakdown of their marriage whether resulting in divorce or separation, by reaching agreement or giving comments or reducing the area of conflict upon custody, support, access to and. . .” – Source. Finer Committee.

This second definitions was the basis upon which the Marriage Guidance Council, London Marriage Guidance, and Relate operated  [11] (see Appendix B).

Are the ‘integration’ and the ‘network’ elements mentioned in Question 2 above, intended to be part of Iain Duncan Smith’s £30 million programme of relationship support ?  If not, could the scope of this intended programme be extended to embrace the demands of Question 2 ?

The newly announced switch to pro-active mediation (justice minister Jonathan Djanogly, Feb 2011), before any divorce court hearing is not only welcome but could form part of the integration and the ‘network’ elements already mentioned.

Under these new guidelines couples are to be urged, but not compelled, to use mediation (beginning in April 2011). We see enormous benefits for this change, except in a few percentages of cases where one or both parties are implacable. There should be concern that the present level of mediation which is said to be around 15,000 per annum will be expected to deal with over 120,000 divorces per annum when the system fully implemented (see previous ref. to Family Law Act 1996).

The parties will have the ability to reach far more sensible and fairer decisions about property and child care time than was ever possible in a divorce court. Legal Aid will be provided for these mediation sessions which because they can also deal with property and time with children coincide with the Law Commission work and this Green Paper regarding CS. Making Legal Aid unavailable for property and ancillary relief actions in divorce court is something we have long advocated.

The argument against these reforms is that a form of mediation has existed for many years in the form of a CAFCASS officer’s assessment (formerly CWOs, part of Probation Service). However, CAFCASS has had a passive if not lame approach. It has not been interventionist in nature and has merely reflected the status quo. By this we mean the usual pattern is that the motherdecides upon a divorce and both leaves the matrimonial home and takes the  children with her. A  CAFCASS officer is then asked to wrte a report assessing the children which concludes that they remain in their new stable environment; the court then hands them and the matrimonial home over to the ex-wife.

Surveys and studies of all persuasions have found – no matter what the preference of the researchers is known to be – that parents, regardless of self-interest in claiming custody, nonetheless want the best for their children.

Parents very often do not know that these ambitions for their children are actually sabotaged by sole custody decisions and continued squabbling. In the interests of swift decisions and the child’s life chances it would be necessary – in our opinion – to familiarise both parents with what will most likely happen to their child should they not work jointly.

Fathers’ organisations can provide, as no doubt can other groups, in bullet point form, pages of the adverse side effects consequent upon sole custody (which have been known about since the 1960s), and compare them with the favorable consequences of shared custody.

We are confident that the change to settlements by mediation will be beneficial especially when the advantages of working jointly are drawn to theirattention and the disadvantages to their children’s future of squabbling are itemised (see Appendices C and D).

In talks with the Lord Chancellors Dept in 2002 a delegation of fathers groups (Coalition for Equal Parenting or CEP), suggested reforms were framed around schemes such as those inFlorida(run by Judge John Lendeman). Floridian parents are given information about the damaging impact of their conflict on their children and were invited to work out a parenting plan with the help of a mediator.

Other programmes, such as ACT (Assisting Children through Transition) based in New York, emphasised the learning of new skills ranging from anger management to cookery, while other states developed programmes to help and support parents by teaching about their new roles as collaborative mothers and fathers after separation.

We would press that this reservoir of information regarding psychological and physical well being, needs to be made available and actively used by all those agencies/mediators who will be advising parentsatthe support services stage. To date this key ingredient has been missing whenever mediation as an option has been considered.

Utilising this tool – among others – will enable more harmonious agreements to be reached more easily (parents want the best for their children). Once this has been achieved the question of CS can be more easily tackled. In talks with the LCD in 2001 all of this was already covered and agreed (see “Parenting Plans” below).

The needs and wants of children have in the past been viewed as unique. The well-rehearsed dogma is thateach child is different and has to be treated as such. However, this view is false and has actually veiled key issues and delayed programmes of reform.

In truth, while each child is, indeed, unique (for example a unique DNA blend), the needs and wants of each child remains very much the same, i.e. they are ‘universal’. Each child needs water, food, shelter and a home etc. A child needs both parents and a secure environment in which to thrive.

Thereafter, needs merge into wants and into the superstructure we, as a society, have created. They might be more popularly termed ‘rights’, e.g. the right to an education, the right to vote, the right to gainful employment etc.

If we truly believed each child was ‘unique’ our court practice would reflect this but the mantra is merely a fig leaf to cover an embarrassing disregard for children’s life chances.

The law is essentially more interested in itself than other people’s welfare. For example, it rejected even in the 1960s whatamounted to a ‘post-mortem’/ investigation into each divorce petition as being too time consuming even though it knew it would be shortchanging the parties concerned. [12]

Laying ones’ cards on the table in relation to how much time each parent wants – or, indeed, can afford to take, bearing in mind work commitments – must come after both parents realise they have to work together and thatno one parent has a vetoatany point. It is the veto power thathas crippled custody matters since 1989.

As far back as 2001 the Lord Chancellors’ Dept (as it was known then) had copies of “Parenting Plans” gathering dust on its shelves.

Why were they there ? The reason is simple. We have been this close to ‘shared parenting’ before under the previous Labour government but nothing came of it. The format of those Parenting Plans was supported by fathers groups as representing the ideal way forward (see Coalition for Equal Parenting (CEP) meeting with LCD staff, Sally Field and Amanda Finlay 2002).

Under the new proposals the CSA is prevented from interfering in the amount of child support to be paid once its agreed betwen the two parents (unlike before).  The amount to be paid will become self-evident as each parent will know beforehand the other spouse’s income so there is little room for them to be misled. Previously the CSA bureaucarcy could not handle undeclared cash-in-hand income by either mothers or fathers.

When one parent who earns gross, say, £220 per week, receives a demand from the other parent for, say, £90 per week in maintenance support, it will (due to NI and income tax deductions), be self-evidently unfair.

It would be equally unfair to demand, say £90 per week from the other parent (who might earn £350 gross), when the PWC actually has an income of £150 p/w (and or benefits), and has a boyfriend who earns £300 pw. Such boyfriend contributions have been overlooked for too long. They should be incorporated into ‘informal arrangements’ and should affect the amounts to be agreed as child maintenance.

The present Green Paper’s envisaged CS payment structure looks reasonable but is short on detail when both parents go out to work. Similarly, when one parent works full-time and the other part-time yet they share the child’s time equally it is only fair thatthe CS should reflect the cost of looking after the child by the parent in full time employment.

 

Question 3:             

What information, advice and support services should be integrated to assist families in making family-based arrangements ?

Mention has already been made in Question 2 concerning the 2002 talks between the LCD (Lord Chancellors’ Dept), and the CEP (Coalition for Equal Parenting), delegation. The schemes and reform programmes outlined in Question 2, e.g.  Judge John Lendeman inFloridaor those run inNew York, are still valid today. Any proposed integration of services should include these pivotal elements.

A potentially important aspect affecting co-operation and compliance is thatof ‘power and control’. We are reminded of this truism in a paper by Stuart Birks’ (Director of the Centre for Public Policy Evaluation, Massey University), when relating problems currently experienced by New Zealand’s child support system.[13]

Implicit in current models of CS is the lack of any visible controls on the use of funds. Money from fathers (CS), and money from the taxpayer (i.e. Gov’t welfare benefits) can be used without censure, regulation or condemnation (if profligate).

Implicit too in current models of CS is the notion that both parents make financial contributions towards the costs of children – which is a fiction. Only one parent pays, i.e. the NRP.

When we examine, say, the Judge Lendeman approach in Florida or the schemes run inNew York, we see a more egalitarian system where one parent (the mother) no longer has an in-built advantage.

There is an implicit assumption on behalf of both the state and fathers of full trust in the recipient parents’ correct use of the designated funds from all sources. However, choices and priorities, e.g. abnormal spending patterns, made by the PWC will impact on the child’s standard of living no matter how high the level of CS is set.  Abnormal spending patterns could and do see the PWC redirecting a large proportion of funds dedicated for the child’s use/benefit to their own needs and wants.

There are regulatory remedies for fathers who play fast and loose with CS money but not mothers. This biased omission must be addressed.

There seems to be a false belief that linking child support to a liable parent’s income results in payments for the child, specifically, that it then gives the child a commensurate standard of living. Many components of household expenditure cannot be separated out as benefiting some household members but not others. Consequently standards of living are interdependent. This means that child support will have an impact on the household as a whole, not just the relevant child(ren)

From other sources (the popular press) we are given clear indications that young people cannot budget their own personal finances, e.g. credit cards, student loans. It follows that to plan financially for themselves, their child or children and to meet households and utility demands, especially for those with restricted educational attainment, is to ask too much of them. It would be to the government ultimate benefit, albeit indirectly initially, if measures were put in place to educate parents-with-care (PWC) into the proper and prudent spending of the limited funds available to PWCs.

New Zealand, which has often been a proving ground for novel ideas in the social welfare sphere before their adoption by larger countries overseas, feels that its own financial welfare package for lone parents, DPB (Domestic Purposes Benefit), is in need of such an amendment.

In Birks’ opinion, “An unbalanced child support regime can damage relations between parents and between parents and children.”  All would agree with that sentiment and therefore it is suggested this Green Paper (which also accepts this criticism), is the first step in addressing the problem.

If money is to be used by PWC (flowing weekly from fathers and welfare benefits), then certain criteria should be set and met. There should be an expectation that such money is well-spent and well-directed. To achieve this, PWC need information of an educational nature and a good grounding in the effects of ignoring carefully researched (but simple to absorb) data, e.g. children do betteratschool when their fathers participate freely and actively.

The information and advice could take the form of warning of the consequences or it could take the form of educational classes and a ‘passing out’ exam – perhaps similar to ante-natal classes, though in deprived urban areas it has to be conceded that even attendance at ante natal-classes by teenage mothers (and the jeopardising their unborn child) is very low.

The Appendices attached to this response (see Appendix C and D), are drawn from US and UK sources. They are simple bullet points in plain English that would allow the cognitive disadvantages to be absorbed by parents regardless of their standard of education or IQ.

This should be seen as holding mothers to their side of the ‘parental respnsiblity’ bargain and a fairly reasonable trade-off, or quid pro quo, for state and paternal support. However, we note again that the element of quid pro quo is here totally absent in the Green Paper.

The universal problem with child support, whichever way it is configured and irrespective of country where it is found, is the blatant bias in the underlying assumptions. These assumptions are thatwe can have full confidence and trust in the parent with care and absolutely no trust in the parent with the liability to pay (the father).

Even the benefit system under New Labour, reflects this with no child-related benefit payable to the father’s name whatsoever.

In business, indeed, in the commercial world generally, the party who pays – in this case the father  – is the customer, and in business ‘the customer is king’ meaning that if he wants gold plated bath fittings that is what is provided.

Where is this dynamic apparent in child support matters ?  Fathers are not only the directly paying customer but actually indirectly fund the payments, as taxpayers, made by government departments. The current and previous Green Papers treat and refer to the recipient (mothers) as the ‘client’ and not the payer of the money (the father).

Picking over the fine print as to what method of CS should be adopted (whether to chose gross income, flat rate, or sliding percentage), is, by comparison, a detail until such time as fathers are accorded their full worth. Until this dimension is tackled, namely, recognising and portraying separated fathers in a positive light, child support will represent a running sore for government.

The fall back position of draconian CS enforcement remains a range of penalties that will actually provide fathers and CS reformers of a different hue (let’s call them contra-reformers), with all the tools and ammunition they need to attack government (as history has shown in one country after another).

Those setting-up the CS system (the policy makers) have framed the issues in a way that is favourable only to recipient parents (mainly mothers). If this framing of the agenda is accepted by father groups then a major concession will have been made. Fathers groups can be expected to welcome some parts but reject others.

Policy makers are likely to find that most fathers groups will find some slight advantage over the previous regime and give the Green Paper a conditional endorsement. If this happens the policy makers will have succeed in ‘agenda denial’ and no debate will be permitted as to the legitimacy of a broader approach. It would have been more satisfactory to have fathers inside the tent rather then forever keeping them on the outside.

The consistent failure of policy, be is CS or other areas such as child custody, is due largely to the failure of policy makers themselves. Policy makers have controlled the agenda setting, the agenda denial and the framing of key areas of analysis. This is why political success has eluded them.

Take for instance the recent Rape Anonymity Review; no one in government knew the numbers of false allegations made. No one knew how many prosecutions for perjury or perverting the course of justice there had been. No one knew the age groups of those most likely to be falsely accused and put on trial or the reasons why some police forces did not enforce prosecutions for wasting police time (where costs ranged from £40,000 to £400,000 per case), or for the causing of a wrongful arrest (and the cost of resultant trials).

In other words, policy makers had created an artificial and biased world of data which was of absolutely no help whatsoever. They had emphasised one side of research at the expense of another.

 

 

Question 4:

What support around child maintenance is needed for the most vulnerable families to make family-based arrangements?

This is somewhatof an open-ended question. Again, we are a little confounded by the terminology. What are ‘family-based arrangements’? Are they voluntary CS agreements reached without any input from the CMEC ?

Whitehall frequently bestows the term ‘vulnerable’ when it means women and low income earners. On other occasions vulnerable groups is a term extended to: the young; ethnic minorities, the disabled; the mentally challenged; those of poor schooling. those with low IQs; the elderly; the infirm, etc, etc.

Assuming ‘vulnerable’ means women and parents with low incomes, then something presently referred to as the Universal Credit, which emerged in Feb 2011, promises to revolutionise our by now overly complex and stuttering Benefit system. It appears to harmonise with the key elements contained in the Green Paper namely:

  1. Low paid workers to keep more of whatthey earn
  2. One Universal Credit replaces working tax credit, child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, jobseeker’s allowance and income-related allowances
  3. Benefits cut for three months if job offers refused – and for up to three years in the most “extreme” cases

 ‘Vulnerable’, i.e. women and women on low incomes will henceforth be able to budget accurately knowing whatthey will qualify for, how much it will be (in pounds per week), and for how long. In thatregard it will bring a degree of certainty to proceedings.

‘Vulnerable fathers’, i.e. men and men on low incomes are not so clearly dealt with. This is a pity as 50% of all fathers who receive CS demands have, since 1996 to the present day, been either unemployed, or disabled, or unable to work (it is also a perpetual oversight) (see Appendix E).

When making ‘family-based arrangements’ (reaching voluntary CS agreements ?),  the professionals advising must be aware of the statistics re: incomes and levels of unemployment. Expectations must not be allowed to billow out of control. Simply because there is a small amount of money available for CS this must not influence the amount of time a father can spend with his child or be a motive for a mother to be ‘difficult’ about this aspect. Custodial mothers with equally limited finances do not face such an implied constraint, so it is unfair to impose it on fathers.

Over the years government and Whitehall have not been averse to relentlessly promoting negative publicity towards fathers and CS. In future the ‘support around child maintenance’ must see a reversal of this characteristic.  To help CS subside as a perceived national problem requires a solution that embraces many aspects:

  • Firstly, the Media can play a big role in changing Public Awareness. this can be coordinated by government and Whitehall.
  • Secondly, proper Child Support guideline designs based on accounting principles and capped amounts to remove perverse economic incentives that currently invite legal ‘game playing’ with children as economic pawns. In this regard the promises made in the Green Paper goes some way to alleviating this problem.
  • Thirdly, a political awareness by all political parties that enforcement costs more in the long run than it’s worth and is actually counter productive. Threats to confiscate passports and driving licences etc do not encourage participation and cooperation (consider what has brought the current Arab uprisings is the ‘alienation’ suffered by the population imposed by a disliked / authoritarian regime.
  • Fourthly, the money presently spent on enforcement and bureaucracy would be more wisely spent topping up CS payments to families from fathers on low incomes. Policy planners would profit from looking at the EITC model (Earned Income Tax Credit), in the US.

In our opinion, Henshaw wrongly concludes thatenforcement has been weak and “[had] led to an unacceptable situation. … . [where NRP] believe they can ignore the Agency”. If survey evidence suggests thatforcing a mother ‘with care’ to use to use the CSA can result in jeopardising child welfare (Para11), the same can be true for fathers forced to use the CSA. This would suggest to us thatnot only is the CSA a negative factor but so too is any form of enforcement or punitive action, e.g. removing passports or diving licences (see also resulting suicides). Details at Appendix F (1) show one father being sent to prison even when his child was actually an adult, eg the ‘child’ was 22 years old. (see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/more-fathers-jailed-over-child-support-2265787.html).

The focus should not be on punitive sanctions in the name of tax raising measures but on co-operation and of incentivising the situation.

In part, this may already have happened if the Universal Credit announced in Feb 2011 consolidates the conflicting individual benefits or tax credits currently in play. EITC (item 4 above) has been shown not to be a disincentive to work for single mothers.  The effect of the EITC is not to drive recipients further into poverty as an unintended consequence of the resulting marginal tax rate effects (which in some cases exceeds the value of the additional benefit).

The proposed Universal Credit (in common with the EITC) will instead pool all applicable Tax Credits and Benefits for the recipient and apply a progressive marginal tax rate to the aggregated total with an increasing value from Zero % at the lowest income end to more normal income tax rates at some of the upper limits.

 

Question 5:

Is the balance of burden of the proposed charges fair between the non-resident parent and the parent with care?

No, the burden is not fair.

It is unfair both in the treatment and opportunities the proposed charges offer each sex, and is unfair in what it demands of each sex by way of time, means and material.

It is unfair in expecting mothers to automatically be the child’s carer when they may wish to retain a career and income level. It is unfair that mothers should have to suborn their prospects to a custody regime ill-suited to our modern times where ‘one-wage-households’ cannot survive.

The 2011 proposals to aggregate CS with other benefits and to allow mothers with care to keep more of the income they earn is welcome but can give rise to a situation recorded as long ago as 1834:

  • “ . . . .I find there are numbers [of women] in most parishes, who have from two to four children, receiving different sums of money with each, according to the ability of the putative fathers; so thatthe sum the woman receives with the whole of the children, and what the mother can earn, enables them to live as comfortable, or indeed more so, than most families in the neighborhood. It may be truly said that the money she receives is more than sufficient to repay her for the loss her misconduct has occasioned her, and it really becomes a source of emolument, and is looked upon by others as an encouragement to vice.” –  Report from His Majesty’s Commissioners for inquiring into the Administration and Operation of the Relief of the Poor (1834), p 169 [emphasis added].

In Question 6 we go into some depth into how ‘poverty’ in families can arise and the effects it can cause. In Appendices E and F, we show how, using Tables supplied by the CSA, unemployment and disability can account for half  (50%) or all non-payments or zero payment of CS.

In Question 6 we also try to demonstrate how statute law passed by parliament has unintended consequences. We leave it for others to spell out the more usually acknowledge ramifications of redundancy, short-time working and a general economic recession which put pressures on the ability to make CS payments.

If child poverty has increased in the last 10 years it can only mean that parental poverty has also increased – and we suspect, given the Feb 2011 economic forecasts, it will continue to increase.

For fathers the CS burden (given the economic forecast), assumes rigidity unconnected with realistic employment prospects (men may loosse their jobs in greater numbers than women). Some have yet to be convinced that a sliding scale and a proposed rapid response to income fluctuations, as a viable alternative, is a real possibility.

Fairness is lacking in that there is no hint of a trade-off between care and providing CS. The only role expectation for fathers is one of wage earner (the proverbial walking wallet). It  had been hoped that this Green Paper would have been better and campaigners would have seen a move away from the father as permanent and automatic funder of ‘child and former wife.’

‘Allowing parents to make their own arrangements’ (as the National Survey of Child Support Agency Clients’, 2001 suggests),  is a superb idea and does, indeed, give parents flexibility to design their own models. There is no paradigm, no fall back position, no minimum standard to prevent a falling back into bad habits, i.e. minimal contact of hours/days per month. This will place a large obligation on meditaors to act fairly and without favour. If the promised shared parenting legislation (ref. Tim Loughton MP, Dec 2010), is forthcoming then this concern while not disappearing certainly diminishes.

It could be legitimately argued that by allowing parents to make their own arrangements the need for any state imposed framework is negated but if the aspirations of the share parenting legislation are to be realised then CS has to reflect that future scenario.

The 2001 National study’s suggestion that‘adjustments should be made to the standard calculation to take account of individual circumstances’, especially where both parents have some overnight care of their child(ren), is so much overdue that it should have been very strongly highlighted in the Green Paper. It is a very much welcome proposal but one has to wonder about the “How” given the content of the Sprawson Report (see Footnote 18 and Appendix A).

  • Addendum: “The body that enforces child maintenance is processing more and more cases by hand because its computer systems are flawed, MPs have said.” – BBC, 24 February 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8533657.stm

For fathers the proposed changes –  also outlined in recent newspaper reports –  are not equal and fair because they still favour the parent-with-care.  Unless the interests of non-resident parent are dealt with in as much detail as PWC then NRPs face the likelihood of any changes being cosmetic, eroded over time or being ignored after a while.

There appears to be no serious effort made in the Green Paper to convey to the professionals who will be working with vulnerable (and the not-so-vulnerable) families the necessity of including fathers as an equal parent who can and should be allowed to care for his children.

Where is the imperative demanding thatprofessionals (including judges), permit fathers the right to care for their children when they request it ?

In our view it is these ‘professionals’ in the divorce and custody industries who will ‘make or break’ the Green Papers proposals. Arguably, and in the same mould as CWO who overnight became CAFCASS officers, if the same people are implementing the new legislation, there might not be much real change.

‘Second families’ are mentioned elsewhere in our response but no convincing provisions seem to have been made for Second Families and Second Wives in the Green Paper, and precious little in either Henshaw’s 2006 report or the 2001 DWP report (National Survey of Child Support Agency Clients).

Prioritising ‘finished’ empty marriages and the children thereof has dominated CS policy making for decades. We would like to see CS policy makers prioritise ‘new’ second marriages and deal with the problems true nature which is that of a two-sided coin.

If, as Henshaw envisages, his proposed changes will result in child welfare being “improved as maintenance is more likely to flow, and conflict between parents is likely to be reduced”, won’t this by the same token condemn second families to greater poverty ?

There is a great deal in Henshaw’s report that is plain common sense and with which we would entirely agree. However, while plans to lift children out of poverty are most laudable we remain concerned with those families which the new system will inadvertently push down into permanent poverty. These are not the ‘42,000 PWC on benefits’ but single women who are in work and who form a new household with a divorced father. Unlike PWC who will “receive a net increase in income” these women will  continue to face a decrease in their disposable income.

With a CS compliancy rate of 77%, Henshaw’s report – and the Green Paper – could, we feel have dealt in more detail with the differences and the cost to the tax-payer of married and unmarried mothers and for the CS issue to also be divide along those lines (if efficiencies were being looked for).

For as long as transient relationships are tolerated and even encouraged the resulting complicated relationships will ensure child support remains an issue (see 1834 reference above). The financial complications will mirror personal ones and multi-partnering will be multiplied by differing circumstances. The knock-on effects of complicated relationships will emerge in probate and the administering wills when female cohabitees will be induced to compete to benefit fron a deceased’s estate. [14]

‘Re-partnering’ (or remarriage) might once have been just about affordable for a man but repartnering 4 or 5 times becomes a financial impossibility. It could be argued thatthis level of repartnering is very unlikely but we would point out thatthis rate of repartnering is common among cohabitees.

Policy makers are essentially targeting the responsible “pillars of society” who are thus penalised and this is sending all the wrong messages to the next generation.

To add to the gloom the Law Commission has, within the last few years, proposed a compensation scheme for cohabiting women (but not for men) corresponding to that for divorcing spouses. Fathers who are divorced spouses currently prefer cohabiting as a means of protecting their remaining wealth and assets from further ‘thefts’.

Were the Law Commission’s proposals and the Green Papers ideas concerning CS ever to see the light of day, a paralysis will most probably grip male / female relationships as their economic viability would be called into question.  However, should another Law Commission initiative, that of MPAs (pre-nuptial contracts), be legalised then this danger will largely evaporate.

Much legislation since 1969 has had the single intention of facilitating divorce. Urgent consideration should now be given over to that programme being brought to an end.  Should government wish to continue on the same path it should take on the financial responsibility for what it has created (as it did during the 1970s), and fund any new directions in social policy.

In the alternative, the state can off-load its obligations onto the separating spouses, as per the pre-1969 structure. The criteria used prior to the 1969 divorce reforms was that divorce maintenance payable to the wife had to be  ‘affordable’ by the husband so that his former spouse would not  become “a burden on the state.

The present divorce and child maintenance system is one that‘saddles’ one parent (usually the father) with debt and condemns him or his new family to decades of poverty. In some cases he may never recover his original wealth no matter how hard he works.

Reasonable prosperity during the credit fuelled 1990s and early 2000s seemed attainable for all, yet these two decades saw approx 50% of fathers continually in no position to make financial CS contributions. Since 2008 that assured economic world has been reconfigured and it will be interesting to see whether and by how much that50% of fathers increases (see CSA tables, Appendices E).

A prudent government would plan for unemployed fathers to be given preferential treatment in re-skilling and finding jobs. However, paying lip service to equality and / or being intimidated by political correctness will see no such initiative and so the burden of CS is thrust back onto government.

As a result, the low standard of living for over 2 million fathers plus 2 million PWC and plus 2 million children (approx. numbers), is perpetuated. 

 

Question 6:

Are parents being asked to make a fair contribution to the costs of delivering the statutory child maintenance system ?

The statement that; “Child support enforcement has a poor history” (Para 64) is one all fathers and many mothers would agree with. Not reforming the child maintenance system is, therefore, not an option. The present child maintenance system does not encourage collaboration nor does it ‘reward’ both parents equally. The new Green Paper recognises this but the criticism is that this new Green Paper offers only some improvements and benefits and then to only mothers – there are no tangible ‘rewards’ or gains for fathers.

From the father’s perspective we can all see that he alone is still being asked to pay CS (child support) and is asked again to pay for setting up a new collection scheme.

When referring to “statutory child maintenance” – in the question and the text – the monetary contribution from the mother’s side that matches the father’s financial contribution is not obvious. Does her 50% contibution take the form of child care ? When shared parenting is introduced will a father’s CS contibution fall as a consequence or stay the same ? Will some of the mother’s present child care in lieu of money be converted into a monetarycontribution ?  Details in the Green Paper are sketchy.

If a financial contribution from the mother’s side is not possible then fathers need to see far better – radically better – custody arrangements. Sole custody must be eradicated and shared parenting or shared residence must become the default.

Under the proposals the PWC would appear to have an increase in her likely income because of the envisaged monetary concessions (see informal arrangements). Where are the reciprical concessions for fathers ?

The proposals will probably see the NRP pay the same amount or more by way of ‘informal arrangements’ which henceforth are to be recognised (a good thing, in our view), but there is no quid pro quo.

If a NRP is prepared to pay a lump sum (an ‘informal’ amount) when he’s been working overtime or won some money on, say, the horses, does he benefit by a reduced CS tax levy ? It looks unlikely.

It is unhelpful – and fathers are again being treated unfairly – when government communicates the erroneous perception to the general public that£3 billion is owed by fathers in CS arrears. No serious attempt is made to educate the public that the £3 billion arrears is in fact the total built up since 1993 and carried forward to 2005. In comparable terms during the Irish “troubles” the outstanding Imperial Debt from 1921 was never mentioned. This is millions of pounds owed  to Britain byIreland and payable if partition was challenged.

No attempt is made to inform the public that 5 years later this arrears total has risen to £3.787 billion in 2010. The public are not informed that a total of £1.146 billion in child support payments was collected last year (2010) and thatover the 17 year life time of the CSA a total of more than £19 billion has been paid over to the Treasury (£19.482 billionat 2010 levels).

But is the Total Arrears all that it appears ? In New Zealand the total given as “child support debt” is a massive figure for the size of the country but close to 60% is actually made up of artificially imposed penalties.

Any bank, hotel, retailer or manufacturer thatcollected £19½ billion worth of goods and services it had invoiced from its customers when 50% of them had no visible signs of support, might consider a bad debts of £3.7 bn more than a reasonable ratio (given the very adverse trading environment within which they were operating – see Appendix F). [15] Would these commercial entrepises seek recomense by court action or putting non-payers in jail or woudl they judge that it might deter future customers ? The answer is obvious.

Those companies might also consider it unseemly, immoral and repugnant to seek ‘their pound of flesh’ in full measure by pursuing a debtor beyond the grave, however, the present CSA has no such qualms (Appendix G). It is seeking to recover property and repossess homes from 600 dead fathers – and thus in the process inflict poverty on a second and unconnected level of wives and children.[16]  This has all the salient features of “Irregular Marriages” (circa 1689 to 1860), a practice where chicanery by an interloper left widows and children destitute.

The Consultation Paper speaks frequently of ‘clients’, i.e. parents with care, and a dozen times or more of ‘serving them better’.  Peppered throughout the document are phrases like ‘better support’ aimed at both ‘families and children’. Government papers have had a tendency, historically, to speak of ‘families’ when they mean solely mother and child units (ref. Supporting Families above).

If this is again the case, why is there no comparable and radical support for;

  • a) fathers who have to pay CS and
  • b) single fathers with custody of children who find the state benefits due to them are more difficult to attain, e.g. Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) [17] and Child Benefits. [18]

Equal Pay legislation should have meant that levels of CS payments from non-resident mothers to a male PWC should be equal but they have tended to be less than to female PWC. There is no acknowledgment of this. No where are there any measures proposed to better the situation for fathers.

Where is the equality ? Where is the ‘quid pro quo’ ?

Only the Henshaw Report speaks of benefits for fathers but these are limited to indirect incentives re: making payments easier:

  • “The redesigned system creates the right incentives for parents with care to make child support arrangements” -Para 40.
  • “Disregarding most maintenance in benefit calculations would also improve the incentives for parents with care and non-resident parents to co-operate with the system.”

Henshaw’s 2006 report speaks of ‘benefits’ for fathers but only in vague, ethereal generalisations which appear limited to indirect incentives, i.e. making payments easier:

If these CS reforms are to dovetail with other intended legislative changes giving fathers more and better rights to see their children after divorce, then they should have been categorically spelt out.

It is clear that the only two beneficiaries are mothers and government. Generally speaking, lone fathers are treated very differently from single mothers by, for instance, JobCentre staff so a ‘culture change’ and re-education will have to be comprehensive if it is to reach the judiciary, CAFCASS workers and JobCentre staff. [19]

The 1991 legislation (Child Support Act 1991) omitted the father element and immediately ran into difficulties. The 2003 legislation didn’t omit fathers’ altogether and it fared somewhat better.

Any legislation for 2011 or 2012 should include ample and specific provisions for fathers if it is to stand a reasonable chance of a trouble-free launch and life thereafter.

The following two graphs are taken from a DWP paper dated 2001 and they highlight an issue that must be addressed for the successful execution of any new CS regime. [20]

The first graph (Figure 4.1) shows the response from PWC when asked whether NRF paid CS before the CSA became involved. The response among mothers shoots up from under 30% to over 70% yet the response from men hardly varies and actually goes in the opposite direction (51% down to 48%).

A similar skewed response was found by Bradshaw et al (University of York, 1997).  Bradshaw resolved the apparent contradiction as the need by mothers to ‘play the system’.

It benefited PWC to under-state payments made by the NRF (in some instance this need coincided with an inclination to put all fathers in a bad light).

The skew in responses between the genders has since been found in other studies. The benefit structure gives the impetus to parents with care to understate their income whenever possible and this can have the perverse effect of maximising income.

By being meticulous and knowing the system the parent-with-care can arrange four theoretical income streams; 1. informal payments by the former spouse, 2. normal state benefits, 3. the new boyfriend / partner, 4. CSA payments.

At present the fourth (CSA) payment is a fiction as the amount paid by a former spouse is paid directly to the Treasury to off-set the costs of single mothers to the state. The proposed new regime (2011) will see this fourth revenue stream made a reality.

Fairness

While the state is being more generous to mothers, i.e. the parent-with-care, there is no commensurate generosity towards fathers in the form of reduced CSA payments or tax deductible expenses, e.g. something comparable to a married man’s tax allowance reflecting child support obligations.

Henshaw and the DWP speak of ‘lifting children and PWC out of poverty’ but how many NRP (fathers) will be lifted out of poverty, how many ‘pushed’ into poverty (or simply left to remain in poverty ?)

How many NRP with second wives and children will be pushed (very firmly) into poverty by such policies ? When legislation was debated and then enacted for homosexual unions, specific tax breaks and allowances were replicated as if they were a normal procreating couple with wealth and assets to pass on to their children. Don’t NRF have children who need to inherit ?

The state has a ‘conscience’ about women and poverty – but no scruples whatsoever when it comes to men and poverty. We see this again demonstrated in the way Gulf  War Veterans are (mis) treated. Government appears not unduly concerned if they are homeless after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and whether they sleep rough on our streets at night.

The perverse nature of the Benefit structure and the imperative for PWC (parents with care) to maximise their own income is shown in the second of the graphs (see Figure 9.11). These imperatives clash with the longer term vision of the Divorce Reform Act 1969 of making re-marriages more easily attainable.

Figure 9.11 (below) depicts whathappens when PWCs were asked if their payments should decrease if, at a later stage, the NRP had a child by another women

Almost 70% of mothers (PWC) said ‘No’ and only about 18% agreed that CS payments should fall to reflect the new responsibilities and liabilities to the new family.

Surveys of this type – be they ONS ‘Population Trends’ or DWP sponsored, e.g. Hunt, Neale etc. – focus only on the female perspective so only one side of the coin is viewed at any one time.

Refusing to accept a lower CS payment might seem reasonable but this survey was taken at a time when a new partner’s income was not taken into account by the CSA (and most women had a ‘new friend’ within 6 months).

Any new CS system will have to bear this dynamic in mind (the cause of much friction in the past), and seek not to reward or encourage under or over-reporting of various aspects.

Which brings the discussion to the underlying difficulties government face insofar that the state has not thought through, or logically reconciled, its own history of contradictory polices. It has been inconsistent and uncoordinated. In one breath the child’s best interests (CBI) are paramount and in the next breath the child’s interests are allowed to be jeopardised by encouraging divorce-on-demand.

The state is in a contradictory position. On the one hand all governments have long recognised thatchildren are best brought up in two-parent households yet on the other hand governments since 1945 have facilitated marriage break-up. [21] In the matter of IVF – now available to all couples irrespective of sexual orientations – it is the child’s best interests, ie the child’s rights to know both parents, which are abandoned.

State sponsored incongruities abound in every direction; the state has set a poverty line and created anti-poverty programme for children, yet ‘child poverty’ has increased in the last 10 years.

These policies impinge on Child Support payments and having failed to ‘lift children out of poverty.’ Having driven off the road and become mired in an intractable situation policy makers are desperate for a tow truck to rescue them – CS is the chosen vehicle to to rescue  this policy.

It is expected that“between 80,000 and 90,000 additional children” will be lifted out of poverty by the proposed measures the Green Paper never asks, ‘Why are they there in the first place ?

One in five UK children ‘is living in poverty’ says UNICEF report (19/06/2001). “A report published yesterday placed Britain 20th out of 23 countries in a league table of relative poverty. Unicef said one British child in five lived in poverty – a worse figure than in all but one of the other 14 EU countries.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2000/06/14/npov14.xml/. (See also “Child poverty Up” The Independent, 24th April 2007. http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2481036.ece

When legislation is passed by parliament which demands that courts insist that the up-keep of two households (caused by the divorce) should be funded not by the legislators but the victim (the NRF), only poverty and unhappiness can ensue.

It was never going to be viable or practical for one income to pay for the upkeep of two households and the task become next to impossible for those who are middle to low incomes earners – particularly when the Equal Pay Act abolished by the concept of the family wage. Nor was it ever going to be practical for two wage earners( both in the low income category) to pay for two residences when they separated. In this regard separating homsexuals are put in a far better financial postion than separating heterosexual couples.

Page 21 of the Green Paper indicates that the average amount of CS paid is £1,800 per annum (approx. £35 per week). [22] It also reveals that ‘an average case’ can be expected to last nine years. Over the duration, i.e. of 9 years, more than £16,000 would be paid by the NRF.

A young man, paid the Minimum Wage, earns approx £11,500 pa. A person on slightly higher wages might earn in the region of £16,000. The effect, therefore, on low paid workers is that in a 10 year period they work one year for no pay. If anything this understates the problem, in terms of after-tax income because CS is not tax deductible for the paying parent.

CS payments are not tax deductible either at the personal or corporate level nor are they a component in the composition of a single man’s personal allowance tax coding despite government’s insistence that ‘parental responsibilities’, i.e. his obligations to fund child maintenance, must continue after separation. This is a double whammy and yet another policy contradiction.

Allowing CS payments to be off-setata corporate level would help hard pressed small company businessmen and proprietors ease their burden.

The adjacent graph (see “Percentage increase”), is based on the results of the 2010 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE).[23]

It shows that median weekly pay for full-time employees in theUK grew by 2.1% in the year to April 2010, to reach £499 (or £25,948 pa). Costs, i.e. inflation, are currentlyat 4%. Median earnings of full-time male employees were £538 per week in April 2010 (or £27,976 pa). For women the median was £439 (or £22,828 pa).

Income tax, National Insurance and other payroll ‘stoppages’ effectively reduce Gross income by one third. An income of £22,000 or £27,000 soon drops perilously close to the £16,000 mentioned above. But critically the graph shows that over the past 2 years increases in earnings among male earners have actually fallen and thatoverall since 1998 increases are getting smaller and smaller.

Any new CS system will have to take these rises and falls into account and the system proposed looks as if it might meet this requirement.

The Green Paper states that:

  • “Given the long-term financial benefits of child maintenance we believe it is fair and in line with the principles of personal responsibility to ask parents to reallocate a small proportion of their spending so thatthey can afford an application charge.”

The reciprocal of that must be that given the long-term financial benefits to government of child maintenance payments made by fathers we believe it would be in line with the principles of fair play to make fiscal and financial concessions to fathers for easing the burden – an incentive to help government reach its goal.

One of the interpretations afforded by the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) graph is the possible long-term “de-skilling” of the labour force. Others include the depressing effect created by the entrance of the ‘college-educated’ young into workforce into an already recession-hit economy and the entrance of more women into workforce. The implications of all three for future CS payments are obvious.

Easing the path

If the state wants divorce to be “easy”, inexpensive and available to all, it must accept the consequential costs of that ambition and similarly recognise its role in the process must also include the funding of child maintenance payments.

The 1960s promised ‘liberation’ of easier divorce was purchased at the price of a fettered economic existence thereafter for both parties driving up poverty (see Conclusion, engine of wealth generation).

When the state fails to face up to the consequences of its own actions i.e. its obligation to pay for child maintenance because low income NRF cannot afford to pay CS, it stultifies other stated ambitions. For example, the aim of the Divorce Reform Act 1969, was that re-marriage should be made possible and more easilyattainable. The fact that remarriage numbers have never reached their intended level would indicate a failure of policy

When relationships break down it is only natural thatboth partners will enter new ones to replace the old. The Divorce Reform Act 1969 recognised this. The striking and significant difference with all CSA legislation to date is the non-recognition of this fact. This is not ‘joined up government’  in action.

Regrettably, both the Divorce Reform Act 1969 and the Child Support Act 1991 then conspire to deprive the NRP of any money, assets and wealth that might make remarriage a reality. In fact, they conspire to deprive him of the wherewithall to make CS payments.

Between them they create the Second Wife Syndrome and the prospect of “debtor’s prisons” – made infamous by Dickens – is resuscitated when amendments to the Child Support Act 1991 made debts, which would otherwise be statute barred, legally enforceable in future. [24] The statute barred status of CS debts needs to be re-instated (see Appsedix F 1 ).

No CS regime to date has taken full consideration of a man’s obligations to his new wife and child. Why should the first wife ‘beggar’ her replacement or the first born forever lower the standard of living (SOL) of the child in the second family ?  The first wife is perfectly capable of finding a new partner and raising her SOL.

There is a need to cut fathers some slack on behalf of second wives and their children (or cohabitee if cohabitees are now soon to be treated as if they were spouses). There should be some form of quid pro quo but again, there is none.

Any leeway or tolerance is centred on the mother-with-care (PWC). As discussed elsewhere, the benefit regime encourages PWC to understate income and to declare themselves as ‘living alone’ when this is not the case. Living apart together (LAT) has become a phenomenon in recent years.

Not only does it absorb much needed housing but is a subterfuge to maximise Benefit payments which would otherwise decline if the authorities knew the woman was cohabiting. It is in the state’s interests to stem such haemorrhaging.

It would seen that if the state reserves the right to reduce benefit payments when a new man enters the woman’s household it is only fair that CS payments paid by the NRP should fall when the former spouse finds a new partner and moves him in with her and the children.

We note too tha tthe American TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, 1996), adopted as a model by the UK limits welfare payments to 5 years (see also Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, US). If the state reserves the right to limit payments to 5 years why should a NRP be forced to pay for 16 – 18 years ?

This Question asked about fairness and contribution. If the state believes it is unfair thattaxpayers should be asked to pay when other sources of funds are available, the same question should be allowed to be asked by fathers.

When a new man enters the woman’s household it is only fitting and fair that CS payments paid by the NRP should fall. The new man should not be able to enjoy the ‘comforts of home’ sound in the knowledge they are financed by someone who is not allowed to be there.

One hopes that this issue will be comprehensively dealt with in the forthcoming Law Commission’s paper on pre-nuptial agreements but past experience would tend to discount this expectation.

Frank Field MP, in a BBC ‘Panorama’ programme comes to this conclusion about modern fathers and child support: [25]

  • “The benefits system and high unemployment rates among young men means that they can walk away from their partner and children.“

He is wrong to conclude that young men ‘walk away’ when in all probability it is young women / mothers who push fathers away because of the way in which benefits are structured. Was it ever thus – as a Commission of 1834 into the operation of the Poor Laws noted:

  • “The allowance made to the mother for the support of her child and secured to her by the parish in case of the putative father failing to pay the amount awarded is an encouragement to the offence it places such women in a better situation than many married women whatever may be the number of children.”- Report from His Majesty’s Commissioners for inquiring into the Administration and Operation of the Relief of the Poor (1834), p 170.

The issue of welfare dependency as the preferred household ‘wage’ is one that has been raised many times in the past 20 years citing AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependant Families), and the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, 1996). But as can be seen from the 1834 evidence, subsidies affecting personal behaviour patterns are not a new phenomena.

We care less today about bastardy and the stigma of being an unmarried mother than was the case in the 19th century society (and arguably, young women, therefore, are unphased when fathers are pushed away, or walk away as Frank Field sees it).  But regardless of time and source of funding, the consequential marginalisation of fathers remains undimmed.

The United States, in trying to help the needy actually marginalised the father and inadvertently dispossessed many low income fathers (disproportionately Negro fathers in the US case) of their place in the family. The same has happend in Britain as detailed in The Underclass by Charles Murray:

  • “There are many ways to identify an underclass. I will concentrate on 3 phenomena that have turned out to be early warning signals in the U.S.: illegitimacy, violent crime, and drop out from the labour force” 26.11.89. Murray’s thesis was developed in the U.S.A. but he applied his thinking to the U.K. Murray thinks these phenomena are all caused by the same thing: an over-generous welfare system, resulting in female-headed single parent families. Further, he believes these phenomena are all linked together.

Frank Field MP also states, but incorrectly in our view, that:

  • “We’re the first generation in recorded history where society has not made the man who begets a child responsible for thatchild. We took the easy way out.”

Looking at marriage rates in the 18th and 19th century and how numbers have risen and fallen with good and bad harvest, Frank Field is correct in terms of external factors. However, he is not correct to assert that we are the first generation in recorded history where society has not made the man who fathers a child to be responsible for that child.

We would draw his attention to the recommendation of the 1834 Commission:

  • “We recommend therefore thatthe second section of the 18 ElIZ CAP 3 and all other Acts which punish or charge the putative father of a bastard shall as to all bastards born after the passing of the intended Act be repealed.” [26]

This perception of being the first generation might be true for the middle class, the cognoscenti, but literature abounds with examples of statute law and cultural code violations being impotent in the face of reality among the poor, e.g. Far from the Madding Crowd’, ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles.’ Indeed, there would be no need for the Poor Laws, the workhouse, orphanages, or for foundling hospitals etc. were Frank Field correct.

We join with Adrienne Burgess, of the Fatherhood Institute, when she warns that society should be careful when applying the “feckless” label to every absent dad:

  • “The vast majority of those men want to see their children.. . . Very often they’re unconfident, they feel they have no value. There are all kinds of barriers that they may not be strong enough or confident enough to overcome, but they’re not feckless in that sense of the word.”

 

CONCLUSION

There is a horrible mismatch between high-minded child welfare principles with stated principle of fairness on the one hand and the squalid reality on the other.

What is ‘good for a child’ is often not what he or his parents want for him (or her) but what some 3rd party adult, a stranger, dictates. This is sometimes referred to as the price of welfarism. As a consequence, anomalies and double standards proliferate at every level.

The mismatch has now been recognised by government as financially no longer sustainable. We have a very expensive system that produces only bargain basement products (i.e. huge legal costs versus damaged child outcomes). Into this contradictory hotchpotch is parachuted a ray of hope in the form of the 2011 Green Paper and the much-overlooked Henshaw Report.

‘Liberal’ aspirations are everywhere punctured by punitive retribution which are legitimised by ‘the need to hit targets’, or to ‘send signals’ or be seen to ‘do the right thing’.

In this atmosphere where ‘surgery’ is deemed essential, the operation is invariably described as a ‘success’ but the patient dies. This personifies the history of child support, the championing of child care, and of callously claiming to make a child’s best interests (CBI) paramount. As a nation we need this Green Paper’s new vision like dying man needs oxygen.

“Targeting” state benefits to sub-groups has been accepted by politicians of all persuasions as cost effective and an efficient means of delivery. This Green Paper accepts the need for targeting but this faith may be misplaced. The highly respected researcher and specilaist in this field,, Patricia Morgan (LSE), has shown how target based programmes suffer ‘creep’ (into near universality), or fail to reach significant parts of the intended audience and can be more expensive to operate.

More than twenty years earlier George Gilder (1973) and Senator Moynihan identified the disadvantages in the ‘Aid to Families with Dependant Families’ (AFDC) programme. In both the US and the UK family poverty had been subject to detailed and sophisticated analysis. Targeted state benefits should have reduced poverty but instead drove out the male partner and thus lowering the overall family incomes and sucking in more state subsidies. What should have boosted family incomes actually decreased it and what should have strengthened families culminated in the double tragedy of social disintegration and accentuated class divisions.

Is child support, i.e. targeting children of separated parents, the way that is most efficient ? Is money spent targeting fathers in arrears very productive ? Would a universal state funded benefit for the maintenance of all children be more advantageous ?

We note that; “In 2009/10 the cost for every £1 collected was 44p.” and it appears to cost around £460 million to run the existing scheme made up of 1.2 million cases.”

The worsening UNICEF child poverty reports for England & Wales, could reflect the increasing tendency by the state to target more benefits and, as Morgan highlights, results in actually failing to reach significant numbers.

Government has no choice but to be deeply involved in the lives of families and of poor single parents and their children if only because of the cost to the Treasury they represent. In this context, the absence of any government effort to support marriage does not represent neutrality and the lack of its encouragement as a valued first choice is an abrogation of responsibility. [27]

CS payments may sometimes be problematical among formerly married parents but we feel regularity of payment among unmarried parents is likely to be far worse. A statistical breakdown comparing payments made by formerly married fathers versus unmarried fathers would provide much insight. The only published number data available aggregates the two categories.

In the absence of such data it is perhaps noteworthy that in London single mothers make up 22% of all families (the largest proportion for anyUKregion). A breakdown of London data shows single mothers in Lambeth represent  48% of all families, in Hackney 43%, in Southwark 45%, and City of London 42%.

It has always been our contention that it is wholly unfair to inflict by legislation and misinformation on the majority of fathers (who routinely pay CS), a set of rules and sanctions for a truculent minority (and who might be confined to regional or city sub-groups, e.g. Lambeth, Southwark).

1. Income levels

No new initiative will work without income levels being sufficient to meet what is required of them. Most households these days need to have two, not one, wage earner – just to survive. Fifty percent of the work force is now female. The family wage as a concept was destroyed by Equal Pay Act. Yet this fundamental change seems not to have penetrated judicial thinking as witnessed by the way they handle real estate and money in divorce and custody cases.

Households can no longer survive on just one income. Yet this is overlooked by CMEC and government in their plans to double tax the income of the divorced father (income tax + CS tax) . Indeed, the whole area of income levels (and the lack thereof in many instances) is glossed over in the Green Paper.

The married man is the engine of wealth generation. Married men create more wealth than single men – and single men create only the same amount of wealth as single women. The reason for this is obvious – he has an investment in his children, society and advancing their interests.

Yet what has legislation sought to achieve since 1969 ?  The break up of the family, placed obstacles between fathers and their children and penalised not incentivised the care role of children. No wonder child poverty is now so acute.

For the divorced father there is no commensurate off-set by way of Married Couple’s Allowance (this is worth an additional £2,800 pa), or a share in Family Credits. Instead, he is expected to pay for his family obligations after his divorce at a time when he suddenly finds himself also paying for a second home.

The gravity of the injustice is only compounded when it is realised that 80% of fathers are divorced against their will. In itself thatis reason enough to consider the abolition of the CSA, the questioning of the concept of Child Support, and review of returning to pre-CSA provisions.

2. Custody is key

Almost 10 years ago another Green Paper, ‘Making Contact Work’, floated the idea of reversing custody in difficult cases which would have been a move we would have supported. Nothing came of this idea, of course, but it confirmed in black and white what was patently wrong with the custody regime.

The years 2000 – 2002 represent the point in time when it was recognised in official LCD circles that, de facto, the  divorce and custody structure treated children as ‘cash cows’.

The pretence that children were real people needing both real parents fell away revealing them to be mere pawns in a bigger game. There was clear evidence that a sharing of custody and parental rights was a fiction in the Oct 2002 meeting between the ‘Coalition for Equal Parenting’ (CEP) and Amanda Finlay and Sally Field of LCD (Lord Chancellor’s Dept).

The transcript of LCD meeting shows Sally Field referring to the Children Act 1989 and suggesting that:

  • “ . . . .it might be usefulatthis juncture to look at the history of the Act. The Bill had started in the Lords and then progressed to the Commons. . . . in Nov 1988. Notes on Clauses producedatthe time the Bill was progressing through the Lords recorded that‘joint custody ’ had been the norm prior to the Bill, with an order being made in every case. The Bill sought to change this so thatan order should only be made if it were better than no order being made – i.e. a less interventionist approach.”

The inability, or preference, in official circles not to take on board the implications of custody as a deal-breaker, as an issue of principle or simply as a totem, displayed Whitehall’s rigidity at its most inflexible.

The view of the CEP was that shared parenting was not only the only way forward and out of the impasse but would provided a route to lower legal fees for both clients and government. Further, if this route was not adopted the CEP warned that the Treasury would face ever larger bills for the social consequences which would reach a point where would prove unsustainable.

All 3 of these predictions have now proven to be true (acceptance of shared parenting; soaring government legal fees; Treasury concerned to reign in costs).

The Green Paper has indirectly lifted the pressure off custody as an issue by allowing separated spouses to negotiate freely and individually. This is the essential pre-condition that one suspects will now allow resolutions in other related fields. This can be seen as an expression of the new ‘Localism’ agenda announced by government

The Green Paper continues to disappoint in its propensity to resolve matters by punitive and malicious action against fathers while not uttering a word of sanction aimed at mothers.

No one is bent out of shape when a father is jailed for ‘non-compliance’ but jailing a mother for non-compliance appears to hit a raw nerve. Is one human being more valuable than another ?

We suggest that such punitive action aimed at fathers is highly counter-productive. Not only does it prove sexual discrimination but he will lose his job – the source of the very next CS payment – jeopardises his standard of living, compromises his liberty and his right to contact his children

If it is the “accepted duty of government is to provide a framework for people to discharge their responsibilities” why has custody not been addressed ?  [28]  Particularly so when “Failure to deliver financial responsibility can have widespread negative consequences.” [29]

The Green Paper skirts around the vetopowers of custodial mothers and gate-keeping antics that prevent proper contact visits. Nothing is said of the waste this produces in time and money spent travelling to the appointment. One assumes the Green Paper is aware that ‘ancillary relief’  (part of the divorce and CSA continuum) has been described by Ruth Deech as ‘vindictive’ ?

The map shown below is the custody ‘geo divide’ that emerged from a 1987 study by the Law Commission. In the North joint custody levels (comparable with today’s shared parenting) were very low, while in the Midlands and South joint custody awards were significantly higher.

In 2012 should we expect to see a similar ‘geo divide’ in payment patterns and custody awards ?  Will fathers in the North pay lesser amounts and less frequently as sole custody awards fall away ?

The ‘geo divide’ has another dimension. Rail fares on, for example, the East Coast Mainline can cost between £200 and £300 for a return ticket (say, London to Newcastle), and even commuters in the South East regularly are paying £3,000 for a season ticket. such is the burden that they often take out a loan to pay for such season tickets or their employer builds it in to the remuneration package. How can divorced fathers be reasonably expected to see their children when disposable income is at such a premium and no one in government offers a ‘package’ or helping hand ?

Because of the sheer distances involved, in the US and Australia, the costs posed by mothers who move away after divorce has to some extent been addressed. Court restrictions on how far away they can move are not uncommon. To off-set the greater distances the fuel costs in the USA and        Australia are significantly lower than in the UK, e.g. £4 per gallon of petrol and not £8.

3. Paternity

DNA testing is another veto right given to mothers and not to fathers – gate-keeping and custody being the other major veto rights. In our opening  remarks we pointed to the imbalance between mothers and fathers and between those that receive payment and those that are obliged to pay.

It was, in the view of some, a retrogressive step to align English law with that of Scotland so that a father in a household is automatically deemed to be the biological father of any child produced by his partner and therefore he becomes financially liable as well as criminally liable for CS default.

The opening remarks of this response also quantified a problem namely that of  ‘false paternity’ which no one in officialdom seems to want to address seriously. Tentatively  the number of false paternity claims can be put at several thousands but until research is undertaken it could be tens of thousands.

The possibility of hundreds of thousands and the American ‘Wise’ case, has spurred legal minds and ethicists to refocus and re-define ‘fatherhood’.

The prevailing academic view now appears to be that a father is any man who reads children their bedtime stories, and not the man who necessarily shares his DNA. This is not acceptable as a practical definition for Joe Public.

The abrogation of the human right to determine who are one’s own children is yet another layer of injustice thrust upon fathers who have already had to contend with divorce bias, custody discrimination, confiscation of assets, larceny and mandatory CS payments – all situations that may not have been of his choosing. The Green Paper could be optimistically viewed as representing in its subtext, less state intrusion into private lives but it is too early to say. On the other hand, there appears to be nothing in the Green Paper to prevent further state intrusion or the continued discrimination against fathers.

4. Pre-Nuptial Agreements

Once frowned upon as contrary to public policy, the reluctant acceptance that Pre-Nuptial and Post Nuptial contracts can bring benefits demonstrates how far policy makers have grudgingly moved. It also tells us we are in a mess. The changes would not be needed if the primary components of marriage and law had not been adulterated by persistent interference.

In the opinion of many the publication by the Law Commission of “The future for pre-nuptial agreements”, is a significant step forwards and in one blow could solve several difficulties. [30]  It marks a depature from Hegelistic thought processes and policies and a return to autonomy and a respect of the individual.

A 1998 consultation paper, “Supporting Families” devoted a chapter to “Strengthening Marriage” and also embraced Pre-Nuptial Contracts (Para. 4.20) together with marriage preparation. Pre-nuptial agreements as an idea were of very limited use in 1998. They were symbolic in value as that they became null and void once children were born to the family.

However, if the Law Commission’s most recent proposals (Jan 2011) regarding pre-nuptial agreements bear a close resemblance to newspaper reports, then a new chapter will be opened.

Firstly, it will overcome the blatant sexism and dire consequences contained in their May 2006 report into cohabitation compensation (“Cohabitation: the Financial Consequences of Relationship Breakdown”, Law Commission Consultation Paper No 179, http://www.lawcom.gov.uk/docs/cp179.pdf ). [31]

Secondly, some of the problems highlighted in our comments regarding DNA / paternity listed above will be negated. Pre-Nuptial Contracts could shield fathers from unscrupulous gold diggers, and will allow them to counter claim and prevent injustices.

To illustrate the perennial nature of this danger we cite a Parliamentary Commission of 1834:

  •  “(The Commissioners ). . .. thought that poor men were at the mercy of blackmail and perjury by unscrupulous women…. The bastardy clauses of the Act of 1834 were in line with the opinions of the Poor Law Commissioners. The laws which had enabled a mother to charge a putative father before the magistrates were repealed”.

The more thing change the more they stay the same. The following is quote from a Commissioner from the same 1834 report:

  • “I find there are in most parishes, [women] who have from two to four children, receiving different sums of money with each, according to the ability of the putative fathers; so thatthe sum the woman receives with the whole of the children, and whatthe mother can earn, enables them to live as comfortable, or indeed more so, than most families in the neighborhood. It may be truly said tha tthe money she receives is more than sufficient to repay her for the loss her misconduct has occasioned her, and it really becomes a source of emolument, and is looked upon by others as an encouragement to vice.” – Report from His Majesty’s Commissioners for inquiring into the Administration and Operation of the Relief of the Poor (1834), p 351

If the state is today minded to create all manner of relationships between heterosexual and homosexual couples, it is only fitting that the state should also provide the individual with the means to protect himself against unwarranted attacks, profiteering and intrusions.

5. Second wives’ club

One category of women have been made into victims ever since the Divorce Reform Act 1969 was enacted and their position worsened after the Child Support Act 1991.

CS legislation has made no allowance for these women and the present Green Paper makes the same omission. All that can be said is that individuals engaged in negotiations regarding CS payment will in future be able to take a broader view of their liabilities and abate them if the need later arises, i.e. they find a new female partner.

What is perennially not addressed is the income of the interloper, the  ‘second would-be husband’ or subsequent partner. For this eventuality no deduction for his sizeable contribution to the divorced woman’s income is envisaged. This is wrong and unfair.

The only other recourse to a fairer system for citizens is the legalisation of pre-nuptials and post-nuptials contracts. Should it ever come to pass, the barbs and razor wire that now characterise the CS system will be blunted. Poverty will be aggregated – not localised or concentrated on second wives. Assumptions of a guaranteed SOL (standard of living) presently held by first wives will come into question and will need to be assessed before they decide to divorce their husband.

6. The Universal Credit

Welfare reform as a modern political issue in the US began in the Clinton era. There was a groundswell of opinion that the national (or federally funded) system was becoming too complex to control and in some instances counter-productive.

In the beginning there was AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependant Children) created in 1935. But by 1996 recipients of AFDC were “1,700% more frequent [found] among illegitimate children of never-married mothers than among legitimate children raised by intact married couples.” [32]

TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) replaced AFDC but failed to drive down poverty. Instead, it drove out the male partner thus lowering family incomes still further and promoted the double tragedy of social disintegration and accentuated class divisions (today, there are now fewer married Black Americans than were married in 1900).

Supplementing the federally funded benefits are state programmes. There are many variants and the degree of generosity varies but each state essentially has some sort of mix, i.e. a ‘re-training’ programmes; “workfare” (i.e. mandatory work for government money such as street cleaning; private sector work; re-entry programme; certified not-for-profit sector hours; etc).

The Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) is one typical example embracing all of the above. [33] Quote:

  • “ . . . MFIP helps families move to work and focuses on helping families. It includes both cash and food assistance. When most families first apply for cash assistance, they will participate in the Diversionary Work Program, or DWP. This is a four month program thathelps parents go immediately to work rather than receive welfare.”

If a comparison is made of  the ideals announced by Iain Duncan Smith, when introducing his Universal Credit (Feb 2011), there appears to be much that is borrowed from the US.

It is too early to say with any certainty but the Universal Credit does have the potential of helping resolve protracted CS payment difficulties.

9. Abolish Child Support altogether

Radical and painful views have traditionally tended to come from one direction and impacted on one group more than any other. Fathers, and men generally, are usually expected to finance whatever exotic legislation is planned and cheerfullty absorb any painful impacts.

To return the compliment, let serious consideration now be given to abolishing child support altogether – if not now, then within the next 5 years.

CS in the UK has a long and chequered history. Ten years ago we were counting the cost in the number of fathers committing suicide. As we have seen from the above reference to the 1834 Commission, one generation after another have thought that they alone have found the answer to CS.

However, only this generation has sought to legally de-couple a father from his biological child. Legislation now in force makes it clear that a father has no automatic, natural or legal obligations to his child since the father’s role as guardian was been abolished in 1989. [34]

If the time honoured right of a father to look after his legitimate children has been abolished one has to conclude that the mother and the state are the only parties with guardianship rights remaining. As a consequence the logic is painful. Since the state has taken unto itself the protection of the child and all the attendant responsibilities including guardianship, the onus to finance the situation is theirs alone and fathers are superfluous. As a result fathers have no obligation to support or to care for a child which now ‘belongs’ to the state.  The upkeep of any child therefore falls squarely on the shoulders of the guardians remaining and it is left to the state to pay.

The mistake the state makes is not in tying to address the issue but in tying to address all of the cases in the issue. Whitehall policy shapers appear to have been seized of this epiphanyat long last.

The poor’ it is said will always be with us and so too are the failures to regularise child maintenance payments. As if to underscore our position Henshaw concedes that, “Only 13% of current cases have the potential to recoup money for the state.” [35]

We must hope there is a realisation in official circles thatdid not exist before, namely, a questioning of the cost and cost-effectiveness of the CSA. Getting officialdom to arrive at this juncture has been an uphill battle. It is therefore worth highlighting the bulk of the criticisms made by fathers groups against the CSA over a number of years in these bullet points:

  • The CSA cost £1 billion to set up in 1993. The court system cost Gov’t nothing.
  • Government is owed over £3 billion it has paid out in ‘maintenance’ to single mothers and is very unlikely to be able to off-set it by collecting CS taxes from NRFs (non resident fathers).
  • The CSA recovered only £120 million in Income Support expenditure in 2004/05, against costs of £425 million, albeit around £80 million was saved elsewhere.
  • Annually, the system runsata net loss to the taxpayer of around £200 million.
  • The efficiency of the CS regime has consistently been poor – DWP
  • It represents poor value-for-money for the taxpayer – DWP

Lending support to the idea of abolishing CS altogether is this extract taken from Henshaw’s 2006 report into CS payment:

  • “Child support is only likely to be a significant factor where the non-resident parent has a high income. However, in such cases, disregards are unlikely to outweigh the strong financial incentive for the parent with care to remain in the relationship.
  • Separation typically means a large drop in income for the parent with care.
  • There is considerable evidence demonstrating the often substantial drop in the standard of living likely to be experienced by carers and children. [36]
  • Evidence suggests women’s net income declines by as much as 18% following separation. [37]
  • Some 48% of children in lone-parent households are in poverty (after housing costs) compared to 20% in couple households.” [38]

Since the CSA data show the majority of fathers to be in or on the borderline of poverty (i.e. net incomes and/or disposable incomes), the “non-resident parent [who] has a high income” is a rarity. (See also Social Security Dept Tables G2.07 and G2.08. Appendix E).

Coupled with the destructive influence CS has on wealth creation and wealth accumulation, the case against CS payments is building.

END

Appendix A

The bias in judicial awards of custody vis-à-vis house husband who normally care for the children are epitomised by these two cases 8 years apart but ruled upon by the sameAppeal Court judge

2002

 

Custody ruling deals a blow to house husbands

 

By Matt Born, Daily Telegraph, April 19th 2002

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/04/19/ncust19.xml&sSheet=/news/2002/04/19/ixnewstop.html

 

THE principle that children should be raised by their mothers won the overt backing of the Court of Appeal yesterday after it rejected a house husband’s attempt to win custody of his two children.

The father, who had raised the children in their £1 million home while his wife enjoyed a successful career on a salary of £300,000, argued that he was the victim of sex discrimination.

But the court refused him leave to appeal against a High Court decision which granted custody to his estranged wife. Lord Justice Thorpe, sitting with Lord Justice Buxton, said that despite the “unusual” role reversals in this case, they could not ignore the “realities” of the “very different” traditional functions of men and women.

The father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had wanted the children to live with him in London while his wife, the family breadwinner, continued to maintain them.

He also opposed her plans to give up her career and move hundreds of miles away with the children, who are both aged under six. Richard Tott, the father’s barrister, asked the court to imagine the situation in reverse.

He said that if a male breadwinner proposed giving up his job, taking his children out of private education, moving far fromLondon, and replacing the mother as the primary carer, “his application would be looked at with extreme scepticism”.

But in his ruling, Lord Justice Thorpe said that this submission seemed “to ignore the realities involving the different roles and functions of men and women”.

The judges heard that after the couple split up last year in “fraught circumstances” each had applied for custody.

The husband moved out of the family home, while the mother cared for the children briefly. However, they soon reached an agreement to share time with the children. The husband moved to a nearby rented house, paid for by the mother.

But the mother now wanted to give up work in order to spend more time with her children.

His belief that her desire was genuine was the decisive factor in rejecting the father’s claim, Lord Justice Thorpe said. He said it was “not uncommon” nowadays for those who have “sacrificed the opportunity to provide full-time care for their children in favour of a highly competitive profession” to think again about their priorities.

The judge added: “[They] question the purpose of all that striving and whether they should re-evaluate their lives before the children have grown too old to benefit.”

2001

Only a year earlier in 2001, a father won a landmark legal victory regarding shared parenting and the overt sexual discrimination against fathers contained within the welfare benefits system (see Hockenjos v Secretary of State for Social Security).  [39]  It was a short lived righting of discrimination with the government immediately abolishing the relevant piece of legislation.

2010

Rachmacher v Granatino

(see http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed36874 )

 

This case has elements of both pre-nuptial contract and shared care agreements being overturned (Lord Justice Thorpe ruled).

Abridged

Rachmacher, a German heiress worth £100 million did not want to share her pre-nuptial assets or wealth with her former husband when they divorced. His income was circa £30,000 pa, though he had a wealthy father. He had given up his job 8 years ago to look after their two children. Custody was shared 2/3 + 1/3 but this was not reflected in the financial settlement.

The parties were both foreign nationals, the wife German and the husband French, who had signed a pre-nuptial agreement valid under German law but then divorced in theUK. In the High Court Baron J had awarded the husband £5.6m even though the pre-nuptial agreement had stated thatneither party would seek maintenance from the other in the event of divorce. The wife therefore appealed.

His total indebtedness in legal fees alone amounted to £800,000, of which his wife’s legal fees, which he was obligated to pay, totalled £50,000.

Appendix B

The still born Family Law Act 1996 had provisions within it for marriage counselling to be given prior to divorce. The Act’s mandate was “to save savable marriages”. From the outset it was obvious that the marriage guidance and counselling services inBritain could not cope with current demand and would be overwhelmed by legislation that might bring a 10 fold increase.

The OCU (Order of Christian Unity) commissioned a survey, “Privatising Divorce ?” (pub Dec 1995), into the marriage and relationship counselling services inBritain.

 

Extract::

Facts and figures – quick summary.

1. London Marriage Guidance – have over 100 counsellors basedat 18 centres inLondon who see almost 800 clients weekly.

Couples are charged £40 per session which last 50 mins. Over 700 couples or individuals are waitingatany one time. They handle 5,659 cases and see 100 new clients each week. Married couples constituted 54% of counselling sessions and unmarried partners 46%.

2. Relate – has over 2,300 full and part-time counsellors working in 128 centres inEngland,Wales andNorthern Ireland. It trains 350 counsellors and 30 psycho-sexual therapists per year. All are volunteers who have to pay for their tuition and training lasting over 2 years.  From 1990 to 1996 volume/demand has risen 50%. An average counselling course cost a couple £250.00.  10,000 couples and individuals are waiting for counsellingat any one time.  65,000 initial interviews and 44,600 new cases are given every year. In all, Relate handles 396,200 sessions. Each of Relates centres is an autonomous independent charity federated to national Relate.

3. Marriage Care – formerly the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council has 73 local centres. They have monitored their client satisfaction rates and report that 91% of all clients felt they had been “helped” by their counselling. Their courses are accredited by The University of Leeds through theCollege ofRipon and York St. John.

[ The above groups] are comparatively well funded and professionally run. They have had a near-monopoly position in the market for many decades. However, their position may now be under threatwith the emergence of a comparatively new entrant into the sector, namely “Employee Assistance” companies.

Originating in the US, “Employee Assistance” or “Employee Assist” companies have become a common sight in UScommercial life. After many years building up experience in the USthey have been imported by “multi-nationals” and recently privatised companies. They represent good value for money for these multi-nationals companies and assist with the demands placed on a company’s Personnel Department. These companies are dealt with in greater detail later in this paper. This new genre will probably make their presence felt in the UK. Counselling generally can be expected to grow and this new entrant may muscle in on the more lucrative or volume driven contracts.

Appendix C

 

Advice to separating parents

 

Health and Educational ‘problems’ thathave long been associated with divorce and fatherless children.
Government has never drawn these ‘problems’ to the public’s attention.

 

Some of these citations listed below date back to the 1960s and 1980s. They have been deliberately included is because their validity has never been questioned and their findings always validated.

In other words, they are as true to day as they were 30 or 40 years ago. Why society has chosen to ignore them for this period of time is an unanswered question.

For comparison purposes we cite,atAppendix D, a more modern version of the data compiled by Rebecca O’Neill (Civitas, Sept 2002).

The following statistics are taken fromWhy Two Parents are Important” and

support the view that children suffer when not in a two parent households:

            (see http://www.wisconsinfathers.org/twoparents.htm).

 

Psychological Health Problems

Greater Psychological Health Problems

Single parent children are 3 to 4 times more likely to have emotional or behavioural problems (Zill and Schoenborn, National Center for Health Statistics, 1990), and 84% of teens hospitalized for psychiatric care come from single parent homes (1989 study, cited by Hewlett, ‘When the Bough Breaks’).

 

Higher Suicide Rates

Teenagers whoattempt suicide are similar to non-suicidal teens in age, income, race or religion, but are more likely to have little or minimal contact with their father (Study of 752 families by New York Psychiatric Institute, cited by Hewlett). 75% of teenagers who commit suicide are from single parent homes (Elshtain, The Christian Century, 1993).

 

More Alcohol and Drug Abuse

18% of children with strict and involved fathers used drugs. 35% of children without fathers used drugs (1988 UCLA study, cited by Hewlett). Children in father-absent homes are 4.3 times more likely to smoke as children in father-present (Stanton, Oci, and Silva, 1994 survey of 1,037 15-year-olds).

 

Great Frequency of Sleep Disorders

More trouble falling asleep, more nightmares, and night terrors (Psychiatrist Alfred Messer, cited by Hewlett).

 

Persistent feelings of betrayal, rejection, rage, guilt, pain

Lasting for years with a renewed intensity atadolescence. Two-thirds [of father-absent children] yearned for the absent parent, one-half of those with an intensity we found profoundly moving. (Wallerstein and Kelly, 1980, Surviving the Break-up).

 

Lower self-esteem

This especially true for girls (Dr. Robert Fay presentation atNCMC conference, 1992) (Davidson, Life Without Father: America’s Greatest Social Catastrophe, Policy Review, 1990).

COGNITIVE / ACADEMIC ABILITY

 

Lower Academic Achievement

38% of elementary students from single parent homes were low achieving, while 23 % of both parent children were low achieving (Nat’l Assoc. of Elementary School Principals report, cited by Hewlett).

30% of children from father-present homes were high achieving, while only 17% of children from father-absent homes were high achieving.

 

Lower Math Scores

YaleUniversitystudy by Carlsmith, cited by Hewlett (Cortes and Fleming, 1968).

Greater Failure Rate

Elementary students from fatherless homes or homes with mother and a stepfather have to repeat
(National Center for Health Statistics study of 47,000 households by Deborah gradesat a rate 2-3 times higher than children with both biological parents Dawson, 1991).

 

Lower SAT Scores

“Dramatic” lower scores for students from father-absent homes (ColumbiaUniversity & Bowling GreenStateUniversitystudy of 295 from father-absent homes and 760 from father-present homes (cited by Hewlett).

Lower IQ and Achievement

Children who lost fathers before age 5 scored lower on Otis Quick Test and Stanford Achievement Test as junior-high and high-school students (Santrock, 1972) (Hetherington, Cox, and Cox study, 1978) (Cortes and Fleming, 1968).

More Likely to Drop Out of School

Children from fatherless homes twice as likely to drop out of school (US Department of Health and Human Services, Survey on Child Health, 1993) less likely toattend college (Wallerstein, Family Law Quarterly, 1986).

 

ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR

 

Higher Rates of Criminal Behaviour

Fatherless children are twice as likely to become criminally involved (Margaret Wynn, 1964) -72% of adolescent murderers, 60% of rapists, and 70% of long-term prisoners grew up in father-absent homes (US Department of Justice data, 1991).

Greater Delinquency for Boys

87% ofWisconsinjuvenile delinquents are a product of father-absent homes (Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services, 1994). 70% of juveniles in state reform institutions grew up in father-absent homes (US Department of Justice data, 1988). Young black men raised without a father are twice as likely to engage in criminal activities (Hill and O’Neill, 1993) (Matlock in Adolescence) (Siegman, 1966; Anderson, 1968; Kelly and Baer, 1969).

Greater delinquency for girls      – –  (Monahan, 1957; Toby, 1957).
More Violent misbehaviour in School

Children who exhibited violent misbehaviour in school were 11 times as likely to live without their father than children who did not violently misbehave (Sheline, Skipper, Broadhead, American Journal of Public Health, 1994).

CHILD ABUSE

 

Greater chance of being physically Abused

Pre-schoolers living without their biological father were 40 times more likely to be a victim of child abuse as compared to like-aged children living with their father (Wilson and Daly in Child Abuse and Neglect: Biosocial Dimensions, 1987) premarital pregnancy, out-of-wedlock childbearing, and absent fathers are the most common predictors of child abuse (Smith, Hanson, and Noble, Child Abuse: Commission and Omission, 1980).

 

Greater Chance of Being Sexually Abused

69% of victims of child sexual abuse came from homes where the biological father was absent (Gomes-Schwartz, Horowitz, and Cardarelli, ‘Child Sexual Abuse Victims and their Treatment’, 1988).

HETEROSEXUAL ADJUSTMENT for DAUGHTERS

More Difficulty in Interacting with Men and Male Peers

Daughters of divorcee’s aggressive, forward with boys and men. Daughters of widows shy and timid with boys and men (Hetherington, 1972).

 

Younger Marriages

Daughter of divorcees marryatyounger age (Hetherington, 1972).

More Unwed Pregnancies

Girls from fatherless homes 111% (over 2X) more likely to have unwed pregnancy (Warren Farrell presentationatNCMC conference, 1992; Hetherington, 1972).

Higher Divorce Rates

Girls from fatherless home 92% (nearly 2 x) more likely to divorce (Warren Farrell presentationatNCMC conference, 1992; Hetherington, 1972).

HETEROSEXUAL ADJUSTMENT for SONS

 

Less Masculine, More Dependent Behaviour

(Santrock’s study of 4- and 5-year old, father-absent boys) (Rogers and Long’s study of 6- too 15-year-old boys where father employed away from home community, 1968) (Hetherington’s study of 9- to 12-year-old, father-absent boys, 1966).

GENERAL HEALTH

 

More Likely to Suffer Accidents and Injuries

Fatherless children are 20-30% more likely to experience accidents, injuries, and poisonings than did father-present children (Remez, Family Planning Perspectives, 1992). Compared to children living with father, fatherless children experience more accidental injury, asthma, frequent headaches, and speech defects (Dawson, Journal of Marriage and Family, 1991).

 

Appendix D

 

‘Experiments in Living: the Fatherless Family’

 

by Rebecca O’Neill (Civita, Sept 2002)

http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/experiments.php

 

Summary

The experiment

  • Fewer children live with both their mother and their father
  • Routes into the fatherless family
    • Divorce
    • Births outside marriage
    • Changes in marriage and cohabitation
  • Is the married two-parent family a thing of the past?
    • Most people still believe in the ideal of marriage and do, in fact, get married

The Results: How does the Fatherless Family Affect Adults, Children and Society ?

  • Lone mothers
    • Are poorer
    • Are more likely to suffer from stress, depression, and other emotional and psychological problems
    • Have more health problems
    • May have more problems interacting with their children
  • Non-resident biological fathers
    • Areatrisk of losing contact with their children
    • Are more likely to have health problems and engage in high-risk behaviour
  • children living without their biological fathers
    • Are more likely to live in poverty and deprivation
    • Have more trouble in school
    • Tend to have more trouble getting along with others
    • Have higher risk of health problems
    • Areatgreater risk of suffering physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
    • Are more likely to run away from home
  • Teenagers living without their biological fathers
    • Are more likely to experience problems with sexual health
    • Are more likely to become teenage parents
    • Are more likely to offend
    • Are more likely to smoke
    • Are more likely to drink alcohol
    • Are more likely to take drugs
    • Are more likely to play truant from school
    • Are more likely to be excluded from school
    • Are more likely to leave schoolat16
    • Are more likely to have adjustment problems
  • young adults who grew up not living with their biological fathers
    • Are less likely toattain qualifications
    • Are more likely to experience unemployment
    • Are more likely to have low incomes
    • Are more likely be on income support
    • Are more likely to experience homelessness
    • Are more likely to be caught offending and go to jail
    • Are more likely to suffer from long term emotional and psychological problems
    • Are more likely to develop health problems
    • Tend to enter partnerships earlier and more often as a cohabitation
    • Are more likely to divorce or dissolve their cohabiting unions
    • Are more likely to have children outside marriage or outside any partnership

Effects on the Social Fabric

  • Increased crime and violence
  • Decreased community ties
  • A growing ‘divorce culture’
  • Cycle of fatherlessness
  • Dependence on state welfare

“ . . . . The weight of evidence indicates thatthe traditional family based upon a married father and mother is still the best environment for raising children, and it forms the soundest basis for the wider society.”

Appendix  E

 

Social Security Statistics, Table G2.07 1996 – 2010 (CSA)

 

The fallacy of dead beat dads irrevocably annexed to CS payments is here blown apart.

Using tables supplied by the CSA we see thatunemployment and disability account for half or all non-payments or ‘zero’ payment of CS.

Its not thatdivorced or separated dads ‘won’t pay’, it’s more that they ‘can’t’ pay’ due to their own impoverishment.

The often heard generic designation of non-resident-fathers as dead beat dads thoughtlessly bandied about by the untutored is here shown to be erroneous and misplaced.  If it does apply it is to very few of fathers and is statistically insignificant.

To demonstrate the continuing nature of the problem, i.e. of impoverished fathers being taxed, the following tables cover the years 1996 to 2010.

 

Table G2.07 (below) refers to 1996 and of the total number assessed to pay CS (395,500) only 216.7 were actually employer and earning a living. The income was so low for 14,800 fathers thattheir assessment was £0 per week. Those in work and paying less than £4.80 per week totalled 87,700.

So pernicious was the original CS regime thateven Income Support, designed for a single person’s needs, wasattacked with 38,800 suffering a levy of not more than £4.80 per week.

 

1996

Table G2.07  CSA. Maintenance Assessments by Absent Parent’s Employment/ Benefit type (thousands), i.e. unemployedAll Assessments at31st  May 1996.

 

Full Maintenance Assessments (thousands, e.g. 395.5 =395,500)

Total

Earned Income

Income Support

UB/SB or IVB

Others

Interim MaintenanceAssessment

Total

395.5

217.6

127.5

23.3

27.0

89.2

£ 0.00

129.2

14.8

87.7

11.4

15.4

3.3

< £ 4.80

77.4

23.3

38.8

10.1

5.2

– –

< £ 10              

8.0

7.5

– –

0.2

0.3

– –

< £ 19

20.0

18.6

0.2

0.4

0.8

– –

< £ 29

24.5

23.3

0.1

– –

– –

– –

< £ 39

28.2

26.6

0.2

– –

– –

1.4

< £ 49

31.8

30.1

0.2

– –

– –

3.5

< £ 59

27.7

26.5

0.1

– –

– –

9.2

< £ 69

20.6

19.6

– –

– –

– –

2.9

< £ 79

13.9

13.6

– –

– –

– –

2.9

< £ 89

7.3

7.1

– –

– –

– –

1.5

< £ 99

3.6

3.5

– –

– –

– –

26.5

< £ 109

1.5

1.4

– –

– –

– –

14.5

< £ 119

0.9

0.8

– –

– –

– –

12.5

< £ 120 +

1.0

1.0

– –

– –

– –

– –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Av’ge Maintenance

£ 23.33

£ 38.22

1.01

3.91

10.87

£ 92.16

Source : Social Security Statistics Table G2.07 1996:- CSAThis table describes the source of income of absent parents, i.e. fathers, and the CS maintenancepayments made.

 

Of the 395,500 assessments barely 54% were levied against fathers who had an income.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1999

 

By 1999 both the numbers involved and the layout of Table G2.07 had changed.

There were now 864,000 maintenance assessments but despite this the number of unemployed fathers remainedatapprox 50%.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2002

 

Of the 1,045,700 assessment only 503,000 are made against those in employment.

 

 

March 2010

Radical reforms – the CSA abolished – and the creation of CMEC saw the numbers listed in official statics dip significantly. By March 2010 there were only 255,000 active assessments on CMEC files.

However, the recurring theme of unemployment remains in these figuresatuproar 50%

 

Appendix F

“£3.7bn owed in child maintenance (10/02/2011)

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5h1r1oDVpAdu6ot8qbPaPKiZxbwVg?docId=N0642551297259865035A

and

http://7thspace.com/headlines/372341/uk_enforcement_effort_helps_keep_child_maintenance_flowing.html

 

In Feb 2011 the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) announced that “£3.7bn was owed in child maintenance.

Newspapers obligingly gave due prominence to the CMEC story. Whatthe CMEC did not clearly state was thatthis figure was not an annual figure but related to debts and uncollected arrears accrued over the agency’s 17-year lifetime.

“More than £3.7 billion is still owed by parents in uncollected child maintenance payments, figures have revealed.

A total of £1.146 billion was collected or arranged last year, up slightly from £1.135 billion in 2009, but the amount of uncollected arrears remained the sameatabout £3.787 billion, the Child Support Agency said.

One in four cases in which maintenance was due had not paid or arranged any payments in the three months to December last year, the figures showed.

But the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission said officials were using new powers to target hundreds of properties owned by parents with child maintenance debts and to forcibly remove money from the bank accounts of those who owe money.

Child Maintenance Commissioner Stephen Geraghty said: “The number of children benefiting from maintenance payments has increased by more than 50% since 2005 when performance began to improve. We are putting more and more of our efforts into re-establishing compliance when payments are missed and making increasing use of our wide range of enforcement powers.”

Nearly 700 properties were targeted for possible possession and sale to pay off debts, with 100 such orders being obtained and only “a handful” being seized, the commission said.

And more than 600 so-called deduction orders, where payments are forcibly taken from parents’ bank accounts, have raised more than £1 million so far, it said.

It added the £3.787 billion in uncollected arrears related to debts accrued over the agency’s 17-year lifetime.”

Appendix G

 

Reaching Beyond the Grave ?

One report states that; “The Agency is also pursuing the estates of more than 600 deceased parents so their children will benefit from their legacies” [from a total of 700l].

Henshaw concedes that; “Only 13%  of current cases have the potential to recoup money for the state.[40]

An abridged composition of the CS arrears by parliamentary constituency is as follows. Whatis not detailed is whether any administration charges are included, penalties or interest accrued are part of the gross figure.

CSA arrears by constituency

Ranking

Non-Resident Parent Parliamentary Constituency

Arrears Owed, £

1

GreatGrimsby

11,069,000

2

Milton KeynesSouth West

10,495,000

3

BlackpoolSouth

10,370,000

4

Telford

10,196,000

5

Thurrock

10,155,000

6

KingstonuponHullEast

10,044,000

7

Gloucester

9,710,000

8

LeedsCentral

9,612

642

East Antrim

407,000

643

Newry & Armagh

398,000

644

BelfastEast

396,000

645

West Tyrone

359,000

646

BelfastWest

244,000

647

MidUlster

243,000

Unknown

129,549,300

Overseas

National average

£5,718,701.70

Source: Gingerbread (£3,700,000,000 / 647 constituencies)

 

END

a new CSA payment system               DNA

website

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2011/strengthening-families.shtml

FULL main report

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/strengthening-families.pdf   p6 and 10

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/strengthening-families.pdf

summary henshaw http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/2-executive-summary.pdf

full henshaw http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/henshaw-complete22-7.pdf

DWP 2001 http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rrep152.pdf

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/ia-strengthening-families.pdf impact assessment

RE: under the legislation, leaving no scope for thatparent to make any

spending decisions.

“Joint birth registration: promoting parental responsibility”

Paper Reference: Command 7160, Session 2007

Department for Works and Pensions; 26 June 2007

http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm71/7160/7160.pdf

dna – Sixteen percent of absent fathers who were traced by the Child Support Agency disputed paternity and in seven per cent of the cases where the man was DNA tested it was established thathe could not have been the biological father. Coleman (1996) reports thata review of false paternity data for theUSgives a range of 2.1 per cent to 11.8 per cent but figures based on cystic fibrosis cases found only 1.4 her cent of false paternity cases for theUK. Clarke reports thatthe under reporting of fertility runs between 10 and 15 per cent of all births and up to 30-50 per cent of non marital births (Clarke, 1997).


[1] Hockenjos v Secretary of State for Social Security) Court of Appeal, The Times, May 17th 2001 “Jobseekers’ Allowance sex bias unlawful”). “ .. . . .The principle of equal treatment means that there shall be no discrimination whatsoever on ground of sex either directly or indirectly…” – Article 1 of Directive 79/7/EEC, and Article 3  & Article 4, and of Regulation 77 of the Jobseekers’ Allowance Regulations (SI 1996 No 207).

[2] ‘One in fiveUK children ‘is living in poverty’ – UNICEF report (19/06/2001). See also “Child poverty Up” The Independent, 24th April 2007

[3] “Joint birth registration: promoting parental responsibility” 6/2007. Cm 7160.

[5] National Centre for Social Research

[6] ‘Mommy’s little secret’ , The Globe and Mail, By Carolyn Abraham, Saturday, December 14, 2002

http://www.canadiancrc.com/Newspaper_Articles/Globe_and_Mail_Moms_Little_secret_14DEC02.aspx

[7] “The Myth of Monogamy with her husband” by Barash & Barash, 2001. Also  ref Dr. Lipton.

[8] HMSO 1998, “Supporting Families” DWP 2011  http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/strengthening-families.pdf   pp 6 & 10.

[10] European Parliament http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/public/story_page/047-112868-031-01-06-908-20110131STO12856-2011-31-01-2011/default_en.htm British MEP Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR) stressed that although 91% of single parents in EU are women, we should still use the notion of “lone parents”. Laura Alipranti underlined that inSweden 26% of single parents are men whilst Rossana Trifiletti told the Hearing that single fathers are also poorer than natural families.

[11] See also “Divorce Matters” (pub 1984), p166.

[12] Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce : report, 1951-1955. This prompted two documents; ‘The Field of Choice’, by the Law Commission and ‘Putting Asunder’ by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The latter believed that there shouldn’t be changes unless what amounted to a post-mortem could be undertaken for each petition. The Law Commission rejected this option preferring the easier and faster ‘irretrievable break down’ option to be claimed by one of the parties and which required no court investigation.

[14] “New family law could bring legal miser”, 20April 2007, hidden pitfalls in the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006   .http://www.borderstoday.co.uk/news?articleid=2719392 .

[16] The Agency is also pursuing the estates of more than 600 deceased parents so their children will benefit

http://7thspace.com/headlines/372341/uk_enforcement_effort_helps_keep_child_maintenance_flowing.html

[17] Hockenjos v Secretary of State for Social Security) Court of Appeal, The Times, May 17th 2001 “Jobseekers’ Allowance sex bias unlawful”). “ .. . . .The principle of equal treatment means that there shall be no discrimination whatsoever on ground of sex either directly or indirectly…” – Article 1 of Directive 79/7/EEC, and Article 3 & Article 4, and of Regulation 77 of the Jobseekers’ Allowance Regulations (SI 1996 No 207).

[18] Spawson Report (head of the Child Benefit Policy section, 1999) blamed the 1975 DWP computer system for the inability to share child benefit between parents when custody was shared.

[19] Rossana Trifiletti MEP, told the Hearing that single fathers were also poorer than natural families – European Parliament http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/public/story_page/047-112868-031-01-06-908-20110131STO12856-2011-31-01-2011/default_en.htm

[20] National Survey of Child Support Agency Clients’ (DWP), http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rrep152.pdf

[21] “Quickie” divorces, i.e. special measures divorce procedures, were first introduced in 1946.

[22] Quote; “The average mean yearly maintenance award in the CSA is £1,800. . . .” http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/strengthening-families.pdf

[24] Statutory Instrument No 1520 (July 2006) amends the Child Support Act 1991. Debts of over 6 years.

[25] “Feckless father cannot remember children’s names” BBC Panorama, 17 January 2011. http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_9362000/9362089.stm

[26] Report from His Majesty’s Commissioners for inquiring into the Administration and Operation of the Relief of the Poor (1834), p 351.

[27] Maggie Gallagher, US Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.

[28] “Recovering child support” (Henshaw, 2006) Para 4 http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/henshaw-report-largeprint.pdf

[29] ibid

[34] “The rule of law that a father is the natural guardian of his legitimate child is abolished”. Children Act 1989, Part 2 (4),

[36] 38 Douglas G and Murch M, 2000, How parents cope financially on marriage breakdown,

Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

[37] 39 Jarvis S and Jenkins S, 1999, Marital Splits and Income Changes,Institute ofSocial

and Economic Research.]

[38] Department for Work and Pensions, 2006, Households Below Average Income 1994/95–2004/05.

[39] “Jobseekers’ allowance sex bias unlawful” (Court of Appeal), May 17 2001, The Times. (Hockenjos v Secretary of State for Social Security). This was in direct contravention of Article 1 of Directive 79/7/EEC, and of Article 3 and Article 4 and of Regulation 77 of the Jobseekers’ Allowance Regulations (SI 1996 No 207). Ref. Sprawson Report, child benefit DWP.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: