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Time To Look At The Bigger Picture

Time To Look At The Bigger Picture

Claiming retrospective child support from errant fathers - promoted in Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey's crackdown on DPB mothers refusing to name the father of their children - will not solve the problem, ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.

"Of the one in seven DPB mothers who refuse to name the father of their children, many do so in protest of an unfair child support system in need of reform - Mr Maharey should undertake an overhaul of the Child Support ACT," Dr Newman said.

"The some 16,500 women who have not named the father of their children can be split into three basic groups: women who collude with the father to avoid the child support system, at-risk women who have been victims of abuse or attack, and women who cannot get the father's agreement to be named on the child's birth certificate.

"In the latter two cases, women should not be penalised - mothers who are victims should be protected, and the violent fathers punished. Fathers who refuse to be named should, after paternity testing pay - it takes two to have a baby.

"While the crackdown must be even-handed, women who shield fathers from child support responsibilities - after having reached a financial arrangement - should lose their benefit. Able-bodied couples cannot expect the taxpayer to support their children - either the father pays, or the mother works. DPB eligibility should be based on the mother naming the father.

"In collusion cases, fathers must be required to either pay, or do community work to help pay back taxpayers carrying their burden. If they refuse, they should face imprisonment.

"What we need, however, is a fair child support system - which we currently lack. I am calling on the Minister to initiate a comprehensive review into the Child Support ACT - a review called for as early as 1994 by Judge Trapsky, but steadfastly ignored ever since.

"A revamped child support system must also take into account each parent's full financial situation, rather than just that of the non-custodial parent. Allowance should also be made for the time each parent spends with their child.

"Most importantly, shared parenting - not sole maternal custody - should be the norm when a couple separates. This has proved better for children and - in countries where shared parenting is the law - non-compliance with child support requirements is extremely rare.

This infamously soft-on-welfare Minister can talk tough, but he must ensure the law changes he is proposing are well informed, balanced and fair. If he follows the plan I have outlined, he will address an area of law in urgent need of reform, and protect the rights of New Zealand children to know their father and gain his on-going support," Dr Newman said.

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