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Turner: Custodial parents up for $8 million

Media Statement
For immediate release
Monday, 22 December, 2003

Turner: Custodial parents up for $8 million

More than 8000 custodial parents, often already struggling financially, are being chased for nearly $8 million by Inland Revenue because of an inadequate child support system, United Future's Judy Turner said today.

"And these are parents who are facing their responsibilities, and bringing up their children and often under very trying circumstances.

"They are working parents, who are not on benefits, and trying to move forward life for themselves and their children.

"And their only offence is that their ex-partner has earned less than their anticipated income, and the custodial parent then has to find money to pay back to the State.

"At $7.87 million across 8285 custodial parents, that is closing in on $1000 each - and it's simply because we have an inept system of child support in this country," Mrs Turner, United Future's family affairs spokeswoman, said.

"The inflexibility of the child support system means that liable parents are assessed based on their expected income for the year. When they end up bringing in a smaller income, the custodial parent gets asked for the money back."

"Any system that punishes those it is supposed to help is in urgent need of an overhaul," she said.

The arbitrary nature of the payment system means some non-custodial parents hide their true income to lower their payments.

It was recently revealed that the Government was considering wiping the debt of non-custodial parents who owe child support, which has ballooned to $730 million.

"United Future made the point very clearly at the time that any plan to wipe child support debt for non-custodial parents basically meant it was okay to fertilise, flee and forget.

"If nothing else, parents should be held financially responsible for their children, and we should be prepared to back that up with penalties.

"Equally, we need to make it easier for those parents to want to contribute - and there are plenty of them - good, loving parents who do not live with their children.

"We could look at introducing discounts for child support payments if the paying parent cares for the child two or three times a week but less than the 40 percent of the time (the cut-off mark for 'share care').

"Liable parents often feel resentful if the money they pay is not directly helping their children, but is instead used to offset the DPB, so we could also look at ways of reversing this, so that the DPB supplements child support payments instead," she said.


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