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Parents Must Take Financial Responsibility

Media Statement
For immediate release
Tuesday, 28 June 2005

Turner: Parents must at least take financial responsibility for children

United Future deputy leader Judy Turner today congratulated Social Development Minister Steve Maharey for following United Future's suggestion to allow the State the authority to file for child support when custodial parents refuse to do so.

"There has been a lot of focus on penalising parents on the DPB who refuse to name the other parent, but it is less well-known that the penalty also applies to those who refuse to apply for child support, even if all and sundry know who the liable parent is," Mrs Turner said.

During the parliamentary debate over recent legislation to increase these penalties in April, United Future tried to amend the Bill to allow the State to file for child support if the identity of the other parent is known but the sole parent refuses to apply for child support. "In these situations, the issue is not who is liable, but about whether they should be made liable. Absent parents not only deny their children their presence in the home, but also their associated financial support."

Research by the Ministry of Social Development indicates that there are three common reasons why sole parent beneficiaries do not apply for Child Support even though the identity of the liable parent is not in question:

1. If the liable parent is in a position, and is willing, to pay more than the penalty in support of their child, it can be in the sole parent beneficiary's financial interest to have a direct payment from their liable parent rather than to make an application for Child Support. Apparently, both Work and Income and IRD staff often point out this loophole to sole parent beneficiaries when they are making a decision about whether to apply for Child Support. In some cases, this private financial arrangement is a specific trade-off for not applying for child support.

2. If a sole parent beneficiary is secretly living with the liable parent they may be reluctant to initiate a process that might lead officials to match their addresses. It's also not in their interests for Child Support to be deducted from the household income, even if they can avoid being found out. If the liable parent is also on a benefit then it is much more likely that the nature of their relationship would be discovered through an application for Child Support.

3. There is a reluctance among some people, but especially beneficiaries, to deal with state agencies - something that an application for Child Support would inevitably involve.

"Clearly, none of these are particularly compelling reasons not to seek some form of Child Support from the liable parent. Secret arrangements may mean that in reality the child is being supported by the liable parent, but the system of child support is there to ensure that liable parents are held financially responsible for their children," Mrs Turner said.

Ends.

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