Well, we’re living in a “deadbeat” country

Regardless of how much taxpayer money it gets to spend ruining family relationships, or how nasty it is while doing it, the Child Support Agency can’t keep up:

$1b in deadbeat parents debt

PARENTS owe their children more than $1 billion, despite a crackdown on those who don’t pay child support.

The child support debt has grown by 12.8 per cent despite a 20 per cent increase in child support agency staff and a $900 million funding boost to help the agency improve the system, the Daily Telegraph reports.

There’s that pejorative word again, “deadbeat”. There are plenty of legitimate reasons why non-custodial parents would have a problem paying what the CSA demands, and it’s not because they can’t pay their debts.

And that first sentence is oddly worded. They mean -

FATHERS “owe” their children’s mothers more than $1 billion, despite millions of taxpayer dollars being spent to make these toxic parental relationships worse.

First, it’s a scandal that non-custodial parents can’t ensure that the money they provide IS actually spent on their children.

But here’s a better idea than spending vast sums of public money enforcing the inequality between mothers and children – don’t. Get rid of the CSA. Provide ALL parents with the necessary support they need to raise the next generation, through Centrelink. Provide all children with decent education and health care. If families break down and non-custodial parents with money refuse to have anything to do with their children – then tax them like the rest of us. I don’t have a problem paying for “other people’s kids” – after all, they’re the ones who’ll run the country when I’m old.

And I’d much rather my taxes were being used to give the next generation a decent start in life than spent further poisoning their relationships with their absent parent.

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54 responses to “Well, we’re living in a “deadbeat” country

  1. I have a friend who’s a lawyer. His job is to go after the people who don’t pay child support. They don’t chase those who cannot pay. The debts are there mostly because people who can pay are choosing not to.

    I don’t think having more people on welfare is the answer. I don’t see why when a partner can pay for their children to have a good upbringing we should scrap that in favour of all children with split families being on welfare.

    Just taxing people who refuse to contribute to the children they are responsible for is a cop out – you choose to have children – you pay for it. To say otherwise is to simply say everyone else will pick up the tab. Personal responsibility shouldn’t be brushed aside.

  2. (a) The only people who’d be on welfare would be those whose incomes are at the lowest level; nobody’s proposing putting “all children with split families being on welfare”.

    (b) Everyone else DOES “pick up the tab” already – that’s what welfare is. And we do that because it’s in our own interests for people in our society not to be living in abject poverty.

    (c) Why do you think people who “can” pay are “choosing not to”? Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that child support in practice is not about supporting their children, but supporting their ex-partner?

    (d) Your “personal responsibility” line sounds like the one the anti-choice crowd runs on abortion – you had sex, you should be punished for it! But raising children should not be about punishing people. Most fathers want to provide for their kids – hell, many, many fathers want to provide more than just money for their kids – but that’s not what child support entails.

  3. People who can pay choose not to for various reasons. Often it is greed and a desire to get back at their ex-partner. Children are often pawns in this game.

    No, personal responsibility does NOT make me sound like I am anti-choice. That’s a bid sad you’d lump me in with that scum. Women (and where appropriate their partners) who chose abortion are taking personal responsibility. It’s not about punishment – it’s about people taking responsibility for their children.

    Sure, tinker with the system to make sure kids see the money that one parent is providing to another. I have no problem with that.

  4. The anti-choicers’ argument (with which, I emphasise, I *DO NOT AGREE*) is that abortion is women trying to avoid responsibility for their “choice”, being to have sex. Hey, if they hadn’t had sex, they wouldn’t have gotten pregnant – it was their choice, and they should take responsibility for the consequences.

    That’s very similar to the “he/she had children and should bear responsibility for them” argument – in fact, in the case of men who become fathers against their will, when the mother chooses to have the child they don’t want to have, it’s almost identical. He had sex, he should suffer the consequences…

    Tell me, why do you think the government should be spending taxpayers’ money chasing money to give an advantage to certain kids over other kids? Why do you think it’s a good thing for single parents to be financially dependent on their exes?

  5. Ultimately if you have sex there can be consequences. That is basic science. I think you’re trying to connect two largely unrelated issues and lump me in with a group of people I despise.

    All people have a safety net now – I am not advocating dependence on your ex (what’s with the loaded questions). So if child support isn’t paid then the unpaid parent has government assistance to fall back on.

    Maybe it should be up to the individual to chase up the other parent. I am not concerned on that issue one way or the other.

    Tell me, for example, why should a father with millions of dollars in assets not have to contribute to the expense of raising their child(ren)? They can afford it. What advantage does society have by saying that if one parent doesn’t want to contribute to their child’s welfare, then it doesn’t matter?

    I don’t think any system will be perfect. We have children being raised on various levels of income in Australia now. Are you proposing that children of separated parents can all have a “level playing field” but those with parents still together get whatever those parents can afford? That appears to be the effect of what you’re proposing.

  6. “Ultimately if you have sex there can be consequences. That is basic science.”

    The “scientific” consequences aren’t in issue here. The legal consequences are.

    “I think you’re trying to connect two largely unrelated issues and lump me in with a group of people I despise. “

    I’m not, but I’m showing you a similarity in reasoning.

    “All people have a safety net now – I am not advocating dependence on your ex (what’s with the loaded questions). So if child support isn’t paid then the unpaid parent has government assistance to fall back on.”

    So why do we need to pay for a CSA at all?

    “Maybe it should be up to the individual to chase up the other parent. “

    That’s a bad idea, too – the aim of the law in dealing with ended relationships should be to set both parties up as individuals again, and end the forced financial relationship between them. Not drag it out.

    “Tell me, for example, why should a father with millions of dollars in assets not have to contribute to the expense of raising their child(ren)?”

    They should – through tax. Why is it any different to a father and mother with millions of dollars in assets paying a bare minimum to their children? It isn’t the state’s job to force wealthy people to give their children more than the minimum given to all children.

    “What advantage does society have by saying that if one parent doesn’t want to contribute to their child’s welfare, then it doesn’t matter?”

    It doesn’t spend money on the CSA. It doesn’t make these relationships worse. It doesn’t create a weapon for partners to use against each other.

    “Are you proposing that children of separated parents can all have a “level playing field” but those with parents still together get whatever those parents can afford?”

    Those with parents still together only get what those parents feel like spending, anyway.

    There’s a big difference between the inequalities between children that arise as a result of our economic system – and I regularly advocate for a one tier education system so that at the very basic level all children have at least a good education – and the Government spending money to enforce those inequalities, which is what the CSA does.

  7. We’re coming from quite different perspectives so I am not going to go tit for tat de-constructing everything.

    On a macro level I agree the government is taking an approach that could be seen as inequitable – I don’t agree with your proposed alternative.

    On a mirco level, to that other parent and the children in any one case I think they’d feel it was inequitable seeing the other parent living it up whilst they live on government assistance.

  8. “On a mirco level, to that other parent and the children in any one case I think they’d feel it was inequitable seeing the other parent living it up whilst they live on government assistance.”

    That’s the same as any other person seeing someone they know “living it up” while they survive on welfare.

    Or, in the current system, a sole parent surviving solely on welfare seeing the lucky recipient of extra child support courtesy of the taxpayer-funded CSA.

  9. Australia’s CSA started in the ATO. It has been a model for successful collection and transfer of child support around the world, people coe here to see how we do it. It has a much higher rate of just, accurate payment than any other system going.

  10. CSA is a toothless tiger. I don’t think that you are binded to payments that they decided is fair unless you have centerlink payments, which is $21 a month, or a PAYE job.

    I also know of some men who diliberately earn less or nothing so as to not pay child support.

    The system could do with a lot of tweaking. One thing that is particularly unfair is that they payment rates don’t take into consideration what the parent with primary earns or needs. Assessment of what the other parent earns is the sole basis for deciding what they should pay.

  11. My understanding is that the recent tweaking of the system does exactly that, notallright; the number of care days/nights of each parent and their respective taxable incomes determines how much EACH parent pays towards the care of the child/ren concerned.

    I know a few custodial mothers who were upset by these changes, because their income is superior to their ex partner’s and, under this new system, they now have to pay their ex for the times the children are in his care, rather than just receiving money based upon his income.

    I understood that fathers who care for their children part of the time were reasonably happy with these new arrangements because the burden to provide for their children is being shared in a more equitable fashion. Having said that, I obviously haven’t spoken with all fathers out there and there are, no doubt, some who will always be unhappy with a system that forces them to pay for children they don’t see (for whatever reason).

    Parents who split amicably usually don’t use the CSA system because they have private arrangements both in terms of payments and custody that suit both parties. It is really only where the split has been acrimonious that you need an independent agency to step in and make the arrangements for them.

    No, the system is not perfect, but as someone said before, other countries have followed our example because it appears to be one of the fairest systems around in cases where the parents are unable or unwilling to sort it out amongst themselves.

  12. “other countries have followed our example because it appears to be one of the fairest systems around in cases where the parents are unable or unwilling to sort it out amongst themselves.”

    That’s enormously worrying.

  13. Why Jeremy? If what chinda63 said is right, regards recent tweakings then it sounds like a fairer system then what was the case. My experience is of a bloke living next door to me in Darwin who’s ex earnt far more then him, he was an airline mechanic so not poor, but he still had to pay exorbitant child support fees. Of course there is my own experience of raising 6 kids on my own, 3 of which are step kids, with no child support money. I have lived off what you are suggesting we implement. It is called the single parent pension. I have been lucky enough to live in a house that my grandfather owns so with minimal rent I’ve survived well. For those who don’t have my fortune there is also public housing. I know many who lived in public housing on a pension and providing they weren’t alcoholics or drug addicts they survived quite well.

  14. “I have lived off what you are suggesting we implement. It is called the single parent pension.”

    As do many, many Australian parents. I’m not sure why we should be spending money to get some of them a chunk more money instead of spending that money making the SPP better for all needy Australian parents.

  15. “As do many, many Australian parents. I’m not sure why we should be spending money to get some of them a chunk more money instead of spending that money making the SPP better for all needy Australian parents.”

    This is a good idea, what we have at the moment is not working.My own son who pays his ex a fortune in maintenance, knows full well the money he is paying her goes straight into the local grog shop, TAB, and any where else except to the children.

    To add insult to injury, the vehicle the ex’s new boy-friend drives, the cigarettes he smokes, and booze he swills down his neck like a sailor on shore leave, is being paid for by my son.

    My son who had a pay rise approx 12 months ago was contacted by the CSA about parting with more of his hard earned.He told them to get stuffed, and if they pursued him any more, he would go on the dole.No winners here.

    He has not heard anymore from the CSA or his ex, who has obviously been told, be careful of what you wish for.

  16. ‘That’s very similar to the “he/she had children and should bear responsibility for them” argument – in fact, in the case of men who become fathers against their will, when the mother chooses to have the child they don’t want to have, it’s almost identical. He had sex, he should suffer the consequences…’

    No it isn’t. They are entirely different. Firstly, children are not objects they are human beings and sharing in the conception of a child obligates each parent to at the very minimum contribute financially to the child’s rearing. Children are not objects or animals that can be taken back to the shelter or store; those who become parents have at the very least a financial responsibility towards their children. This does not mean that parenting payment single should not increase above the Henderson Poverty Line, however parents cannot just abscond from their responsibility. I do not think many Australians would find that acceptable.

    Secondly J, unless a man has been sexually assaulted I would argue that he was indeed provided with a choice on whether or not he was prepared to be a father. It was at the point of sexual activity that the man had a choice. The basic premise here is that men have the ability to use contraception in order to minimise the risk of fatherhood. We are all well aware that sexual activity may lead to pregnancy. Thus when having sex one takes a certain amount of risk that it may result in an unwanted pregnancy. I think the key word here is unwanted. To argue that men are forced to be fathers is not correct and frankly insulting to the thousands of single parents in this country.

    On the question on how child support is spent I would like to see evidence that single parents who care for their children the majority of the time squander the money on themselves or on frivolous activities. I would think that the vast majority spend the money wisely to the benefit of their children. I do not think that the parent who has the child in their care the majority of the time ought to be subject to terms and conditions. There is no good reason for such monitoring.

    The changes to how much child support is paid have been detrimental particularly to women as they make up the overwhelming majority of single parent families. Whilst the child may spend time with the other parent it is the single parent who undertakes the majority of the care. This results in women’s careers and work opportunities being limited. Thus they forsake the ability to earn a full time wage so that they can raise their children. The other parent often does not forsake full time employment. This is the reality of the situation and to cut payments to these people is awful. Simply because the child spends every other weekend at the fathers home doesn’t mean that the women’s rent for example decreases. Her landlord doesn’t say oh look the kids are at their dads this weekend so I won’t charge her rent for those rooms while they are away. She continues to have the same expenses by and large but her pay is being reduced. She is in fact being financially penalised for being the main carer.

    How nice it is for men in the majority to just walk away, get on with their lives and enjoy the fruits of their full time paid employment. It disgusts me that women and their children have to live in poverty or struggle to get by whilst negligent fathers are felt sorry for. Lets get a grip here people.

    Yes bring on the quality education, health care etc etc etc. But ensure that children are cared for appropriately and that both parents do their fair share at least financially. You can’t make a person parent but you can make them pay towards the cost of their kid. Simple as that.

  17. Miss P so you would like to see evidence that (why am I replying?) evidence that single parents squander their money.

    Are you having a laugh?Are you serious?Do you live in Australia? Notwithstanding maintenance payments, Centrelink, and long overdue, is regulating payments to single parents, and I might add to two parent families also, where the money is wasted on anything but the welfare of their children.There are not just a few isolated cases in Australia, it is endemic..

    Having a child is not a disease, or cause a disability.When a child reaches school age, mothers as well as fathers. should be obliged to pay for their upkeep.That means mum should just like dad, be forced to work.

    Your off the cuff remark that “most men’ just walk away from their responsibility’s is arrant nonsense.Most men I know pay their ex partners to keep their children, not their ex partners boyfriends, trips to the Greek islands, and botox injections.

    When a person pays money out for ANY reason, they have a right to see and an itemized account of where that money is spent.

    Men quite frankly have had enough of subsidizing their x partners life style, and more and more of them who have been bled dry by the CSA are jacking up and just like their x partners, throwing themselves on the largess of the tax payer.

    The men that do “shoot through’and leave their children in poverty are scum, unfortunately for every bad man, there is a bad women, who have baby’s by numerous male partners because they know it’s easy money.A bit of projection and stereo typing of my own.You don’t like it either do you?..

  18. Miss P, I’m just going to show you something. I DO NOT agree with the following argument, but look how similar it is to yours:

    Abortion is murder. Children are not objects they are human beings and sharing in the conception of a child obligates parents to at the very minimum allow the child to be born. Children are not objects or animals that can be taken back to the shelter or store; those who become pregnant have at the very least a responsibility to let their children live. Pregnant women cannot just abscond from their responsibility. I do not think many Australians would find that acceptable.

    Secondly J, unless a woman has been sexually assaulted I would argue that she was indeed provided with a choice on whether or not she was prepared to be a mother. It was at the point of sexual activity that the woman had a choice. The basic premise here is that women have the ability to use contraception in order to minimise the risk of motherhood. We are all well aware that sexual activity may lead to pregnancy. Thus when having sex one takes a certain amount of risk that it may result in an unwanted pregnancy. I think the key word here is unwanted. To argue that women are forced to be mothers is not correct and frankly insulting to the thousands of single parents in this country. “

    Same argument. You have sex, you must “take responsibility for the consequences”.

    I think that’s garbage.

  19. Jeremy,

    The important point to note in your re-wording of Miss P’s argument is that one of the modifications you made was right at the start, and it was an addition with no corresponding point in her argument – “Abortion is murder”.

    While the arguments may have something in common, they are starting from a different premise. This applies to your response to Aussie Unionist too. It is only if you take the premise the abortion is murder that the argument leads to the anti-abortion position. It is not the logic, but the premise that is the problem.

    There is also a major difference between “people taking responsibility for their children” and “you had sex, you should be punished for it”.

    Essentially the question is whether people should be expected to, where possible, financially provide for their children. There may well be practical arguments against having a Government agency to enforce this, but likening it to anti-abortion arguments seems a bit weird.

  20. “The important point to note in your re-wording of Miss P’s argument is that one of the modifications you made was right at the start, and it was an addition with no corresponding point in her argument – “Abortion is murder”.”

    “Abortion is murder” was just the premise being argued. The point was that the logic to get there is very similar to the logic of “responsibility following sex” that the CSA supporters were running.

    “There is also a major difference between “people taking responsibility for their children” and “you had sex, you should be punished for it”.”

    They’re two sides of the same coin. When you successfully argue that either form of legislation is unfairly onerous on someone – the pregnant mother, the pursued father – the unsympathetic side simply throws down “well they chose to have sex”.

    I’m presuming that many of those in favour of the CSA are in favour of reproductive choice for women, and will have run into that “she chose to have sex” argument before. Hence highlighting the similarity in what they’re arguing here.

  21. Jeremy,

    “”Abortion is murder” was just the premise being argued. The point was that the logic to get there is very similar to the logic of “responsibility following sex” that the CSA supporters were running.”

    I’m trying to distinguish here between the premise and the conclusion. The logic doesn’t lead to “Abortion is murder”, you just had the argument start from there. If you take an unsound premise and bung it on the start of someone’s argument, you can go anywhere. That has nothing to do with their logic, however. You need to show it is wrong, not just associate it with people you don’t like.

    “They’re two sides of the same coin.”

    Really? Taking responsibility for your children and being punished for having sex are “two sides of the same coin”? Oh dear.

    Why?

    “When you successfully argue that either form of legislation is unfairly onerous on someone – the pregnant mother, the pursued father – the unsympathetic side simply throws down “well they chose to have sex”.”

    I’m sorry, but twaddle. You need to be wary of awarding yourself the argument. How have you successfully argued the CSA is “unfairly onerous”? After all, you are not just proposing reforming the CSA, but ditching it altogether.

    I suppose if you genuinely believe you have shown this and your “unsympathetic” opponents simply don’t care, then perhaps your comments about punishment make more sense.

  22. “I’m trying to distinguish here between the premise and the conclusion. The logic doesn’t lead to “Abortion is murder”, you just had the argument start from there.”

    Jesus. I thought the point was obvious. But to clear it up for you, replace “Abortion is murder” with “Women should be forced to continue pregnancies against their will”.

    “You need to show it is wrong, not just associate it with people you don’t like.”

    I think you’ve missed my point. It’s not about associations, it’s about the “responsibilityfor the consequences after having sex” line.

    “You need to be wary of awarding yourself the argument. How have you successfully argued the CSA is “unfairly onerous”?”

    Ugh. I haven’t. Hence the conditional “when”.

    I’m responding to one particular argument in favour of the CSA. It wasn’t the only one given.

  23. Jeremy,

    “Jesus.”

    Sir will do.

    “I thought the point was obvious.”

    OK…

    “But to clear it up for you, replace “Abortion is murder” with “Women should be forced to continue pregnancies against their will”.”

    No need to replace anything.

    Can I say again, when you reworded Miss P’s argument, you added “Abortion is murder” at the start. It was a premise, not a conclusion. In your later post you talked about “the logic to get there”, but the logic didn’t get “there”, you simply started “there”. Adding someone’s logic to someone else’s premise says nothing.

    Even if two people are using the same logic, if they are starting from different positions then the comparison is meaningless. It is “Abortion is murder” which leads to “Women should be forced to continue pregnancies against their will”, not the concept of people taking responsibility for their children.

    Furthermore, you are still conflating two quite different ideas – “people taking responsibility for their children” with “you had sex, you should be punished for it”. Can you not see the difference there?

  24. They’re the same argument.

    Injustice A: woman forced to continue pregnancy.
    Justification A: She had sex, that’s the consequence.

    Injustice B: man forced to pay ex-wife who won’t let him see the kids and who spends the money on herself, not the children.
    Justification B: He had sex, that’s the consequence.

    Same argument. That’s my point. Do you see?

  25. 1. Being forced to continue with a pregnancy is only “the consequence” if you believe abortion is murder. You are oversimplifying the argument.

    2. He didn’t just have sex, he had a child. Again, you are oversimplifying the argument. There are serious, real-world consequences to allowing one parent to ditch their financial responsibilities. In particular, it would make it harder for women to leave violent or controlling husbands (see below about welfare).

    3. Anyway, you are not just arguing against child support payments where one party is not allowed to see their children and the support payments are not being spent on the children. You are arguing to scrap the CSA altogether. So it’s a bit disingenuous to pick that particular example.

    4. Speaking of which, no one is actually claiming the justification you give actually justifies the particular scenario you outline.

    5. Finding superficial similarities between arguments shows nothing. Conservatives love finding alleged parallels to the argument for gay marriage (“He says he loves his car, too”). Arguments stand or fall on their own merits, not because they sound vaguely like another argument.

    So, is it your contention that parents should have the right to no longer financially support their children, or just that it is impractical for a Government agency to enforce this? If the former, does this apply to everyone? If not, why not?

    BTW, I think it would be great if the welfare system was improved to provide better support for single parents and their children. Until that happens, however, these sorts of proposals would be positively dangerous in practice. There is still a fair chunk of the population who resents having single parent benefits at all, usually based on cheap stereotypes about women making piles of cash from having babies. Some of them would support ditching the CSA as well.

  26. Same argument. That’s my point. Do you see?

    I’ve stayed out of this because I don’t have kids and have never had any dealings with the CSA so have nothing to contribute, but no, I don’t see how these two arguments are the same.

    To me the only way you can argue that a woman forced to birth is the same as a man forced to pay child support is where the man in question opposed the pregnancy from the outset, and refused from the get go to have anything to do with the resulting offspring.

    Unfortunately not all fathers, or CSA clientelle fall into that category, therefore that analogy is a false one IMO.

  27. “1. Being forced to continue with a pregnancy is only “the consequence” if you believe abortion is murder. You are oversimplifying the argument.”

    Being forced to pay child support is only “the consequence” if you believe separated parents have financial obligations to each other.

    “2. He didn’t just have sex, he had a child. Again, you are oversimplifying the argument. There are serious, real-world consequences to allowing one parent to ditch their financial responsibilities. In particular, it would make it harder for women to leave violent or controlling husbands (see below about welfare).”

    So, you agree that a father who did not want to have the child should not be forced to pay child support? That’s a change from the status quo.

    (That addresses your point, confessions, too.)

    Obviously I do not believe women should be stuck with controlling or violent husbands – that’s why the sole parent pension should provide a reasonable standard of living.

    “3. Anyway, you are not just arguing against child support payments where one party is not allowed to see their children and the support payments are not being spent on the children. You are arguing to scrap the CSA altogether. So it’s a bit disingenuous to pick that particular example.”

    Do you agree in those circumstances child support should not be payable? If so, that’s a significant change to the status quo.

    “5. Finding superficial similarities between arguments shows nothing. Conservatives love finding alleged parallels to the argument for gay marriage (“He says he loves his car, too”). Arguments stand or fall on their own merits, not because they sound vaguely like another argument.”

    Well thank you for that somewhat patronising lesson in Logic 101. I wasn’t saying the “it’s your responsibility” argument depended on the parallels with the abortion argument; I was simply illustrating it in the hope that those who’ve seen through it in that instance would see through it this time.

    “So, is it your contention that parents should have the right to no longer financially support their children,”

    If they’re such poor parents as that, then yes. I doubt many parents genuinely don’t care about supporting their children – but I’m sure there are many that have a real problem supporting their ex indefinitely.

    ” or just that it is impractical for a Government agency to enforce this? If the former, does this apply to everyone? If not, why not?”

    I’m not sure what you mean. Of course it applies to everyone. Where parents are together, the government doesn’t force them to spend any particular amount on their children, does it?

    “BTW, I think it would be great if the welfare system was improved to provide better support for single parents and their children. Until that happens, however, these sorts of proposals would be positively dangerous in practice.”

    Oh, I’m not proposing that the CSA be abolished and the welfare system stay the same. I’m saying that money should go towards all single parents, not just the ones with an ex to chase after.

  28. (That addresses your point, confessions, too.)

    No, I can’t see how it does now that you’ve brought this back to your overall argument.

    Your original post argues that the CSA be abolished (and subsequently in comments), to be replaced with a tax revenue on such parents. Those who have argued that this is unfair have been dismissed with the forced birthing argument by you.

    This in my view is an invalid comparison. Women rightly have a choice in this country whether to continue a pregnancy or not. Unless you are advocating that men have a similar choice about paying maintenance for children birthed to them, then your analogy is flawed. Clearly they do not. If you want to argue that they should, then set out the conditions under which governments should enact regulations/laws pertaining to their choice to pay other than forced means such as a tax, and we can debate that. Otherwise please don’t link pregnant women and their rights to choose to birth with men and their rights to choose to abdicate parental responsibility for children they may of chosen to bear.

  29. “This in my view is an invalid comparison. Women rightly have a choice in this country whether to continue a pregnancy or not. Unless you are advocating that men have a similar choice about paying maintenance for children birthed to them, then your analogy is flawed.”

    I am advocating that.

    “If you want to argue that they should, then set out the conditions under which governments should enact regulations/laws pertaining to their choice to pay other than forced means such as a tax, and we can debate that.”

    The government shouldn’t. It should tax the wealthy to fund public services. It should provide adequate welfare to all parents below a certain income. It should provide first-rate public schools and healthcare.

    Most parents will provide more than that for their children (although far fewer would provide for their former partners), but it’s not the government’s role to force them to.

    “Women rightly have a choice in this country whether to continue a pregnancy or not. Unless you are advocating that men have a similar choice about paying maintenance for children birthed to them, then your analogy is flawed. Clearly they do not.”

    I’m saying they should.

  30. It should tax the wealthy to fund public services.

    So just to be clear: are you arguing that *all* wealthy should be taxed in this manner regardless of their child issues and responsibilities? And what constitutes ‘wealthy’?

    I’m on an agreement threshold btw, when it comes to “wealthy”, except for the fact that wealth isn’t necessarily defined so arbitrarily.

    I’m saying they should.

    How do you envisage this working? At what point do you draw the line given that you’ve already said higher tax should be the ‘price point’? Where do low/no-income parents fit in this scenario?

  31. “So just to be clear: are you arguing that *all* wealthy should be taxed in this manner regardless of their child issues and responsibilities? And what constitutes ‘wealthy’?”

    Universal progressive taxation to fund public services, yes – the only impact of raising children being that it’s taken into account in determining at what income level the various rates kick in. All children, regardless of their parents, to have the same decent access to education and healthcare, the rich and poor alike. Income tax to be paid according to a sliding scale, as at present, but with fewer loopholes. (CGT at the same rate as income tax, for example.)

  32. “Being forced to pay child support is only “the consequence” if you believe separated parents have financial obligations to each other.”

    They have financial obligations to their children. Child support is for children, not ex partners.

    “So, you agree that a father who did not want to have the child should not be forced to pay child support? That’s a change from the status quo.”

    There is an interesting question there. Probably not, though it needs to be more than “I assumed she was on the pill”, and yes I realise this is a change from the status quo. This situation is the exception though, and what you are proposing goes well beyond this.

    “Obviously I do not believe women should be stuck with controlling or violent husbands – that’s why the sole parent pension should provide a reasonable standard of living.”

    Agreed, and this is, I think, your strongest point. My understanding is that the CSA was as much about trying to save money on welfare payments as helping children, so it could be argued it provides an excuse for not raising the sole parent pension. That said, even if benefits were improved, this would mean a significant drop in the standard of living for some separated parents and an easy means for one to make their partner’s life difficult through the children.

    “Do you agree in those circumstances child support should not be payable? If so, that’s a significant change to the status quo.”

    But not as much of a change as you are proposing. Anyway, no I don’t. If access is being denied then that needs to be fixed. Child support is not a payment for access – both are for the benefit of the children.

    “Well thank you for that somewhat patronising lesson in Logic 101. I wasn’t saying the “it’s your responsibility” argument depended on the parallels with the abortion argument; I was simply illustrating it in the hope that those who’ve seen through it in that instance would see through it this time.”

    You were saying they’re the same argument. They’re not. They only look the same if you grossly over-simplify them.

    “If they’re such poor parents as that, then yes. I doubt many parents genuinely don’t care about supporting their children – but I’m sure there are many that have a real problem supporting their ex indefinitely.”

    They are supporting their children, not their ex. This is the problem. This is why many don’t pay. They need to grow up. All of this would be unnecessary if people stopped being so juvenile after relationship break ups.

    “I’m not sure what you mean. Of course it applies to everyone. Where parents are together, the government doesn’t force them to spend any particular amount on their children, does it?”

    We have laws against child neglect. Parents who are still together cannot just decide to stop supporting their children and make the state pick up the tab.

    “Oh, I’m not proposing that the CSA be abolished and the welfare system stay the same. I’m saying that money should go towards all single parents, not just the ones with an ex to chase after.”

    But the changes you are suggesting will only be remotely safe if the changes to the welfare system happen first, and I very much doubt that the men who complain about paying money to their ex’s all support increasing sole parent benefits.

  33. “They have financial obligations to their children. Child support is for children, not ex partners.”

    Not the way the CSA works it isn’t. If it was, non custodial parents would have the power to make sure that money was going to the children. They don’t.

    “There is an interesting question there. Probably not, though it needs to be more than “I assumed she was on the pill”, and yes I realise this is a change from the status quo.

    Um, no – if she decides she wants to keep the child, and he doesn’t, then that’s her decision, not his. If he says he doesn’t want a child, and she has it anyway, then his only participation was having sex with her.

    The “responsibility for having sex” crowd would charge him child support for 18 years anyway because, hey, it was his choice to have sex even though he didn’t want a child! Just like the “responsibility for having sex” crowd would tell her she should be prevented from having an abortion, and for the same reason.

    “You were saying they’re the same argument. They’re not. They only look the same if you grossly over-simplify them.”

    They are the same argument.

    “But not as much of a change as you are proposing. Anyway, no I don’t. If access is being denied then that needs to be fixed. Child support is not a payment for access – both are for the benefit of the children.”

    Not in the current system it’s not. And note, the argument about all the extra expenses incurred by the custodial parent, having to have a house the kids can stay in etc, are mirrored by the non-custodial parent – they’ve got to have somewhere for the kids to stay, too.

    “That said, even if benefits were improved, this would mean a significant drop in the standard of living for some separated parents and an easy means for one to make their partner’s life difficult through the children.”

    Actually, one of my biggest problems with the CSA is how it provides people “an easy means for one to make their partner’s life difficult through the children”. Separated partners should not have their finances tied together. They should be able to move on, without relying on someone with whom they have broken up – or being relied on.

    “We have laws against child neglect. Parents who are still together cannot just decide to stop supporting their children and make the state pick up the tab.”

    If someone was providing their kids with support at the level of the pension, they would not be charged with child neglect.

    The CSA is about making ex-partners liable for payments ABOVE the level of the pension for kids who no longer live with them. It’s a special punishment for separated parents, a legal responsibility that’s not placed on parents who are together.

    “But the changes you are suggesting will only be remotely safe if the changes to the welfare system happen first, and I very much doubt that the men who complain about paying money to their ex’s all support increasing sole parent benefits.”

    You’re probably right. But that’s the politics of it. We’re talking about what would be a better system. I agree the CSA should not be abolished until the sole parent pension is improved.

    But I think both these things should happen ASAP.

  34. I’d better leave it there. I really should get back to work.

  35. Universal progressive taxation to fund public services, yes – the only impact of raising children being that it’s taken into account in determining at what income level the various rates kick in. All children, regardless of their parents, to have the same decent access to education and healthcare, the rich and poor alike. Income tax to be paid according to a sliding scale, as at present, but with fewer loopholes.

    Yes, absolutely every child should benefit from universal access to publicly funded services – get public funding out of the provision of private sector service delivery arm as far as I’m concerned.

    But what you are advocating is that no parent be compelled to have their wage garnisheed by the CSA to support non-custodial children, but instead pay more tax. Unless CSA deductions are after-tax, how does imposing a greater tax burden work for those who can legally minimise their tax through deductions? It just doesn’t seem a very transparent mechanism to me in terms of ensuring that non-custodial parents meet their financial obligations to their child’s rearing.

    And I still don’t like the analogy with forced birthing. As I said before it’s only true in those instances where fathers are compelled to pay child support for offspring they neither wanted, nor agreed to support from the outset. It doesn’t work for fathers in other situations.

  36. Fred Phillips

    “The CSA is about making ex-partners liable for payments ABOVE the level of the pension for kids who no longer live with them. It’s a special punishment for separated parents, a legal responsibility that’s not placed on parents who are together.”

    On the whole, you’ll find parents who are together don’t support their children at the level of the pension unless their combined income allows them only to do that. Would you accept that the amount parents spend on their children when they (the parents) are still together correlates with the parents’ income? Because as a matter of policy, it is easy to see why it is reasonable to expect those parents to continue to maintain that same standard of living after they separate to the extent possible, with the obvious exception (which the child support system currently takes into account) being that the parent who has moved out now has a second home to maintain.

    The system you propose – unless I misunderstand you – is that whereas I contriuted a certain amount to the costs of raising my children while I was with their mother, I can opt out of doing so based on my assessment that none or not enough of the money is actually being used to support the children. You don’t propose that a father should have to prove this in order to opt out; his suspicion based on third-hand info received down the pub will suffice as it is entirely his call.

    Remember it is about maintenance of a reasonable standard of living based on parents’ incomes, premised on the assumption (mirrored in reality) that when the parents were together (or had they been together, in the case of parents who never cohabited after the child’s birth) they did provide (or would have provided) a level of financial support to their children commensurate with what their collective income would allow.

    Now, your system takes something away from the children something that they either had or would have had, namely, that standard of living reasonably commensurate with the parents’ income. And it takes it away at dad’s option, which presumably he doesn’t need to justify to anyone. And then it penalises taxpayers who need to compensate to pay for your proposed increases to sole parent pension payments which will no doubt be necessary when thousands of morally bankrupt dads happily accept the invitiation to stop paying support to their ex-partners.

    Rest assured that will be the result of your proposed system – dads taking up the option to pay nothing, with a great many children thereby suffering lower standards of living than they do under the current system, your increased sole parent payments nothwithstanding.

    Child support payments are not “punishment” to fathers. They are – though some angry fathers might disagree – or are at least intended to be a reasonable contribution to the costs of raising a child, which are the same whether or not the parents are together.

    You question why a single mother with an ex to chase should get more support than one who doesn’t and why the government should (through the CSA) enforce this inequality. This seems to deny the reality that children in intact families enjoy varying degrees of financial support based on their parents’ incomes. You have not explained why they should all suddenly receive the same just because dad decided to walk out on them.

    (Apologies for length, any unintended snarkiness of tone, poorly worded thoughts and inability to code properly, among other things.)

  37. “You question why a single mother with an ex to chase should get more support than one who doesn’t and why the government should (through the CSA) enforce this inequality. This seems to deny the reality that children in intact families enjoy varying degrees of financial support based on their parents’ incomes. You have not explained why they should all suddenly receive the same just because dad decided to walk out on them.”

    The big difference is that the GOVERNMENT is not spending taxpayers’ money enforcing that inequality.

    I also think that the most serious and problemmatic areas of inequality between children – schools, healthcare – should be resolved. I don’t agree that some children deserve a better standard of education than others simply because of who their parents are and what they’re prepared to spend.

    “Rest assured that will be the result of your proposed system – dads taking up the option to pay nothing, with a great many children thereby suffering lower standards of living than they do under the current system, your increased sole parent payments nothwithstanding.”

    Increased sole parent payments would give a better standard of living to many more kids than the loss of the CSA would affect.

    “On the whole, you’ll find parents who are together don’t support their children at the level of the pension unless their combined income allows them only to do that.”

    That’s true – but the point is they’re not forced to do more by the government. They do more because they care about their kids.

    Why do you think they suddenly won’t care about their kids just because they’ve separated from the other parent?

  38. Fred Phillips

    “Why do you think they suddenly won’t care about their kids just because they’ve separated from the other parent?”

    Because I’ve been practising family law for the last 15 years. I would accept that the dads I deal with are probably not representative of dads generally – or even separated dads generally, perhaps – but my experience is that many a child support buck is handed over in a clenched fist and that a great many dads would have no trouble getting to sleep at night paying much less, or nothing at all, to their former partners.

    You’re right when you say “they’re not forced to do more by the government”, but they are to some extent forced to by the children themselves and by their spouses. When you don’t live with them anymore, you don’t even hear the pleas for this or that, much less have to look them in the eye when you don’t oblige. I think we are kidding ourselves if we imagine that a self-policing child support system wouldn’t massively reduce the overall levels of child support being paid.

  39. “many a child support buck is handed over in a clenched fist and that a great many dads would have no trouble getting to sleep at night paying much less, or nothing at all, to their former partners.”

    Well, quite. Of course, many of those same dads would be happy to support their children, but have a real problem handing cash to an ex.

    “I think we are kidding ourselves if we imagine that a self-policing child support system wouldn’t massively reduce the overall levels of child support being paid.”

    I think most fathers who wanted to have the child will still want to have a relationship with that child, and therefore be willing to support them – the child, that is, not the mother.

    Fathers who never wanted the child in the first place are another story, of course – but then, forcing them to pay child support simply because they had sex and the mother chose to have the child is pretty much the “sex = responsibility for children” line beloved of those on a particular side in another argument.

  40. “Of course, many of those same dads would be happy to support their children, but have a real problem handing cash to an ex.”

    This is what I don’t get. If the problem is that they don’t believe the money is going towards supporting their children, why aren’t they complaining about that, instead of complaining about the child support payments?

    If my children were in someone else’s care and I genuinely believed they were not being looked after properly, I would be outraged. I would be talking to child protection, my lawyer, my MP, anyone. They are my children.

    What I wouldn’t do is try to stop paying support and just forget about them.

    If the problem is that the money is not going to the children, then stopping support payments does not solve that problem.

    Ditto if access is being denied. That is the problem which needs to be fixed.

    Stopping payments only solves the problem if the problem is the payments.

  41. Fred Phillips

    Exactly, Aurgh, and it’s disappointing when a lawyer perpetuates the bullshit notion that there should be some correlation between child support payments and access, as though the two are connected in some way.

    The argument that if my ex is spending part of my child support payments on herself then the solution is for me to give her nothing (which is what Jeremy is arguing) is a complete non sequitur.

    “Fathers who never wanted the child in the first place are another story, of course – but then, forcing them to pay child support simply because they had sex and the mother chose to have the child is pretty much the “sex = responsibility for children” line beloved of those on a particular side in another argument.”

    Yeah, the burden should fall solely to the mother in that instance just because she had the biological bad luck to be the parent who got to give birth. I guess she should have thought of that before not having an abortion, huh?

  42. ‘This is what I don’t get. If the problem is that they don’t believe the money is going towards supporting their children, why aren’t they complaining about that, instead of complaining about the child support payments?”

    That’s not the whole problem. The fundamental problem is financially tying former partners together. It’s not healthy for either of them. It’s not good for their post-separation relationship, and it’s not good for the kids to have parents feeling they’re being robbed by the other, or still dependent on them.

    Fred – cheers for the swipe at me through my profession.

  43. Fred,

    Thanks, though reading your first sentence I think I am going to have to get a new screen name.

    Jeremy,

    “The fundamental problem is financially tying former partners together. It’s not healthy for either of them.”

    I’m sorry, but I still don’t get it. If I was in that situation I would put up with it to make sure my children were both emotionally and financially supported. I would not walk away, and frankly I don’t trust anyone that would to be genuinely acting in the best interests of their children.

    “…and it’s not good for the kids to have parents feeling they’re being robbed by the other…”

    Which is why you don’t play out your conflicts in front of the children, or badmouth your ex to them.

    It’s also not good for the kids to have a parent absolve themselves of all responsibilities for their children’s welfare. No child is going to say “Oh well, mummy/daddy had to move on. It’s much healthier for all of us.” (And BTW, are both parents allowed to do that?)

    Like it or not, separated parents are still tied to their children. You get to divorce your partner, not your children. This means, of course, that the parents will need some sort of relationship, even if it is only indirect. Most separated parents can handle this.

    For those situations where one or both of the parents are too juvenile to do so, we have to work out the best system for making sure the children are properly looked after. What exactly that system is I’m not sure, but I do think we should ignore the self-serving justifications some people make for not supporting their own children.

  44. I’m not suggesting people shouldn’t support their own children. Most parents do, even though the government doesn’t step in to force them to.

    I’m arguing that the government shouldn’t be taking from one parent and giving to the other. That the CSA works to make parental relationships worse; it lets parents use their kids as a weapon; it creates injustices.

    Let parents support their kids as parents always have done. Those shoddy parents who don’t want to have anything to do with their kids are few and far between, and it’s up to the welfare system to make sure no kids are left behind.

    The CSA is the government enforcing one set of kids’ privileges over another set of kids. It’s simply inequitable.

  45. I’m arguing that the *government* shouldn’t be taking from one parent and giving to the other. That the CSA works to make parental relationships worse; it lets parents use their kids as a weapon; it creates injustices.

    This is a much clearer and far more compelling argument than your earlier ones. I can see now what you are suggesting.

  46. “Most parents do, even though the government doesn’t step in to force them to.”

    Agreed, and if everyone could we wouldn’t be having this debate.

    “I’m arguing that the government shouldn’t be taking from one parent and giving to the other.”

    …for the children.

    “…it lets parents use their kids as a weapon…”

    I’d argue removing it would make that worse.

    “…it creates injustices…”

    Ditto.

    And I must say it sounds as if you are arguing for a right to walk away, and using some of the old stories about mothers mis-spending money to justify this.

    “Those shoddy parents who don’t want to have anything to do with their kids are few and far between…”

    I wish I had your confidence on this.

    “…it’s up to the welfare system to make sure no kids are left behind.”

    Agreed.

    Anyway, I think there are a lot of red herrings in this debate, though that probably just goes to illustrate that if the parents can’t agree on a fair arrangement between themselves, they won’t accept a government arrangement.

  47. “Anyway, I think there are a lot of red herrings in this debate, though that probably just goes to illustrate that if the parents can’t agree on a fair arrangement between themselves, they won’t accept a government arrangement.”

    Indeed. Which is why I say that the support of children should not be left to the vagaries of which ones have non-custodial parents to chase. They should all be properly and fairly covered by welfare. The non-contributing parents can simply be taxed with the rest of us.

  48. Fred Phillips

    It’s OUR profession, not yours, Jeremy. And my point was that, as a lawyer, your readers will place more stock in your opinions regarding legal matters than they would if you were in some other profession, which is why you should take extra care not to misrepresent things and/or entrench views which are simply incorrect e.g. that there is or ought to be some connection between the payment of child support and the provision of child visits to the non-custodial parent.

    “Let parents support their kids as parents always have done. Those shoddy parents who don’t want to have anything to do with their kids are few and far between…”

    Sorry, but where are you getting this from? It’s great that you have such faith in separated dads. However, I’d recommend you speak to some ladies who were trying to extract sensible levels of financial support from their ex-partners prior to 1989 when the current child support system came in, then get back to us. The prior system was so inept that it was basically an honour system and it was mostly a joke. Women had to go to the Family Court to get their “maintenance”. This was both difficult and (for the majority who didn’t qualify for legal aid) usually prohibitively expensive. Great for dads, though. That is why they brought in the current system – because, contrary to your claim, many dads did not support their kids to a fair level. The current system is not perfect, but it is a lot fairer across the board then the pre-1989 one.

  49. “It’s OUR profession, not yours, Jeremy. “

    Oh, ffs. I was objecting to your method of having a go at me, personally.

    “And my point was that, as a lawyer, your readers will place more stock in your opinions regarding legal matters than they would if you were in some other profession”

    I’m sorry, what in this post could be construed as legal advice?

    “which is why you should take extra care not to misrepresent things and/or entrench views which are simply incorrect e.g. that there is or ought to be some connection between the payment of child support and the provision of child visits to the non-custodial parent.”

    I’ll thank you not to allege misrepresentation in the same breath as talking about my professional responsibilities. In any case, this is clearly a political argument, and whilst I’ve never suggested that there is such a connection, I’m perfectly free to suggest that there ought to be.

    Just as free as you are to argue that there oughtn’t.

    “Women had to go to the Family Court to get their “maintenance”.”

    There’s your problem. They should just have to go to Centrelink.

  50. Fred Phillips

    I never said you were giving legal advice.

  51. Fred Phillips

    Compare and contrast:

    “In any case, this is clearly a political argument, and whilst I’ve never suggested that there is such a connection, I’m perfectly free to suggest that there ought to be.

    From an earlier thread on this issue:

    “I have serious doubts that making money the determining factor over whether parents see them is compatible with that.”

  52. Fred Phillips

    To clarify: you have previously suggested there is a connection. Which there isn’t.

  53. You’re right – in the previous post on this subject (not this one) I did talk about the connection which does exist between access and child support levels, in responding to this argument by a mothers’ rights advocacy organisation:

    The submission says: “Parents are saying they don’t want money. They would be happy to forgo maintenance payments if it saves their child from having to spend half the week with a parent who does not really want to parent them, but whose main objective is to avoid child support.”

    QED.

  54. I cannot believe the nerve of one of the comments…subsidising an ex’s lifestyle! The current government scheme is far from generous, and if I added up everything it cost me to raise my 16 year old in a year, I can tell you there would be a huge difference between that & what maintenance is received. Also, there are now many parents out there who, although they pay maintenance according to the law, do nothing to emotionally support their children or encourage them to achieve. Also, some find any reason they can, even faking illnesses to get out of work and avoid helping to support their children. It is time both men & women accept that if a baby is the result of a relationship whether it be current or not, it does not end the responsibility to the child. Your children are your responsiblity for life, it doesn’t end just because you don’t get on with the other parent.

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