Children "sharing in the wealth of their parents"
Does it make sense for children to share the wealth of their parents?
Sharing wealth and the "Small Fortunes" research
Sharing wealth with the Treasury
How could and should wealth be shared?
Related topic - The cost of children
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How could and should wealth be shared?

Ways of sharing wealth

There are at least 3 different ways for a child to benefit from a parent's wealth:

  1. Using an under-exploited luxury (durable or infrastructure) at no additional cost. For example, using the swimming pool.
  2. Using an extension to some expensive asset (infrastructure), at marginal extra cost. For example, a nice bedroom in a luxury house.
  3. Having more expensive consumables. For example, luxury food, designer clothes, holidays.

"3" can be handled via child support payments, but in some cases only if the other parent also benefits.

"1" & "2" are practically impossible to handle this way, without duplicating the entire asset for the other parent. It only really makes sense to handle them via direct experience, eg. shared-care. Unless, somehow, something bought with child support money can compensate for these.

I believe that, without thinking hard enough about this, the government is fully aware that children of wealthy parents DO tend to benefit from that wealth. But the government hasn't grasped how hard it is to continue to share the wealth after separation. However, until they sort out shared care, they will try to continue the wealth sharing by means of child support payments.

Wealth sharing via shared care

A good way for children to share in the wealth of both parents is to spend time with each. They can eat caviar when the wealthy parent does, swim in the pool, ride in the Roller, etc. And in this way, "child support" is more than money. At what degree of sharing should the financial responsibilities of child support be cancelled out? Tricky, but I favour a symmetrical formula, where each parent, being absent for part of the time, pays the other during that time.

But what if a parent doesn't want to care for the child part of the time? Tough - that is when the symmetrical child support formula above becomes expensive! A wealthy parent who simply doesn't want to look after the children will end up paying a lot! It will start to blur the boundaries between child support & spousal support - but whose fault is that? As I said, tough!

But what happens if it isn't that parent who is "at fault", but the child simply doesn't want this level of contact? This is where things are currently poorly thought out. What happens is the non-resident parent gets zapped for lots of money that blurs the boundary between child support & spousal support, to the advantage of the recipient who now has every reason to persuade the child to act like that.

How about this? The child is asked by the court "do you want to spend part of the time with each parent?" and told "if you refuse to spend part of the time with one of the parents, that parent can revert to "liability to maintain", and you lose the right to "share in the wealth". In other words, the "proper" way of sharing in the wealth is by staying with the parent, and the child must accept the consequences of not doing so.

The child would have a responsibility towards the nonresident parent to match the rights!

Is this too big a decision to ask a child to make? Possibly. Is it open to abuse? Probably. But so is the current system. I'm trying to identify an approach where it is the party who is being unreasonable who loses out rather than benefiting. Call it justice, call it social engineering - so what? (I haven't arrived a good answer yet - but neither has anyone else!)

Awarding child support to the child

There is another step which I believe is very important, but the UK hasn't grasped it yet - child support should be formally awarded to the child, not to the parent with care. When the child is young, this only makes symbolic difference, but as the child gets older, it may bring to the surface what child support is REALLY for - goods & services for the benefit of the child. And the child may want someone other than the parent with care to provide these goods & services sometimes.

Page last updated: 17 December, 2003 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003