Agenda for the 21st Century
Child Support Agenda for the 21st Century
Parents should have equal status by default
Partners should know about paternity
All children should have been accepted children
Eliminate sex discrimination from child support
There should be no Treasury saving or state compulsion
Child support should be formally awarded to the children
Use a formula to determine the amount
Have closer ties between child support administration and family courts
Use a symmetrical formula that treats both parents similarly
Household benefits/credits should not be treated as income
Amounts should relate to spend on children, not wealth
Also - Exclusions from the Agenda for the 21st Century
Also - A method of judging proposals
Also - International Agenda for the 21st Century
Related topic - Can Child Support Agencies ever work?
Related topic - The 21st Century is making the reformed scheme obsolete
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Parents should have equal status by default

By default, both parents should have equal status & rights & responsibilities, de jure and de facto.

Scope

There are 2 domains of discussion here, and both must be addressed. These are:

  1. The status of parents for purposes of residency & contact, and other rights & responsibilities, determined by the family law system..
  2. The status of parents for purposes of responsibility for financial support, determined by the child support system.

Many people confuse the 2 domains. This confusion is "helped" by the misleading terminology used by the child support system. The terms "parent with care" and "non resident parent" appear to be terms used by a system concerned with residency & contact, whereas in fact they are not. They are legal terms used by a financial services organisation (the CSA) and their legal meaning is not the same as the English meaning of those words. Their legal meanings are (respectively) "person with the right to receive child support maintenance" and "person with the responsibility to pay child support maintenance". They are not discussed further on this page - other pages cater for the status of parents within the financial support domain:

Use a symmetrical formula for shared-care

This page is concerned with the status of parents for purposes of residency & contact, etc. In effect, it is concerned with all aspects of parental rights & responsibilities other than financial support.

What?

By default, both parents should have equal status & rights & responsibilities, de jure and de facto.

This is not the same as saying that separated parents should care for their children equal amounts of time, nor that they should contribute equal amounts of money to the financial support of their children. Such cases will probably continue to be unusual, although perhaps increasingly less rare. But while the quantities may differ, the qualities should, by default, be the same.

The statement above emphasises that this is to be achieved in practice, not just in law. It is clear first that options for inequality left open in law tend to be taken up, and second that signs of inequality get picked up and amplified by others who don't understand, or perhaps don't agree with, the original intentions.

Why?

Decisions made by the family law system affect not only the specific factors they are aimed at (such as where the child lives much of the time), but also have an impact "downstream". Other people & systems interact with the earlier decision in ways that the legislators probably didn't intend.

The child support system has been bolted into a society where, typically, fathers are discriminated against in the family law system, often being (at best) parents with contact not parents with residence. This reduces their practical rights towards bringing up the children. The child support system then makes them responsible for the explicit element of financial support for their children. The result is that instead of being seen as a necessary balancing of rights & responsibilities, the child support system is seen as part of a larger system which says:

  • Mothers have the right to bring up children
  • Fathers have the responsibility to pay for children

This web site is not the place to discuss the advantages & disadvantages of shared-parenting. It is concerned with identifying how to design and operate an effective child support system in the decades to come. The latter will only happen if the social inequalities amplified by a child support system are reduced or or preferably eliminated. The current stereotype in the UK after separation is:

Lone Mother on Income Support with young children
+ Absent Father with significant income

The target paradigm is:

Separated parents
with balanced rights & responsibilities towards their children

How?

Under current law, the simplest start is to make shared residence orders available by default.

Shared Residence

References

Relationship to other Agenda items
Child support should be formally awarded to the children This is more loosely related. However, it is intended to remind parents "child support is for the child, not for one of you". Money typically still has to be paid from one parent to the other (even with a symmetrical formula) but this makes it clearer that it is not because of an adult's right to receive money, but it is an adult's responsibility to administer the joint money.
Eliminate sex discrimination from child support The current sex discrimination at the "equal sharing" position obviously stops the formula being symmetrical.
Use a symmetrical formula that treats both parents similarly It therefore follows that having a symmetrical formula for the "responsibilities" part is compatible.
Other pages in this web site
Glossary of Terms The terms parent with care and non resident parent have no part in a future child support environment.
Child support & Shared Care - overview This article skims the surface - the details are in the linked articles.
Potential lobby groups
Families Need Fathers  
Other relevant external links
Family Law Act 1996  

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

(United Nations)

Article 5. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:
(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women;
(b) To ensure that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children, it being understood that the interest of the children is the primordial consideration in all cases.

Article 16. 1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:
(c) The same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution;
(d) The same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital status, in matters relating to their children; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;
(f) The same rights and responsibilities with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children, or similar institutions where these concepts exist in national legislation; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;

Convention on the Rights of the Child

(United Nations)

Article 5
States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention.

Article 7
1. The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and. as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.

Article 9
1. States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. Such determination may be necessary in a particular case such as one involving abuse or neglect of the child by the parents, or one where the parents are living separately and a decision must be made as to the child's place of residence.
2. In any proceedings pursuant to paragraph 1 of the present article, all interested parties shall be given an opportunity to participate in the proceedings and make their views known.
3. States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child's best interests. 4. Where such separation results from any action initiated by a State Party, such as the detention, imprisonment, exile, deportation or death (including death arising from any cause while the person is in the custody of the State) of one or both parents or of the child, that State Party shall, upon request, provide the parents, the child or, if appropriate, another member of the family with the essential information concerning the whereabouts of the absent member(s) of the family unless the provision of the information would be detrimental to the well-being of the child. States Parties shall further ensure that the submission of such a request shall of itself entail no adverse consequences for the person(s) concerned.

Article 10
2. A child whose parents reside in different States shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis, save in exceptional circumstances personal relations and direct contacts with both parents. Towards that end and in accordance with the obligation of States Parties under article 9, paragraph 1, States Parties shall respect the right of the child and his or her parents to leave any country, including their own, and to enter their own country. The right to leave any country shall be subject only to such restrictions as are prescribed by law and which are necessary to protect the national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Convention.

Article 12
1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

Article 18
1. States Parties shall use their best efforts to ensure recognition of the principle that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child. Parents or, as the case may be, legal guardians, have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child. The best interests of the child will be their basic concern.

Article 21
States Parties that recognize and/or permit the system of adoption shall ensure that the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration and they shall:
(a) Ensure that the adoption of a child is authorized only by competent authorities who determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures and on the basis of all pertinent and reliable information, that the adoption is permissible in view of the child's status concerning parents, relatives and legal guardians and that, if required, the persons concerned have given their informed consent to the adoption on the basis of such counselling as may be necessary;

A woman says to a man, "I haven't seen you around here."
"Yes, I just got out of jail for killing my wife."
"So you're single."

Page last updated: 19 December, 2003 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003