Weblog archive for June 2005

8th June 2005

Australia proposes using the cost of raising children as a factor

The Australian scheme was examined by UK MPs and Government before the new UK scheme was devised. Now Australia is considering changing its formula away from a strict percentage scheme.

Sometimes people have legitimate grievances about what they're paying or what they are being paid and we do need to go through this process of reviewing it. But you can never get perfect outcomes - the human angst often involved is such that you just can't rise above it. 

Australian Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson

"Rich fathers would pay less maintenance after separation but poor fathers may pay more in a dramatic overhaul of child support being considered by the Howard Government.

"The proposals, in a paper to be released for public debate soon, would ensure wealthy fathers pay only the amount that it takes to raise their children. At present non-custodial fathers pay a fixed percentage of their income until they earn more than $130,000 - even if that forces them to pay more than it costs their former wife to provide for the child. But moves are afoot to scrap the old formula - 18 per cent for one child, 27 per cent for two children and 32 per cent for three - and replace it with a figure that economists calculate as the true cost of raising a child.

"At the other end of the income scale, poorer fathers would be forced to pay more than the current minimum of $5 a week. Some 300,000 fathers on the dole or earning very low wages would pay at least $10 a week, plus an extra amount for each further child, from their modest incomes."

Departing from the percentage method is not necessarily popular:

"The fathers' lobby is gearing up to fight the changes, with a rally planned for Canberra on June 20".

28th June 2005

Divorce mediation scheme flops

It is obvious that this pilot project was simply a sham to get the government out of a political hole. Ministers wanted to neutralise the protests from fathers' groups, and this project was the plan they cooked up to do it. However, while the government have wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds on a phoney project, children are being denied contact with parents who love them. It is time that the government admitted defeat, scrapped the pilot project and addressed the real problem, that the family justice system needs a complete and radical overhaul. 

Theresa May, shadow secretary of state for the family

"Plans to introduce a child-friendly way of dealing with battles between separated parents have been derailed after a pilot procedure was completed by just 23 couples in nine months....

"Experience in the US, where many states passed laws providing for mandatory mediation nearly 25 years ago, shows that it defuses parental battles and dramatically reduces the number of court cases.

Among those supporting compulsory mediation are district judge Nicholas Crichton, who oversees the family resolutions pilot at Wells Street magistrates' court in London, and Dr Hamish Cameron, a child psychiatrist who, with Judge Crichton, helped devise the "early intervention" scheme, which was scrapped in favour of the government's family resolutions project. Dr Cameron, who has nearly 35 years' experience in court cases involving children, said: "We're 10 to 15 years behind best practice in other countries. We're still failing many children in this country.""

29th June 2005

Some reading about male contraceptives

The male pill will fill a genuine economic need. Child support levels are rising, generally comprising 15-25% of take-home pay for one child, in addition to add-ons for child care, health care, and other costs.... The pill will help ensure that men only have children in the context that's best for men - a stable marriage.... The male birth control pill will also create great changes, but these changes will not be to some women's liking. Be careful what you ask for - you might get it. 

Glenn Sacks

It is worth showing some thought-provoking articles. The ideal male contraceptive would be reliable, safe, unobtrusive, and reversible. My guess for some time has been that it will be about 2010 before this is available. The RISUG technology in India appears to have good characteristics.

A constant theme in all articles about male contraception is that women wouldn't trust men to use "the pill" or whatever the contraceptive of choice is. This misses the point. Male contraception like this is for men, not necessarily for women. Becoming a father accidentally can be financially and emotionally serious for men, and men often want to avoid this, irrespective of what the women want.

This may be the last generation in "the Western world" when a significant proportion of children born were not wanted, or at least accepted, by both man & woman at time of sex.

30th June 2005

More extreme claims about misattributed paternity

What I found was that there were a couple of offhand statements which have been repeated so often they've been accepted as fact and when you actually look at the evidence, it's really weak. 

Michael Gilding, Professor of Sociology at Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology


Sue Price, Co-director of the Men's Rights Agency

Misattributed paternity, referring to men who believe they are the biological fathers when in fact they are not, continues to be a hot topic. For obvious reasons! This time, there is debate in Australia about the rate. Is it 1% or 30% of the population?

The answer is almost certainly "no" to both numbers. It is a pity to see a holy war taking place over the numbers, when it should be obvious that: no one knows for sure; it varies depending on the situation; and precise numbers are irrelevant.

There is a "survey of surveys" on this site, with more than 50 references, covering nearly 50 years across the world. It should dispel any myth that anyone knows what the rate is in the general population, or indeed that there is a single number that can sensibly be used. It varies by culture, by "class" or wealth, probably by birth order, certainly by the fragility of the relationship, hence higher numbers in child support cases.

It appears that "father's groups" claim higher numbers, while those skeptical about their claims, or who perhaps oppose easy availability of paternity testing for other reasons, claim lower numbers. These appear to be knee-jerk reactions. All of these positions appear to miss the point:

  • If the rate of misattributed paternity is indeed very low, then paternity testing is not a threat. The result of a test will nearly always be "you are the father", and the man now has peace of mind. That is surely worth having, compared with causing men to live with unwarranted suspicions, which can't be good for the relationship or the children?
  • However, if the rate of misattributed paternity is actually quite high, for example more than 10%, this is a serious problem that society needs at least to understand, and preferably resolve. Biological parentage isn't some arbitrary matter than can simply be trumped by social parentage. It demonstrably matters to many men and to many children. And it is likely to become more important as results from the Human Genome project turn into diagnostics and treatments for disorders.

Paternity testing, including "motherless" testing, should be freely available. However, Avi Lasarow, Managing Director of DNA Bioscience, has expressed the importance that those requesting the test consider carefully the emotional impact if the test does not deliver the desired result. Paternity tests mostly deliver good news, but sometimes they don't.

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