Deadbeat Dads

Among all the beat-up by the National Party about beneficiaries, I’m wondering why we don’t hear anything from political parties about deadbeat dads. You know, the parents (almost inevitably male, in my experience) who are estranged from their children and the caregiving parent, and do everything possible to avoid paying child support.

I’ve heard numerous complaints from women over the years about this. I’ve even heard men, usually after a few beers, bragging about how they get away with paying minimal child support.

Now, there’s probably not much that can be done about the ones who just take off overseas. But there are those who remain in New Zealand, using devices such as self-employment, employment on a very low wage by a company they own, and Loss Attributing Qualifying Companies, to minimise their taxable income, and consequently minimise their child support payments.

The term “bludger” to me far more accurately describes child support avoiders than it does the women who are forced onto a benefit in order to care for their children.

Isn’t it time that we reviewed the Child Support Act to allow Inland Revenue to go behind the declared taxable income and assess the real ability of deadbeat dads to provide for their children?

And why isn’t the National Party targeting the deadbeat dads, rather than the solo mums? Could it be because a high proportion of them vote National?

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20 thoughts on “Deadbeat Dads

  1. I notice the usual libertarian welfare-bashers seem to be conspicuously absent from this topic. How surprising. 🙂

  2. Umm, I think you’ll find that Judith Collins has used the term “Deadbeat Dads” in recent times. That is, according to Dad for Justice, who is an expert on Deadbeat Dads.

    Sorry to disappoint (in more ways than one).

  3. Actually, the Family Party has quite a bit of policy on runaway fathers. Our perspective is that a father has the same responsibility for his children, and right to see them, as the mother. If he isn’t going to stick around he at least has to pay child support. Along with this however comes the right to equal access.

    Therefore we would:
    – Review all current welfare benefits that insentivise parental separation, such as the Domestic Purposes Benefit
    – Promote the role of fathers in the home
    – Demand greater accountabilities from fathers towards their children
    – Place a greater emphasis towards ‘shared parenting’ (and equal access to both parents) as the goal where parental reconciliation is not achievable
    – Ensure a father’s right to fair access to his children is fairly represented
    – Empower the Family Court to order paternal testing to establish the identity of biological parents

    Plus heaps of other policies to strengthen families. Allowing the Family Court to order paternal testing means that the father’s identity can be found out for certain when this is in doubt. The father can then be chased down for child support payments, reducing the amount of money the state needs to provide to support the family.

    I think we are probably the only party with effective policy in this area. For more info check out:
    http://www.familyparty.org.nz/policy/the-family-policy
    Specifically the “Fathers for the future” section. Also check out our Justice policy.

  4. Mr Dennis said: [The Family Party] would:
    – Review all current welfare benefits that insentivise parental separation, such as the Domestic Purposes Benefit…

    What do you mean by “review” Mr Dennis? I suspect the Family Party would abolish the DPB, and make all singel parents go on the work-tested unemployment benefit? A bit like National+. Just exactly what would be your terms of reference for such a “review”?

    Why don’t I see any mention of “review the Child Support Act” to ensure absentee fathers pay their fair share? I think a far bigger issue than the fathers who do a runner without being identified in law is the fathers who are identified in law but organise their affairs to minimise their child support.

    I’m keen on good fathers having access to their children, but not abusive ones. The welfare and rights of the child must come before the rights of the parent.

  5. toad:
    Don’t assume anything toad, we are in favour of supporting families and certainly don’t want to force single parents onto the unemployment benefit. Read our welfare policy before making crazy accusations like this.

    The problem with the DPB being identified here is that at present you can get more money if both parents are living separately. If a working father is at home with the family the DPB gets cut, if he leaves they get more money. This is an incentive for a father to leave. There needs to be a greater benefit for the father to stick round than to leave. By “review” we are saying this is a serious problem that needs to be looked into expertly and improved, and we don’t claim to have all the answers.

    I expect that reviewing the Child Support Act hasn’t been considered in detail yet, I will keep it in mind for consideration in future policy. I can assure you that we will be supporting policies that make fathers responsible for their children, as the “Family Party” this is obviously an important issue for us, so if you have any suggestions as to how we can do this that we mightn’t have thought of yet please feel free to email them through (contact details on the website).

  6. There’s also a huge loophole for Dads when it comes to shared custody, where mothers often get shafted with half the costs of schooling, doctor’s visits, etc, while earning (or receiving on the DPB) anything up to one sixth of what the earning father has for a salary.

    Having been in a situation where my grade 3 public service job didn’t substantially improve my income, after transport, increased food costs, childcare and parking were taken into account, I thoroughly understand why some women get on the DPB and then can’t find a job that pays enough for them to get off it again, while they have children to bring up alone.

    Thus, for economic reasons, I became a militant feminist radical… academic.

    Policy around welfare provision for ‘solo mothers’, the phrase most loved by right-wingers, also takes into account women who’ve been in a stable partnership/marriage, not just ‘teen moms’, the beloved bogey of the American press. And teen moms are not the majority of those on the DPB.

    WINZ, and MSD in general, are not very forthcoming on their website when it comes to disclosing stats about their service provision. (I speak from personal experience trying to write up a summer policy paper, which I eventually changed so as not to have to deal with them!)

  7. – Empower the Family Court to order paternal testing to establish the identity of biological parents

    What exactly about existing methods to require paternity testings is inadequate, Mr. Dennis? Why does the family court need this power? Keep in mind that paternity testing is quite invasive, especially seeing there is no equivalent test to establish whether a man has abandoned any of his children, thus putting women in a position where they can be more easily vilified than their partners.

  8. How refreshing this is to read! I’m sick of reading about how beneficiaries are to blame – single parents wouldn’t be in that position if the other parent had stayed around to help.

    Yes, I am a single parent myself – and yes, I take in a benefit. ‘Dad’ is off living the single life and hasn’t seen his son since he was born. This situation hurts, and the last thing I need is to be accused of bludging because I accept a benefit to help out.

    I only hope more people remember that there’s a story behind every parent on the DPB! Of course there are the bludging types too, but most of us are here because we have to be. How unfair it is to pick on the parent left behind who already has to pick up the pieces!

  9. Good point anarkaytie, thanks, I will keep that in mind.

    Ari:
    I understand at the moment the family court cannot require a paternity test to be carried out. If the mother refuses to let a DNA sample be taken from the child, or the father refuses to give a sample, then there cannot be a paternity test. The power to order a test would only be relevant in a small number of situations, but extremely useful there. It would help to establish whether a man has abandoned his children, it would be generally positive for women, not negative. Examples of situations where it may help:

    – Where a man claims a child is not his, abandons the mother & child and refuses to pay child support. This could establish that the child was certainly his, allowing him to be pursued for child support money with certainty.

    – Where paternity is in doubt, there are several possible fathers, the mother claims one man is the father but he denies it and suspects someone else. In the current system, the man the woman says is the father will be lumped with child support, even if he is innocent. In such a dispute the court could order a paternity test to ensure the correct man is paying child support.

    This needs to go alongside other provisions to ensure child support money is actually paid, rather than being ignored. The whole system needs a careful review, because there are many interlinking factors and we cannot claim to have every solution. Paternity testing will be part of the solution in some specific situations however, and ensures both the mother and father have their rights and carry out their responsibilities.

  10. What an interesting topic – especially for those of us “blugers” who watch the election with interest and a fair amount of hope. Hope that one day policy will be geared towards women instead of idiot men who can’t face up to their responsibilities.
    I am currently claiming a DPB while retraining as a nurse. I do this because my life was up-ended at the news I was pregnant at 27 and had to abandon a career I had worked the best part of ten years to build up. My child’s father high-tailed it as he already had one child and a fiancee – which he had neglected to mention to me. He currently hides behind a number of excuses in order to avoid child support and contact with his four year old daughter, who doesn’t understand why she doesn’t have a daddy and all the other kids at preschool do. I would love for Jason to come out of his boardroom for five minutes and explain this to her.
    I would also love to know why the government insists on carefully protecting Jason from his responsibilities. I have to pay to take him to court to prove he is the father, despite a ton of evidence to prove he already is. While he writes long-winded excuses to the lawyers claiming to be “not currently receiving an income”, they are expected to reply to said letters at his work address of HooHaa, Wanganui, where his receptionist fields his calls. On the weekends, he takes his now-wife and two children to the zoo – in Wellington and to the Skytower in Auckland and plasters pictures of his father-of-the-year efforts all over the Internet. I have trouble scraping together enough petrol money to take Hazel for an icecream at the mall, let alone family trips almost every weekend!
    I suggest that the fathers pay more now and the government pays less in the long-run for the mental health problems suffered by these “unwanted” children at the hands of their irresponsible, ignorant fathers. And perhaps “blugers” could receive a benefit raise in recognition of all the extra work they put in so these future generations grow into well-adjusted adults.
    I don’t get paid for being a mother, a father, a psychologist, a teacher, a caregiver or a breadwinner but I’m expected to do all of it on $234 a week and not complain.
    Get real politicians, you couldn’t do it so stop bitching about those of us who have no bloody choice but do the best we can anyway!!!

  11. Sorry if I duplicate posts, the first was caught by the spam filter.

    Allyoops:
    Thankyou for that information.
    “I suggest that the fathers pay more now and the government pays less in the long-run for the mental health problems suffered by these “unwanted” children at the hands of their irresponsible, ignorant fathers.”
    I absolutely agree.

    “I have to pay to take him to court to prove he is the father, despite a ton of evidence to prove he already is.”
    Do you mind me asking whether, in your situation, our proposal of court ordered paternity test would have been any help? How long did it take you to prove he was the father, or is this still in doubt?

    “While he writes long-winded excuses to the lawyers claiming to be “not currently receiving an income”, they are expected to reply to said letters at his work address of HooHaa, Wanganui, where his receptionist fields his calls.”
    That too is crazy. How does he manage to keep that one up? Surely the IRD have information on his income, does he just have a particularly good accountant?

    I am very interested in learning more as I am not in this situation myself so don’t have first-hand experience of it.

    Relevant policy:
    “Government must be prepared to face a cold hard reality: the root of social dysfunction is invariably tracked back to family breakdown, and more to the point – absent fathers. This is not to minimise the invaluable role mums play in the home and child raising, but biological dads are simply irreplaceable.”
    http://www.familyparty.org.nz/policy/the-family-policy
    Also see our “Justice” and “Welfare” policies

  12. Allyoops –

    Yep, we’ve just defined the cohort “deadbeat-dads on over $100k/annum”.

    I’m 8 years out from my divorce, and trust me, your daughter, even if she does some day get any substantial time to spend with her father, will always be angry with him.
    Unfortunately, as mothers, we get to be the ones to take our children to counselling, or see our teens struggling to pull it back together in a youth psych ward.
    My best advice to you can only be, take the best care of yourself that you can afford; and since you’ve already started training, you’re one ahead of the game there.

    BTW, the government protects men like Jason, because our law is based in the main on British law, from whence the feminist catch-cry ‘smash the patriarchy!” was produced.

    The law favours the interests of the male of the species, especially the SWM, and the old British laws around legitimacy, primogeniture and inheritance are aimed at allowing a man the right to choose who he acknowledges as his legitimate progeny.

    Never mind that the world has moved on since the Magna Carta, these biases are still firmly enshrined in our laws, and have allowed Jason to marry his fiancee, produce another child, and continue to deny the consequences of his actions during the period between his first and second children being born..

    A woman is always counted for all her live-born children; a man can deny and obfuscate so long as he can find a lawyer to represent him. And lawyers work for money, not justice.

    Mr Dennis:
    The loophole there is ‘running your own business, and paying the pa more than you pay yourself, but paying the family trust in your own stead’, so that there is money for the afore-mentioned trips with wife-and-kids for the weekend (and probably the house and car/s are in the trust, too).

    Martin Hawes wrote the book on ‘how to protect your assets’ with family trusts. I recommend it. It is a financial instrument that protects income from the IRD, any paternity claims, and bankruptcy. Most divorce lawyers hired by vanishing husbands have read it thoroughly!

  13. Yes, a good accountant + a trust and you can hide anything I suppose. Like Winston Peters maybe, but I digress… This is a tricky loophole to close without having unintended flow-on effects in all sorts of areas, as finance affects everything in some way. But close it we must if we are to make runaway fathers accountable. I’ll certainly be looking into that in more detail should we be in after the election.

  14. Glad you’ve finally acknowledged the point, Mr D.

    It is not just the simplistic response of getting fathers identified in law, but also the much more complex issue of ensuring estranged fathers actually make a financial contribution appropriate to their means towards their children’s upbringing, rather than using financial contrivance to avoid it.

    It won’t be easy to ensure it is fair, but the current child support legislation certainly isn’t. That is why the Green Party wants to see a full review of it.

  15. Yes, we certainly need to be looking into both issues. This has been a very useful thread for me, it is helpful to talk with people actually in this situation.

  16. allyoop,

    Hey, good name choice. My 6-year old is called Hazel, too.

    But regards Family Trusts: They are a rort, but not as much a rort as some people think. Write a letter dobbing him in to IRD.

    Paying yourself less than your real salary market rates is tax evasion, and people have been convicted for it. They did a dentist whose business (owned by his family trust) was paying him only $70k on a year – on the grounds that this wasn’t fair salary for a Dentist.

    Family Trusts can be used as a rort – and often are. But people who push it too far are breaking the law.

  17. Mr Dennis:

    Regards your family policy statement that “biological dads are simply irreplaceable”

    On behalf of the many people I know who are either adopted children or parents who have adopted I would like to say:

    Get !#$%ed.

  18. And, aside from the adoption issue, there are biological dads who are seriously abusive to or neglectful of their kids, and should be permitted no contact with them whatsoever.

    The welfare of the child has to be the paramount consideration here, not so-called parental “right” to bring kids up as parents see fit.

    I say this as the stepfather of a boy whose mother (then my partner) died, and whose biological father, who had not seen his son for five years.

    The biological father returned to New Zealand a few weeks after his son’s mother’s death. I had a custody order from the court in my favour by then. It was a tough time for me. no only had I lost my partner and my stepson’s mother, but I then had to work through the issue of whether his biological father, who had neglected him for such a long period of time, could prove to be a responsible parent.

    We went through a two-year process until I was confident that the biological father was sufficiently committed to caring for his son that (my stepson) that I would agree to his assuming full-time care.

    If his biological father had not demonstrated that commitment to his son, I would never have agreed to him assume the primary caregiving role.

  19. Sean and Toad: Sorry if that phrase caused offence, the most important thing is that a child has a father. If someone is willing to adopt and raise a child that is not their own, that is an immense commitment and needs to be acknowledged as such. Good on you Toad. We would not want to put down stepfathers in any way. That phrase was intended to assert the value of fathers, not denigrate stepfathers, and may not have been worded ideally if it has caused offence.

  20. Pingback: In which Toad gets prickly with Cactus Kate on deadbeat dads | g.blog

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