April 9, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
In my last couple of posts, I’ve written that child support in Canada is more about transferring wealth from fathers to mothers than about supporting children. I’ve also pointed out that it was radical feminists who drove the changes to family law that resulted in the child support guidelines that accomplish the transfer. Now Christie Blatchford has her best article yet on the subject corroborating exactly what I’ve said (National Post, 4/6/17).
Legal feminism was increasingly informed by radical feminism; divorce came to be seen as a source of women’s poverty; family law had blossomed as a proper branch of practice; the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms “opened the door to greater legal and judicial participation in the formation of social policy,” as [Economics professor, Paul] Millar wrote.
In that climate emerged a social policy aimed at reducing poverty by focusing on private responsibility.
“The new view laid the blame for poverty at the feet of former husbands, a dynamic that appealed to conservatives and to some feminists who might otherwise have been inclined to see a more public, social solution to poverty.”
Those changes came despite a Canadian government report finding that, in the early 1980s, divorced parents – both mothers and fathers – were highly satisfied with the child support system as it was.
In 1990, the federal justice department published a detailed study of divorces. It examined 1,310 divorces across the country, interviewed 617 people, and found that the majority of both custodial and non-custodial parents were satisfied with the amounts of child support awarded.
So, as of 1990, parents who’d gone through the system found it acceptable. But, having found that system to not be broken, the government decided to fix it anyway. It did so based on the entirely erroneous belief, perpetrated in no small part by the flawed research of Lenore Weitzman in the U.S., that divorce produced poverty in women.
Now, it might be of interest to the social justice warriors to know that, almost three decades later, child support (at least in the U.S.) has little or no bearing on whether a single mother lives in poverty or not. We can deduce that in part from the fact that single mothers, whether they receive child support or not, are more likely than any other demographic group to live in poverty. Add to that the fact that custodial fathers receive far less in child support payments than do single mothers and yet have a far lower rate of poverty, and the notion that child support and poverty are linked becomes dubious at best.
But social justice warriors are rarely guided by empirical facts; generally speaking, their ideology is all they require to support or oppose a policy. Thus, irrespective of the disconnect between child support and poverty rates, the transfer of wealth to women from men became the raison d’etre of child support and alimony laws.
As [Economics professor, Douglas] Allen once said in an affidavit prepared for court, they were “created to transfer amounts of wealth from non-custodial homes to custodial homes. Virtually every choice made in their construction … leads to a net transfer.”
Overwhelmingly in this country, in contested proceedings, women get custody of the children; thus, overwhelmingly, they are the custodial parent. As Allen wrote once, “the evidence suggests that rather than being designed for the interests of children, the Guidelines were designed for the interests of mothers.”
That was my point of the last couple of days. Of course, looking at Lucien Khodeir’s remarks on the child support formula used by family courts, the point becomes crystal clear. When the irrebuttable presumptions are that the child spends all its time with the custodial parent and none with the non-custodial parent and that all child-related expenses are borne by the custodial parent and none by the non-custodial parent, the conclusion is unavoidable. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the facts presumed are simply untrue, but the courts are bound by law to utilize the formula as it is. And, as night follows day, we see men (and often their second wives) driven to bankruptcy, despair and sometimes suicide by a public policy that is known to be flawed and unnecessary.
In a nutshell, the child support system fails at every turn. It took a system with which people were satisfied and turned it into a one to punish fathers and privilege mothers. It was supposed to bring single mothers out of poverty, but hasn’t done so. Indeed, if it’s had any effect whatsoever on the poverty rates for single mothers, no one’s yet discovered it. Meanwhile, child support law has a very definite and destructive effect on fathers as Blatchford and others have painfully chronicled.
And, speaking of bankruptcy, the underpinnings of the law are intellectually bankrupt as well. They don’t reflect reality, nor are they meant to.
In short, the child support formula has nothing to recommend it. It should be scrapped. It should be replaced by a formula based on the actual costs to pay for the upkeep of a child together with the respective earnings of the spouses and the time each has the child in his/her care.
The concepts are simple, but a policy based on falsehoods and aimed at goals that are not its proper purview has not – and can never – do the job of supporting children while maintaining parents financially intact.
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Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.