Financial support for children after parental separation

Financial support for children after parental separation

24 July 2013

Financial support after separation can affect children’s wellbeing across a range of areas, and negotiation of financial arrangements is one of the key tasks for many parents in the post-separation period.

Financial support after separation can affect children’s wellbeing across a range of areas, and negotiation of financial arrangements is one of the key tasks for many parents in the post-separation period. The provision of financial support to children after parental separation represents one of the many topics explored in the LSAC Annual Statistical Report 2012, which reports on the development of two cohorts of children: nearly 5,000 born around 2000 and nearly 5,000 born around 2004.

The analyses were based on the reports of the “resident parents” (almost all of whom were mothers), and mostly focus on the financial support provided by “non-resident fathers”.

In 2004, 2006, and 2010, resident parents were asked whether they and their child’s other parent had a child support or “private child maintenance” arrangement (or agreement) in place. At each of these time points (taken separately), around 70–80% of resident parents of children in each cohort indicated that they had one of these arrangements.

In 2010, resident parents who did not have any child support arrangement in place, and who indicated that they were not currently holding discussions with the other parent about developing an arrangement, were asked to indicate the main reason for not having an arrangement. The most common reasons given included: the other parent had or claimed to have little cash; the respondent had not sought payment; the other parent did not want to discuss child support; and the respondent did not need or want it.

Most resident parents who were recipients of child support (“payees”) in 2010 indicated that their arrangements had been decided by the Child Support Agency (70% of the younger cohort of children; and 74% of the older cohort), while around 15% indicated that they and their child’s other parent had developed an agreement themselves.1

Around two-thirds of payees in each cohort in 2010 reported that payments were up-to-date and that the last payment was for the usual amount (called “full compliance”). The majority of the other payees indicated that payments were not up-to-date but that they had received a payment previously. Only 3% indicated they had never received a payment.

The lowest proportion of mother payees reporting full compliance was those whose child rarely or never saw the father, though differences were not always statistically significant. Cross-sectional evidence also suggested that full compliance rates fell as the duration of parental separation increased.

Across all four years of the survey (2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010), around one-half of the resident parents in each cohort reported that their child’s other parent had often or sometimes provided at least one of the five forms of financial or non-financial support focused upon, with the purchase of clothes, toys or presents being the most commonly mentioned contribution provided often or sometimes (mentioned by 44–47% of resident parents in each cohort). The next most commonly mentioned contribution occurring at this level of frequency was non-financial: looking after the child when the resident parent needed to attend to other activities, such as work, study or keeping an appointment (mentioned by 22–23%).

The 2010 data suggest that the child support payers who were fully complying with obligations were significantly more likely than those who were not doing so to provide each of these five other forms of support often or sometimes.

Overall the analysis suggests that there is a link between non-resident parents’ child support compliance behaviour and more active types of engagement in the child’s life, both in terms of care-time and the provision of other forms of support.

The full report, including information on methodology and participants, can be accessed here.

1. Almost all payees in the LSAC study are mothers. The Child Support Agency is now part of the Australian Government Department of Human Services and is called “Child Support”.

Add a comment

Need some help?

CFCA offers a free research and information helpdesk for child, family and community welfare practitioners, service providers, researchers and policy makers through the CFCA News.

Subscribe

CFCA News

Sign up to our email alert service for the latest news and updates

Subscribe