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Family Matters No. 42 - September 1995

Relative poverty

Family and child perspectives on justice
Kate Funder

Abstract

This paper explores some of the implications - social, psychological and legal - of relative deprivation in the context of families and divorce. Relativities have a subjective component and in examining some intra-familial relativities the child's view is included. The author examines the sources of relative poverty in society. She points to the multiplication of poverty in different family types. The risk of poverty in sole parent families, mother headed families in particular, is much higher than in childless families. Sole mothers risk poverty both on pensions and in the workforce. An essential anti-poverty measure is an adequate minimum wage rate. Another, is access to superannuation which reduces the risk of poverty in old age. Family law reform is needed to ensure superannuation is shared automatically and fairly on divorce. Home ownership can offer a way out of poverty as it is an integral part of the secure base from which poor people, including sole mothers, can move to self-sufficiency. Next, the author extends the notion of relative poverty into the microcosm of the family, and in particular the family as it makes its way through divorce. She draws on comments made by children of separated parents. The comments illustrate the children's observations on the justice of the division of responsibility for their support. In response to the children's concerns that maintenance was inadequate or not paid, the author argues that the Child Support formula needs to be looked at from a child's point of view.

This paper explores some of the implications - social, psychological and legal - of relative deprivation in the context of families and divorce. Relativities have a subjective component and in examining some intra-familial relativities the child's view is included. The author examines the sources of relative poverty in society. She points to the multiplication of poverty in different family types. The risk of poverty in sole parent families, mother headed families in particular, is much higher than in childless families. Sole mothers risk poverty both on pensions and in the workforce. An essential anti-poverty measure is an adequate minimum wage rate. Another, is access to superannuation which reduces the risk of poverty in old age. Family law reform is needed to ensure superannuation is shared automatically and fairly on divorce. Home ownership can offer a way out of poverty as it is an integral part of the secure base from which poor people, including sole mothers, can move to self-sufficiency. Next, the author extends the notion of relative poverty into the microcosm of the family, and in particular the family as it makes its way through divorce. She draws on comments made by children of separated parents. The comments illustrate the children's observations on the justice of the division of responsibility for their support. In response to the children's concerns that maintenance was inadequate or not paid, the author argues that the Child Support formula needs to be looked at from a child's point of view.

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