8 September 2008
Payments point to prime-carer dads
By Patricia Karvelas, Political correspondent
A quarter of newly divorced dads are becoming the main carers of their children, with new registrations with the Child Support Agency showing fathers are increasingly receiving child support payments from their former partners.
CSA figures show that in 2002 there were 65,393 or 10.2 per cent of women paying their ex-male partners child support. But the latest 2008 figures show that has increased to 93,432, or 12.6 per cent. About 23.4per cent of cases registered with the agency in the first six months of this year had a male receiving child support.
Increasingly, parents paying child support also have more contact with their children, according to the data.
In 2002, 93 per cent of parents had sole custody of their children but that has decreased to 89.3 per cent, the lowest ever.
Shared custody (where the secondary parent cares for children more than 30 per cent of the time) is at its highest rate of 11 per cent.
Federal Minister for Human Services Joe Ludwig said the new figures revealed Australian families were changing dramatically. "There's been a growing trend in recent years towards fathers being the main carers and receiving child support from their former partners," he said.
"It means there's a new generation of children in separated families growing up in vastly different circumstances than Australian children 20 years ago.
"It's a combination of changing attitudes, the realities of today's Australia and greater government resources to help parents at a difficult time in their lives."
At the moment, the overall main carer ratio is about 87 per cent women and 13 per cent men.
"The latest registration figures show almost a quarter of receiving parents are separated fathers," Senator Ludwig said.
Elspeth McInnes, convener of Solo Mums Australia for Family Equity, said the new figures had resulted from a push from the federal Government to give fathers more custody rights. In 2005, John Howard commissioned University of Sydney law professor Patrick Parkinson to design a system to balance the interests of men and women.
Under his plan, custodial parents, mostly women, keep their family tax benefits, which are shared between both parents under the old scheme. But the parent with custody receives less in maintenance payments.
The data also shows that about 60 per cent (350,000) of all paying parents in the child-support system have a taxable income of $30,000 per annum or less.