According to Statistics Canada, approximately 49.8 per cent of British Columbia children who are below the poverty line live in a single-parent home. Many of these families must rely on an assistance cheque from the government. Although this assistance is very limited, under current laws, whatever amount of child support that the non-custodial parent pays is taken out of these cheques. Some advocates are opposed to this idea because they believe that the support should go to the children, rather than back to the government.
Some child and youth advocates believe that child support is intended to provide for the children’s well-being rather than as income support for the parents, so clawing it back is tantamount to stealing from the children.
The support that individuals who receive assistance cheques is already extremely limited. For example, families with one child get about $955 a month in assistance, including $570 for housing. If there are six or more children in the household, the family gets just over $1,195, which includes $820 for rent. This is the maximum that any family can receive, and the rates have not been modified in the last seven years in spite of the increase in the cost of living.
In 2002, custodial parents could keep up to $100 a month in child support. Now, this money is clawed back. Advocates argue that the system creates a disincentive for individuals to pay their support obligations because they know the money is going to the state and not their children.
Additionally, the laws require custodial parents to assign their rights to the government to collect child support for their children. Then, they have to assign rights to enforcement, which can put parents in danger if they have fled abusive relationships. Last year alone, $18.4 million was clawed back from assistance cheques.
Individuals who are not receiving child support from a noncustodial parent or who are having difficulty paying because of tight funds could consult with a family law lawyer. Through this action, individuals may learn about their rights and options regarding support.
Source: The Vancouver Sun, “Daphne Bramham: Is clawing back child support good policy or just mean-spirited?“, Daphne Bramham, March 31, 2014
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