Australian Bureau of Statistics
4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1999
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/1999
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Living Arrangements: Caring for children after parents separate
Children with a natural parent living elsewhere
When parents separate, the children generally live with one parent, usually their mother, but may continue to have contact with the other parent on a more or less regular basis. In April 1997, there were 978,000 Australian children who were living with one natural parent and who had a natural parent living elsewhere. The vast majority (88%) lived with their mother in either one-parent families (68%) or in step or blended families (20%).
Children of all ages were more likely to live with their mother than their father, and this was particularly so for younger children. In 1997, 96% of 0-4 year olds, 89% of 5-11 year olds and 82% of 12-17 year olds whose parents had separated were living with their mother. Boys aged 12-17 were more likely to live with their natural father than girls of the same age (21% compared to 15%). In the younger age groups, there was little difference in the proportions of boys and girls who lived with their father.
CHILDREN WITH A NATURAL PARENT LIVING ELSEWHERE, APRIL 1997
Contact with natural parent living elsewhere
It is generally agreed that, in most cases, children are better off when they have an ongoing relationship with both their parents, even after their parents have separated. A recent report3 by the Family Law Council concluded that ‘Most children want and need contact with both parents. Their long term development, education, capacity to adjust and self esteem can be detrimentally affected by the long-term or permanent absence of a parent from their lives. The wellbeing of children is generally advanced by their maintaining links with both parents as much as possible.’
In 1997, 3% of children whose parents had separated were in a shared care arrangement, (i.e. each natural parent cared for the child for at least 30% of the time). The vast majority (97%) were in a sole care arrangement (i.e. the natural parent with whom they lived cared for them for more than 70% of the time). Of those children in a sole care arrangement, 42% spent time with their other natural parent fortnightly or more frequently. However, over one third (36%) saw their other natural parent rarely (once a year or less) or never. Of those children (aged two years or older) who saw their other natural parent rarely or never, 33% had some contact by telephone or letter.
As children get older they are less likely to see their other natural parent on a frequent basis. In 1997, more than half of 0-4 year olds in a sole care arrangement visited their other natural parent fortnightly or more often. The proportion declined with age to about a third of 12-17 year olds. This may be due to a number of factors which can come into play as time passes after separation, including the increasing independence of children, conflicting commitments of children and the non-resident parent, a change in locality of either household, or the repartnering of either parent. Older children (with a natural parent living elsewhere) are more likely than their younger counterparts to be living in step or blended families. In 1997, 33% of those aged 12-17 years were living in step or blended families compared to 8% of 0-4 year olds.
FREQUENCY OF VISITS(a), APRIL 1997
(b) Children in sole care arrangement.
Source: Family Characteristics, Australia (cat. no. 4442.0).
In 1997, 42% of all families (with at least one child with a natural parent living elsewhere) were receiving cash child support payments. Over half (54%) of these families were paid directly by the liable parent while over one third (38%) were paid through the Child Support Agency. The remainder used either a combination of the above two methods (3%) or some other method (4%) such as through a solicitor. Most families (82%) received child support payments on a monthly basis while others received less frequent payments. Cash payments ranged from under $50 to over $600, on average, per child per month, with over half (60%) of families receiving $200 or less. Almost one third of families received an average of $100 or less per child per month.
In 1997, one in three families (with at least one child with a natural parent living elsewhere) were receiving in-kind child support (i.e. payment in the form of goods or services used by the children and/or their families). Families who received cash child support were more likely to receive payment in kind (40%) than those who did not receive cash payments (28%). For most families who received in-kind support, the in-kind payments were limited to clothes, pocket money or other personal expenses for the child. However, families who received both cash and in-kind support were more likely to receive in-kind payment in the form of other expenses such as school fees, health insurance or mortgage payments (46%) than those families who received in-kind payments only (33%).
CASH CHILD SUPPORT, APRIL 1997
Source: Family Characteristics, Australia (cat. no. 4442.0).
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1998, Family Characteristics, Australia, cat. no. 4442.0, ABS, Canberra.
2 Carberry, F. 1998, Parents sharing care of children - family law and income support, paper presented at AIFS Conference, Melbourne, November 1998.
3 Family Law Council 1992, Patterns of Parenting after Separation, AGPS, Canberra.
4 Commonwealth of Australia 1997, Family Law Council Annual Report 1996-97, AGPS, Canberra.
5 Commonwealth of Australia 1990, Annual Report of the Commissioner of Taxation 1989-90, AGPS, Canberra.
6 Commonwealth of Australia 1996, Annual Report of the Commissioner of Taxation 1995-96, AGPS, Canberra.
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