International history of child support
History of child support across the world
History of child support in the UK
History of child support in the USA
History of child support in some mainly-English-speaking countries
History of child support in some (non-UK) European countries
Comparisons across some mainly-English-speaking countries
Comparisons across some European countries
Child support systems across the world
Reciprocal arrangements with other countries
The cost of children in other nations
Can Child Support Agencies ever work?
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History of child support in some mainly-English-speaking countries

This page is being evolved as part of a long-term project. I ask anyone with useful material to get in touch at: history@childsupportanalysis.co.uk .

Australia, Canada, New Zealand

Australia

When? What? Information
Pre-1975 Until the various changes identified below, family matters such as child maintenance were handled by States, typically via courts.
1958 Maintenance Act 1958  
1965 Maintenance Act 1965 Repealed the 1958 Act.
1975 Family Law Act 1975 This greatly expanded the scope of federal (as opposed to state) family law. Among other things, it provided family judges and magistrates with the exclusive authority to make support orders in court.
1980 Recommendation by Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act. Recommended that an agency to collect and enforce maintenance be set up along the lines of agencies already operating in South Australia and Western Australia.
1983-08-27 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women Entry into force.
1984 Report of the Attorney-General's Department. Endorsed the 1980 recommendation. This report also provided much evidence concerning the inadequacies of the existing system.
1985-02-12 United Nations Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance Accession.
1986 Discussion paper "Child Support". This canvassed the issues which needed to be resolved. Widespread community consultation was undertaken and submissions were received from groups active in the maintenance area.
1987   New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania passed legislation referring power with respect to guardianship, custody, maintenance and access in relation to ex-nuptial children to the Commonwealth.
1988

Child Support Act 1988 renamed:
Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988

The law to create the Child Support Agency as part of the Australian Tax Office. Existing court cases do not transfer to the CSA.
1989 Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 Ditto.
1989-10-01 New cases go to the CSA. Administrative assessment eligibility applies to all children born after October 1 1989 or whose parents have separated after that date.
1990  

Queensland passed legislation referring power with respect to guardianship, custody, maintenance and access in relation to ex-nuptial children to the Commonwealth.
Western Australia did not do so.

1991-01-16 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Ratified.
1992 Amendments to the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989. Incorporated into the Australian system the concept of "departure from administrative assessment of child support." Pursuant to these legislative provisions, either party can make written application to the registrar stating that special circumstances exist that support departing from the regular administrative assessment of child support
2002-02-01 Hague Convention #23 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations Entry into force.
2002-12-12 Australia and the United States entered into a treaty for reciprocal recognition and enforcement of child support maintenance arrangements. This new treaty allows administrative assessments made under the Australian Child Support Scheme to be recognised and enforced in the United States. Another feature of the treaty is that each country will have a central authority which will take responsibility for coordinating all agencies involved in a case. In Australia's case, that central authority will be the Child Support Registrar.

Canada

When? What? Information
  Child support is arranged via courts, or privately.
1867 Constitution Act 1867 Judges of the Superior, District and County Courts in each Province must be appointed. The Supreme Court of Canada has established that there are certain functions of the judiciary that cannot be removed from that decision-making forum. This appears to include aspects of family law.
1982-01-09 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women Entry into force.
1991 "Child Support: Public Discussion Paper" released

The Family Law Committee released this report which provides a basis for public consultation.

Further chronology is available on-line.

1992-01-12 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Ratified.
1997-05-01 Divorce Act (Bill C-41) commences Reforms to Canada's child support system came into effect, modifying the way courts operated. However, there appears to be considerable flexibility for Provinces to do their own thing. The main features of the reforms are: the introduction of child support guidelines; changes to the tax treatment of child support; and additional enforcement measures. The regulations for setting child support payments are called the Federal Child Support Guidelines, but the amounts in the Federal Child Support Tables vary from one province to another because of differences in provincial income tax rates. Federal control is exercised by the Department of Justice in its child support unit.
The guidelines do not automatically change a child support order or agreement that was made before May 1, 1997.
2002-04-29 "Children Come First: A Report to Parliament on the Provisions and Operation of the Federal Child Support Guidelines" A report was required within 5 years of the Divorce Act. This is it.

New Zealand

When? What? Information
Pre-1981 Court maintenance orders and maintenance agreements were administered just through the courts. Then where the custodial parent is not on social welfare, they continued to be handled by the courts for a while.
1981 Liable Contribution Scheme Administered by the Department of Social Welfare. Designed to recover money for the children of custodians on social assistance through recovering it from the non-custodial parents. It was open to the non-custodial parents to object to the Department of Social Welfare about the amount they had to pay and to apply for a reduction on the grounds of hardship.
(This may be an amendment to the Social Security Act 1964 Section 27N).
1985-02-09 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women Entry into force.
1986-02-26 United Nations Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance Accession.
1991 Child Support Act 1991  
1992 (July) Child Support scheme starts. The child support scheme is administered by the Inland Revenue. The system is mandatory for those persons on welfare.
Those people not receiving social assistance have the choice of whether or not to request the assistance of the child support scheme. Alternatively, these parents may either proceed through court or arrive at a voluntary agreement with the other party. If the parties draw up a voluntary agreement, they then have the option of having it dealt with by the child support scheme, at which point it would be handled administratively.
Departures were initially handled via the courts.
1993-05-06 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Ratified.
1994-07-01 Child Support Amendment Act 1994 commences Departure orders might be granted by a review officer through the administrative review process or, failing that avenue, by the family court. A review officer must consider an application for a departure before it proceeds to family court.
1994-11-08 Child Support Review 1994: Report of the Working Party Trapski Report.
1999 Child Support Amendment Act 1999 There are Child Support Acts pretty well every year, often with only minor effect. Only the most significant ones are identified here.

References

"An Overview of the Commonwealth Countries’ and United States’ Procedures for Establishing and Modifying Child Support"
March 1997 - funded by the Child Support Team, Department of Justice Canada
Presented by Mary MacDonald, B.A., LL.B.
Part 1: Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom
Part 2: United States of America

Page last updated: 18 December, 2003 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003