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Stop Press - cost of State interference in family lives

"The State is the great fictitious entity by which everyone expects to live at the expense of everyone else."
Frederic Bastiat

Cost of divorce 'set to soar in London'

Press Association
Friday May 28, 2004

Rich spouses looking to divorce their other halves were today warned by money experts to head out of London, as it could soon become the most expensive divorce location in the world.
According to an article in The Economist, the capital will overtake New York as the priciest place to sever marital ties if appeal court judges rule in a case pending that future earnings as well as current assets should be shared between divorcing partners on the dissolution of a marriage. Currently, France is ranked in third place and Germany came in fourth.
Divorce legislation in each of the four locations was scored on six criteria to work out where wealthy spouses considering divorce would be worst off. Points were given for the acceptability of prenuptial agreements, the treatment of assets accumulated before and after the start of the marriage, the extent of maintenance payments, whether conduct plays a role, and the time and money involved in getting a divorce.
The article also revealed that the trend among dissatisfied spouses is increasingly to leap into legal action rather than trying to patch up their marriage. One of the main factors leading to costly divorces in the England and the US, the article found, was that while in countries such as Germany and France property owned prior to the marriage is normally excluded from settlements, here and in America it is all shared out between husband and wife.
The Economist used the hypothetical example of a rich German man living in London with an English wife. If he instigated divorce proceedings in Germany he would, financially speaking, get off relatively lightly, whereas in England he would face a ruinous financial settlement.
"Global lifestyles and widely differing legal systems give plenty of potential for discontented spouses wanting a good deal," said a spokesman for the Economist. "If you are rich, avoid London and head to the continent. If you're the poorer party, do everything in your power to move your spouse to London."

SOURCE: http://money.guardian.co.uk/divorce/story/0,13315,1226734,00.html

Opponent of child files welcomes bill changes

David Batty
Thursday May 27, 2004

A prominent opponent of the plan to create files on every child in England today welcomed concessions by the government that would clarify what will be stored on each child and who will have access to the information.
Eileen Munro, reader in social policy at the London School of Economics, said that a proposed government amendment to the children bill, which would limit the personal information accessible on the files to basic details such as name and address, was a significant compromise.
But she said that the changes did not go far enough in terms of protecting children's privacy because professionals would still be able to piece together a child's case history.
Education minister Catherine Ashton set out the proposed amendments to the bill in the House of Lords following concerns from peers that the proposal to create a network of child databases across the country would grossly invade family privacy.
The amendments will list the basic information that the databases would contain, which organisations would be allowed to add information, and ensure that details of a particular child's case history are not recorded.
"We intend to table a government amendment at report that will list the types of basic information that the databases will contain," Baroness Ashton told the committee hearing on the bill on Monday.
"That includes: name; date of birth; address; a unique identifying number; name and contact details of the person with parental responsibility or in charge of day-to-day care of the child; educational setting; GP practice details and health visitor if there is one working with the child.
"Likewise, we are intending to put forward an amendment that will set out on the face of the bill a list of statutory bodies and other bodies that will be required or permitted to supply information to the database."
Baroness Ashton admitted that the current wording of the bill would allow professionals to record detailed information about a particular child, but she said the former amendment would ensure that only the name and contact details of any professional providing services to a child were held on file.
She added that the information, referral and tracking trailblazers, which are piloting local child databases, were taking steps to ensure that only very senior practitioners are able to access sensitive information on the databases, such as which professionals were involved in a particular case.
Ms Munro said: "This is a significant climbdown. I'm impressed that they've understood our concerns - to a certain extent.
"But the name and contact details of the professionals a child has been in contact with can tell you a lot, for example if they've seen a child psychiatrist. Why should everyone else in the child's network know about their problems?"
Another amendment would ensure that information from existing public services' records transferred onto the proposed databases was cross-checked to ensure its accuracy. The minister said the amendments will be tabled at the report stage of the bill, which will start on June 17.
Following the report stage, the proposed legislation will have its third reading in the Lords before moving to the House of Commons.
SOURCE: http://society.guardian.co.uk/children/story/0,1074,1225858,00.html
Unmarried woman wins share of former partner's home
By Robert Verkaik Legal Affairs Correspondent
25 May 2004
A judge has awarded a woman a £100,000 share of her former partner's home even though the couple were not married and she made no financial contribution to the mortgage.
The ruling could benefit thousands of other unmarried couples who under the current law have no special rights to each other's property when a relationship breaks down.
Elayne Oxley, 51, shared a home in Kent with Allan Hiscock, 54, for 16 years before she claimed a share of the property when he ended the relationship.
In a complex 50-page judgment Lord Justice Chadwick ruled that Ms Oxley is entitled to a 40 per cent share of Mr Hiscock's £232,000 home in Hartley, near Dartford.
Ms Oxley told the court that although she had not paid the mortgage she had contributed towards food and utility bills. She hailed the ruling a victory for unmarried women.
"Women who live with their partners assume they are protected but the law doesn't recognise the term 'common-law wife'. My case will prevent other women enduring the anguish I have been put through," she said.
Family law experts were more cautious. Nigel Shepherd, a spokesman for the Family Solicitors Law Association, said: "The case does not alter the fact that you do not get an entitlement to a property owned by your partner simply by virtue of living with them. There is still no such thing as a common-law marriage."
But he added: "Although not a landmark decision as such, the judgment clarifies the approach to be taken in this type of case and represents a more generous and fairer interpretation of what remains an extremely complex area of law."
Ms Oxley was working with social services when she met Mr Hiscock, an engineer at Dartford power station. "I wanted to be married to him but he didn't want to for tax reasons," she said.
Mr Shepherd said the case showed that there was a real need for a change in the law reflecting the rights of unmarried couples who lived together.

SOURCE: http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/legal/story.jsp?story=524668

Baby bribes

What would it cost to bribe you to have a child? Three thousand Australian dollars? One thousand euros? Paid maternity leave? Flexible working policies? Or none of the above?
The announcement by Peter Costello, Australia's treasurer and prime ministerial hopeful, that women will be given incentives of $3000 (£1200) for every newborn child, has sparked a debate across the world. Two weeks after he suggested that couples have 'one for your husband, one for your wife and one for the country', the rights and wrongs of pro-natalist policies is still a hot topic (1).
There has been noisy denunciation, from those arguing that the scheme is a step back for women, a financial no-brainer (a grand to raise a child? are you kidding?), and in any case doomed to failure among everybody except schoolgirls, to whom pregnancy may come to seem a sure-fire way of quadrupling their annual pocket money. At the same time, there is a quiet sense of relief that the problem of the plummeting fertility rate in the West has finally been recognised, and governments are prepared to do something about it.
But while it is a safe bet that pro-natalist policies such as Costello's - and the similar cash incentive scheme recently introduced by Italy's Berlusconi government - will not work, this is not for the reasons that their critics suggest. If women aren't having children, it cannot be reduced to a question of expense, nor to the argument that they have better things to do with their time. It's because of the peculiarly negative culture that surrounds parenthood today, which is far stronger than any number of state-sponsored pro-natalist incentives.
There is certainly something striking about the speed with which the fertility rate is dropping in most of the developed world. According to UN figures, between 1970-5 and 2000-05, the total fertility rate (TFR) - defined as the number of children that would be born to each woman if she were to live to the end of her child-bearing years and bear children at each age in accordance with prevailing age-specific fertility rates - for the UK has fallen from 2.0 to 1.6. In other European countries the decline is even more marked. Over the same time period, Iceland's TFR has fallen from 2.8 to 2.0; Spain's from 2.9 to 1.2, and Italy's from 2.3 to 1.2. Australia's total fertility rate has fallen from 2.5 to 1.7 (2).
The exception to the rule is the USA, where the fertility rate has risen slightly, from 2.0 to 2.1. Only Finland and Equatorial Guinea seem to share this experience. Much has been made of the UK's recent rise in the number of births - 621,469 in 2003, an increase of 4.3 percent on 2002. But this can hardly be heralded as a turnaround - it has come after 10 years of steady decline from 1990 levels (3).
What is the problem here? It is not a demographic one. Much is made of the fact that the fertility rate in much of the world has fallen under 'replacement levels' (the level of fertility at which a couple has only enough children to replace themselves) of 2.1. But that does not mean that the human race is about to die out - the world's population currently stands at six billion, and worldwide the fertility rate is 2.7. The fact that concern focuses on the 'high income' countries, where the TFR is 1.7, is partly spurred by the old racial fear of the 'wrong kind' of people reproducing in the 'wrong kind' of countries. Yet throughout the whole world, the fertility rate has almost halved in the past 30 years - making the always-overblown panics about an overpopulated Africa/India/China taking over a dying Europe seem even more preposterous today (4).
The most powerful demographic concern to come to the fore in recent years has focused upon ageing. The combination of rising life expectancy and falling fertility in the developed world has led politicians and analysts to worry incessantly about the affordability of pensions, healthcare and other geriatric paraphernalia. But as Phil Mullan argues, the relationship of ageing to economic growth means that this process is easily affordable, provided society shows the flexibility and fore-sightedness to organise around it - and is prepared to take advantage of the contribution that can be made by older people who are healthier and more active than previous generations (5). The fact that, instead, the developed world is tending to panic in the face of ageing shows the fearful, narrow character of the demographic debate.
When it comes to the question of why the falling fertility rate is a problem, none of the demographic arguments stand up. By the same token, the recent attempts at demographic solutions do not look even plausible. Peter Costello, for example, admits that a government bribe of $3000 is not going to encourage people to have children (although if the Australian government really does believe that, one wonders if its motive for introducing the payment really can be as innocuous as Costello has argued: '[Parents] are struggling with a lot of costs and if the government can help them, then they should') (6). Nor is it likely that state payments of any sort will encourage families to have more children - 'one for the country', and all that.

Kids are not a financial decision, calculated in bald terms of cost or benefit

Historically, it has always been the social classes with the lowest incomes that have had more children. Kids are not a financial decision, calculated in bald terms of cost or benefit, and people's reproductive behaviour is no more susceptible to crude manipulation by the market than it is determined by the supply of condoms or population control policies. Broader, more complex social trends inform the fertility rate - and in the developed world today, these trends are far from positive.
As history has shown, a fall in the fertility rate per se is not a negative thing. It is related to industrialisation, to the level of economic and social development, which is related to improvements in infant mortality levels, increases in life expectancy, and greater affluence across society. The fact that, in the West today, people can choose their ideal family size, (relatively) safe in the knowledge that their children will not die before them and they will not have to rely on their children to boost the household income is a clear mark of progress. Even if that did mean that the fertility rate fell way below replacement levels, with some couples having only one child and others none at all, this would not necessarily be a bad thing.
But there is a negative undercurrent to reproductive trends in the developed world, which is reflected in the angst-ridden discussion about the fertility rate and the policy solutions it provokes. From worries about the affordability of children alongside the potential expense incurred by ageing parents, the burden of parenthood versus the advantages of a life with no ties, the fears of the unpredictable impact a child can have on one's career/sexual relationship/self-identity, the fear of responsibility faced by 'kidults' in their thirties who barely feel old enough to be responsible for themselves, the general anxiety about whether this is the kind of world in which one wants to raise a child anyway - these are the kind of considerations that dominate an ever-more fraught discussion about what children, ultimately, are for.
This indicates that people are not choosing childlessness for positive reasons, so much as drifting into it out of anxiety about the future, and about the consequences of parenthood. Set against all these worries, the perks of a few quid in government money and the admonition that you need kids to support you in your old age is not exactly convincing.
More to the point, state pro-natalist policies that emphasise the need for incentives to help with the vast expense of having kids ('You have a baby you have to buy the nappies and the bottle and the bouncinette and the capsule for the back of the car and the cot and you have got to have a room to put the baby in, you need the formulas and all those things', explains Costello helpfully), while providing only a few quid in practice, seem most likely to fuel the negativity surrounding childrearing (7). The official focus on the ageing question, with the implicit notion that people have a responsibility to reproduce a new generation of elder-carers, contributes to the instrumental view of parenthood.
The most miserablist aspect of the pro-natalism debate, however, is the way it has turned what were once progressive policy discussions about people's ability to participate in society as a whole into a narrow, backward demographic obsession. Tax breaks and state benefits, which were once justified primarily by the need to help lower-income parents pay for the basics for their children, are now seen simply as bribes.
Paid maternity leave - once seen as key to allowing women's full participation in the world of work - now tends to be discussed in terms of a financial incentive to encourage them to breed. Flexible working policies, which at one time would be a welcome feature of modern society, allowing employees more autonomy in the organisation of their working day, are in today's context promoted as halfhearted measures to allow mothers to skive off both work and full-time mothering - as if in recognition that nobody in their right mind can be expected to give a wholehearted commitment to work or to parenthood. And on it goes.
Peter Costello can try and exhort people all he likes to have 'one for your husband, one for your wife and one for the country'. But how is this going to work, when people are struggling to work out whether they even want one for themselves. If governments want to encourage parents, they should keep their noses (and their calculators) out of people's reproductive decisions.

SOURCE: http://www.spiked-online.com/articles/0000000CA53E.htm

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