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Maintenance collections from putative fathers : an evaluation of the administration of the Children of Unmarried Parents Act in the Province of British Columbia, with a special reference to the relative merits of settlements and continued monthly payments Reed, Patricia

Abstract

This study is concerned with the problem of obtaining maintenance payments from putative fathers for the support of children born out of wedlock. The essential material is derived from a group of cases chosen to compare the methods of maintenance collections which have evolved in practice under the Children of Unmarried Parents Act, namely, affiliation orders, agreements, and lump-sum settlements. Analysis of a group of affiliation-order cases shows that the necessity of court action to prove paternity and make an affiliation order for maintenance is evidence of a maladjustment in the social situation. Agreements are a desirable method for the support of a child over a sixteen-year period, provided it is judged that the putative father is willing to share responsibility for the care of the child over a long-term period. On the other hand, the experience of lump-sum settlements suggests that they have several advantages. When these cases are properly handled, the unmarried father may be relieved of his obligation, particularly if he has legitimate family responsibilities; this solution assures the child a definite sum of money and breaks emotional ties of the kind which may be often upsetting to the girl and prejudicial to the putative father. The question arises as to how children born out of wedlock will be supported if orders, agreements, and settlements are not always satisfactory methods. An invariable situation is that putative fathers tend to have comparatively low incomes so that they provide only small regular payments; also settlements may not be sufficiently large enough to be acceptable to the unmarried mother. Relevant cases show that it is destructive to make an affiliation order or an agreement against a putative father when he is unable to pay because of unemployment or unwillingness; moreover, it is also destructive to make an order or an agreement for an amount beyond his financial and emotional ability to pay. The study suggests, in these cases: Social Allowance for the unmarried mother and the child, or a fund to supplement the mother's earnings and to bridge the periods when the man is unable to pay. Social work must play an important role in adequate treatment of unmarried parent cases. Putative fathers should be treated as individuals who require the skill of case workers in order to solve their conflicts involved in providing maintenance. The study points up the need for more professional personnel who are capable of handling unmarried parent cases,— also a need for a much broader perspective on the whole program. Hopefully this thesis may clarify the newer philosophy that forcing maintenance collections from putative fathers affords little protection to children born out of wedlock. It is through case work and understanding that a putative father will willingly share responsibility with the unmarried mother in the protection and care of the child.

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