National Post

October 26, 2002

Periodic parents ignored

Letter to the Editor by David Osterman
National Post

Re: Aloneness becomes normal, Oct. 23.

Statistics Canada now counts the 34,200 Canadian same-sex couples, but refuses to count a far larger [50 times] type of household that, in practical terms, suffers greater, and increasing, discrimination by government policy: periodic families. These are families, with children, created through divorce, separation, or births where the biological parents are not residing in the same household. They usually comprise a single (or re-coupled) father with children, children which he can legally keep in his home only for some specified, periodic time. Sometimes, they are headed by single moms. Sometimes the children reside there almost all the time.

Not wanting to "count the children twice," StatsCan ignores the children that reside in a periodic family household, counting it as either a single man, a couple, or, if there are other children, a family. If the periodic children live exactly 50% of the time at each of their homes, StatsCan considers that the children live with the parent who has "custody", and if both have joint custody, whichever parent receives child support payments (and, if no money transfers hands, then it's where the child is on census day, a Tuesday). The other household is then considered to be child-less.

In practical terms, most of the remaining government policy that puts same-sex couples at a disadvantage is in obtaining benefits for their partner e.g., the use of a company drug plan, a redirection of a pension to the surviving partner after a death. Much can be mitigated by estate and insurance planning. Periodic parents face a far more repressive situation. Their assets may be seized, their incomes garnisheed, their small businesses ruined through excessive litigation.

As far as government policy is concerned, periodic families have no children. Child support, which is supposedly the total amount that a typical single-household family spends on its children (for a given income-level), ignores every expense accrued directly by the periodic family -- extra housing, extra transportation, extra food, extra clothing, family activities. Periodic families do not receive any of the Child Tax Benefit. They cannot claim the "Eligible Dependent" amount ($6,293) despite the fact they they are, through their support payments, supporting their children financially. They are taxed as though their children did not exist.

And then there is the application of criminal law. The police will not even bother to lay charges in a whole range of criminal code violations if the victim is the head of a periodic family and the alleged criminal is the other parent of his children -- kidnapping, common assault, criminal harassment, various forms of fraud; there's a long list.

While StatsCan now counts same-sex couples, it and the government still keep their eyes-closed when it comes to repressing periodic parents.

David Osterman, Toronto.

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