Lone-parent families account for around one in eight families with
children in France. France has a low marriage rate and a low divorce
rate. Almost a third of births are to unmarried women, but the rate
of teenage birth is very low at only nine per thousand.
Provision for Lone Parents
There are two main benefits for lone parents, Allocation Soutien
Familial (ASF), a noncontributory benefit for families where there
is no second parent; and Allocation de Parent Isole (API) a means-tested
and more generous alternative to Revenue Minimum D'Insertion (RMI),
the general social assistance benefit, it is payable for 12 months
after divorce or separation or until the youngest child is three
years old. When API eligibility ceases the lone parent may claim
RMI, which involves making a contrat d'insertion (which may include
participation in a job creation or training programme). Most lone
parents are in employment, but they have been disproportionately
affected by recent rises in unemployment.
When a child is born in France the father does not have to be named,
and where this is the case there is no obligation to maintain, and
entitlement to ASF follows. Where there is a recognised father,
he has an obligation to maintain which if not met gives rise to
Calculation for Child Support
In the case of divorcing parents the judge will set the amount
of child support along with the right to visit. Child support agreements
are required by the judge when the divorce is by mutual consent
and joint petition (over 40 per cent of divorces). Cohabiting couples
can also use the courts to decide on the amount of child support
where they are unable to agree arrangements on separation.
In both cases the judge estimates the amount of child support freely,
taking into account the needs of the children and the income of
the non-resident parent, but there are no formal guidelines and
the amounts awarded are generally low. They range from around £40
per child per month to £800 per child per month; £80 per child per
month is an average level. Child support is only awarded in about
two out of three cases.
Child support is not paid in about one in ten cases and irregularly
paid in about 40 per cent of cases. The resident parent can ask
the family benefits office to recover the child support debt on
his or her behalf after two months of non-payment. Payments can
be deducted from the salary or bank account of the non-resident
parent, or collected by a tax collector or bailiff.
There is provision to recover a minimum amount of maintenance (around
£60 per month as at 1 January 1995) but it is rarely used.
If the resident parent is not married or cohabiting they can receive
family support benefit (Allocation de Soutien Familial (ASF) of
£47 per month per child in 1998) as an advance on unpaid child support.
In 60% to 70% of cases the Caisse Allocations Familiales (CAF) consider
that the amount is not acutally recoverable, but CAF will continue
to pay ASF to lone parents provided that they are on their own,
ie, do not remarry or cohabit. In all cases of doubt the benefit
is not payable. By June 1997 there were 484,600 recipients, almost
all of them women.
|*Source: Helen Barnes, Patricia Day and Natalie Cronin (1998). Trial
and Error: A review of UK child support policy. , Occasional Paper
24. London: Family Policy Studies Centre.