Domestic Purposes Benefit

Domestic Purposes Benefit

The Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) was first introduced in New Zealand in 1974. The Destitute Persons Act 1910 and the Domestic Proceedings Act 1968 created a statutory means by which a woman could seek a maintenance order against the father of her children. The court could, at its discretion, set the rate that it thought appropriate for the father to pay the mother in respect of the child. This maintenance continued until the child reached the age of sixteen; maintenance would continue to be payable in respect of a child over the age of sixteen if the child was engaged in full-time education. These statutes provided a means by which women could seek maintenance from the putative father, but where there were difficulties, women had to resort to the court in order to enforce the maintenance agreement or order. There were further difficulties; an unmarried mother had to obtain an acknowledgement of paternity from the father or a declaration of paternity from the court in order to be entitled to seek maintenance. The DPB, introduced in statutory form in 1973, mitigated these difficulties. The Act provided State financial support for single mothers, irrespective of whether the father was contributing to maintenance payments.

The introduction of the DPB was blamed for "creating a shortage of babies for adoption". However, the extent to which the DPB contributed to the shortage of babies available for adoption is unclear. The number of births outside of marriage fell between 1971 and 1976. The numbers of ex nuptial children being adopted had started to fall in 1962, before the introduction of State financial support. Else notes that a number of other factors were at work, such as a "softening" of attitudes towards illegitimate children and their mothers, the removal of the stigma of illegitimacy by the Status of Children Act 1969, the increasing availability of contraception and delays in the placement of babies.

The previous is extracted from the report of the Law Commission: Adoption and Its Alternatives: A Different Approach and a New Framework, September 2000, Wellington New Zealand. The full report is available at http://www.lawcom.govt.nz



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