Parenting and Democracy in Contemporary Europe
Edited by David G. Mayes and Mark Thomson
Chapter 8: The costs of caring for children before and after divorce: contradictory legal messages and their gendered effects
Legal norms set different incentives which may affect parental decisions about the division of employment and care within the household and have an impact upon the gendered costs of children (Scheiwe, 1999). But the situation of parents changes once they divorce or separate, and family law or social law convey different messages for separated parents and single-parent households. These messages under German law are widely contradictory, and trust in marital law promises and associated social security and tax law incentives to interrupt or reduce employment when caring for a child may prove misplaced in the event of divorce, especially for lower income groups. Put simply, the message to reduce employment and invest more in childcare and to trust in compensation through marriage is different from messages in post-divorce regulation of maintenance. The latter emphasise self-reliance through employment once the child reaches the age of three, but that children come first, and if the money is insufficient to cover child support plus maintenance payments, the carer comes second and must rely on means-tested benefits.
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