Child support arrangements and non-resident fathers in Ireland
Non-resident fathers are considered by the Irish State to be fulfilling their financial responsibility to their children by paying child support. However, previous Irish evidence would suggest that men make low levels of provision and that compliance rates are poor. This had led to the view that many separated men are "feckless" and care little for their children's welfare. The aim of this qualitative study is to explore the experiences and views of nonresident fathers in Ireland with regard to child support and to establish the implications for Irish child support policy. Men's accounts reveal how different factors influence the type of child support arrangement put into place. It is argued that it is useful to consider child support arrangements as coming about as a result of the interaction of a number of elements including the socio-legal environment in which such arrangements get decided. Attention is also paid to examining what happens to child support arrangements after men are legally separated. It was observed that changing post-separation circumstances may or may not affect whether child support is paid. This is because men can consider a range of issues before child support decisions are taken. The experiences of men are also examined in respect of a number of specific factors that other researchers have considered in relation to child support compliance. These factors are: men's ability to pay child support; the strength of family ties; the economic needs of mothers and their children; men's willingness to pay child support; and the enforcement system in place. Non-resident fathers' accounts of the operation of Irish child support regime are also reviewed. Thereafter, the implications for Irish child support policy are discussed in light of current policy aims and possible wider public policy goals.