Currently, family law recognizes children as the joint responsibility of their parents. Both parents have the rights and duties that accompany parenthood. For example, parents are required to feed and care for their children, assume the rights and duties of custody, supervision and education, and act as tutors until their children attain full age.
When parents separate or divorce, regardless of whether they were married or in a de facto relationship, they are required to continue to contribute to their child's needs, in particular by making support payments.
Since 1980, a married spouse who owns a family residence and the movable property used by the household cannot dispose of them without the consent of the other spouse or authorization from the court. In addition, a married spouse who obtains custody of a child may be awarded the right to use the family residence. However, this protection exists only for married spouses, and not for de facto spouses.
As soon as they have a child together, spouses, whether married or in a de facto relationship, should become subject to certain obligations towards each other.
The new "Mandatory parental regime" would ensure that parents are protected against the financial disadvantage of caring for a child, for example if one of the parents withdraws from the labour market for several years to look after the child. The rules are based on the interdependence between the parents, created when their child is born. The rules cover the period when the parents live together and the period after they separate, and also cover parents who have never lived together.
The mandatory rules on parenthood comprise three mandatory measures that would apply to all parents:
- An obligation for parents who have had a child together to contribute to the family expenses in proportion to their respective means, either financially or by contributing to household tasks;
- Protection for the family residence where the family formed by the parents, whether married or in a de facto relationship, and the child they have had together live;
- A new "compensatory parental allowance" to compensate one parent for the disproportionate economic disadvantage incurred while caring for the couple's child.
In connection with the last measure, since a child is a shared responsibility of both parents, each parent should bear a fair share of the economic disadvantage of caring for the child. The compensatory parental allowance would ensure that a parent who becomes impoverished through caring for a child can obtain fair economic compensation from the other parent, whatever the legal status of their relationship.
To reduce the number of cases brought before the courts, guidelines would be proposed to allow the parties to calculate compensation based on objective parameters, similar to those currently used to determine child support payments.