Co-operation for the best interest of the child? Reflections, consequences and spaces for interventions following the amendments regarding maintenance support 2016.

Primary investigator: Stina Fernqvist

Grant: Försäkringskassan 2017-2019

This qualitative study explores the effects of the amendments regarding maintenance support, which became effective in 2016. These amendments imply that maintenance support should to a larger extent be transformed into maintenance allowance, whereby the handling of support is transferred from the authority level to the parents who are expected to initiate a dialogue to secure the best interest of the child(ren) in financial terms. However, this may be problematic. Possible occurrence of gender-based violence and financial oppression, when the financial acting space of one partner is restricted by the other, may complicate the implementation. It has been argued that a normative family perspective, that presupposes the possibility of an unproblematic co-operation between ex-partners with children, tends to obscure such power imbalances. Although desirable, mutual responsibility for support can thus create potential for fathers to exert financial oppression over mothers, who most often have the main financial responsibility as custodial parents. Save The Children in Sweden has intermittently addressed that single parent household are overrepresented among poor households, which makes this issue relevant to explore since maintenance support can be a substantial contribution to the household economy.

By interviewing custodial parents about their experiences of maintenance processes after the amendments this study focuses on if, or how, experiences of violence and financial oppression has affected these processes and what implications this may have on the financial situation for these parents and their children.  The study also comprises interviews with administrators at the Social Insurance Agency in order to explore the organizational perspective on the amendments and the differences they have led up to in terms of client interactions and the handling of issues related to allowance and parental custody.