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CS inquiry interest

There seems to be little interest in the current Child Support inquiry ... Perhaps the budget is taking pride of place.

There seems to be little interest in the current Child Support inquiry … Perhaps the budget is taking pride of place. It is important that all child support matters should be raised as part of the inquiry.

If you have any topics that might be explored happy to have some dialogue on the forums.

We are preparing an extensive list of issues that have come up in the last four years or so.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
 
issues:

1) Lacisdasical attitude to projects e.g. the still unresolved change of assessment review and of course the underlying issue of grossly unfair decisions made and that the legislation is grossly lacking e.g. their is no legislated requirement for any of the 10 outcomes being used in specific situations, there is no realistic (i.e. courts frequently simply dismiss cases when there are clear unsatisfactory decisions) safeguard against biased decision making based primarily upon the amount that can be gleaned from the paying parent. After many years the only result is that more experienced officers are introduced earlier (this highlighting how blind the higher echelons within the CSA are to providing an efficient service).

2) That the legislation, especially in disputed care, lacks protection of children's humane rights to know and be cared for by their parent's, rather that the current legislation acts to actually encourage many a recipient parent to abuse their children by denying those children their purportedly enshrined humane rights for that parent's monetary and/or revengeful gain.

3) The formula is grossly fundamentally flawed e.g. in two scenarios a single night's care change can result in that one night making a change to the annual rate of more than 12.5k.

4) It is still very common for CSA officers to provide radically different advice for the same scenario, thus external groups find that the most common advice is to give is to call the CSA on at least 3 occasions regarding the same scenario to gauge what could be the correct and accurate advice.

5) That the Family Law and Child support legislation frequently if not virtually always results in double dipping or more. That is that the underlying CS costs of children are not completely so, that they in fact (as per the Parkinson report) include amounts for the support of the recipient parent and that Family Law decisions normally also offset the distribution for this purpose.

6) That the included adjustments for "lifestyle", also included in the costs of children, do not consider other factors that can and very often do make this adjustment unfair and inequitable and thus unjust. e.g. that a parent may be in a relationship with another person who's income vastly adjusts the resultant "lifestyle" for the child whilst residing with that parent.

7) That the legislation gives the far less qualified CSA employee greater power than the far more qualified Family Law decision maker to support a parent to contravene court orders as were determined in the best interest of the child or children by the Family Law decision maker. (as per 2 above.

8) That it is believed that the CSA have abused their power, by surreptitiously introducing legislation (part of the spring 2010 changes were not explained nor fitted the alignment of Centrelink/CSA processes) to suit their own administrative needs (reduction of the known administrative overload due to disputed care. It is also believed that the CSA have plans to do so again by using the change of assessment project to introduce legislation that they already have and have had for a number of years, again not to suit the support of children but purely to suit their administration of the legislation.

9) That the SSAT appeal process is fundamentally flawed and is simply now attitudinally an extension of the CSA as it is believed that SSAT is comprised of many ex-CSA employees who still have the entrenched attitude that child support is primarily about taking as much as they can from the paying parent rather than ensuring that both parent's provide the correct (just and equitable) financial support for their children. SSAT should be independent of the CSA and that in itself should exclude the potential for such an attitude to exist within SSAT. one example being a decision that clearly stated that the parent and that parent's partner both contributed equally to the businesses that they both ran but then distributed the income from those businesses so that the CS paying parent's income was about 10 times that of the partner. This matter was taken to court, where the original decision maker said they were very keen to handle this case. However, due to sickness, another decision maker was appointed who simply dismissed the case, likely knowing that the self-representing appellant could not afford to appeal to the higher court.
We need a new and separate complaint's department and investigating body with the absolute power to Investigate the CSA,  Not CSA investigating CSA and do CSA cover up's or just being able to refuse to give out any information to other investigating department.
I've completed the online survey and encouraged others (including my husband) to do so.

I am a payee, my husband is a payer.

Based on the inequity in our situation - where his two children are supported by him paying upwards of $13K a year in CS while his ex-wife works a measly 20 hours a week (despite her children being 13 and 15), where my daughter is only provided with $500 in support from her father (while I work full time and he chooses not to) - I think the formula needs addressing.

Personally, I think there should be a base amount set for the support of the child per year. The amount to support a child each year is $X.

Not depending on income.

Not depending on other dependents.

Not depending on what kind of lifestyle the family had prior to the split. Lifestyle issues are taken care of through property settlement as a rule anyway, so lets recognise that these are separate issues.

The set amount to raise a child - and lets say its something like $15K a year (I've just made that up, but I'm sure there is a baseline figure available somewhere) should be divided in half.
Each parent is responsible for half the cost of raising their child.

If parents have 50/50 care, then nothing is payable.

Parents are responsible for paying half of all major costs - schooling etc. If this is not happening, then BOTH parents should be required to pay into a joint  CS account and money paid out on presentation of invoices from schools / doctors / orthodontists etc.

If parents have a different mix, then their 50% of the costs of the child is paid to the other parent in the amount of care that the parent has. So if parent 1 has 100% care, then the other parent is liable to pay their full 50% share of the cost of the child to the caring parent.

If the parents have a different care percentage, then the amounts are adjusted accordingly. If you have 75% care, then the other parent should pay you half of their 50% of the care amount. So you receive 75% of the cost of the child to support them.

Thats it.

No income based scheme which penalises parents who earn a decent amount by lowering the paying parents contribution (like in my case) or penalises the parent who gets a good job while supporting the other parent to sit at home on their backside and collect benefits (like my husbands case). No more dictating that some children are worth more than others.

If the paying parent has an income so low that they cannot pay the base level of their 50%, then they gather a debt and it is garnished from their tax returns or their benefits until it is recovered. Everyone in this country has an income - via employment or via benefits. There is no excuse for non payment.

If that paying parent chooses to have more children, then they have to manage that themselves. If the payer has more children, then that is their problem too. The original child is not devalued as a result of the parents re-partnering and having more children and children can not be seen as a method to lower or raise their CS income / outgoings. Equally, setting the base level of what it costs to raise a child at a reasonable point means that there is no impediment to people who can afford to have more children doing so, no more fear that the ex will quit the small amount of work she does and the CS bill will rise exponentially.


I personally think that is a much fairer system.


Thats my 2 cents anyway.
I Too completed the survey. I thought it very loaded towards recipients rather than being balanced for payers also.

  • Inequity for new partners : I pay $12k per annum for my 2 children who are in shared care (whose mother earns $80k) while my new partner (who earns $20k) gets $700 per annum for full time care of her 3 children). 
  • Family Trusts : From a  tax perspective everything can look clean & fair but from a CS perspective they are unfair & used to hide income.
  • Overpayments : An over payment is an overpayment & a payer should be able to easily & administratively be refunded/recouped in the same way underpayments are recovered.
  • New Children : A payer or payee should not penalised if a payee/payer has new children.
  • Capacity to earn should be a standard definition applied to both payers & payees
  • Days in care - any day in care for a payer should result in a reduction of CS. Payers also pay for extra clothes, food, petrol, accommodation, holidays, birthdays, school etc.
  • Self support amount should be amended as it doesn't come close to covering the basics of living. My 25 year mortgage alone (for my very modest 4 bedroom house on Sydneys outskirts) is over $30k.

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant."

 
Willfred said
  Capacity to earn should be a standard definition applied to both payers & payees

  I don't agree especially when it comes back on the self employed. I have equity in my house where by I withdrew $5k to pay for medical bills and the SSAT deemed that as an income added back as a capacity to earn. How can it be an income when its the banks money. ?

Other items for your notes SPCA is the transparency for the self employed. Drawings from a business is the income for self employed and not depreciation, bank loans, fees and bank interest added back on top off drawings/wages.
Taylor said
 I don't agree especially when it comes back on the self employed.
Taylor my comment is only around that both payers & payees should have their capacity to earn assessed in the same way, not a conclusion that the system is fair. My experience has been that Payers at (like yourself) get dragged though the ringer if ever their income changes downwards whilst a payee can seemingly pick & choose if and when to work or not and yet their capacity to work if often not challenged.

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant."

 
GSharpe said
We need a new and separate complaint's department and investigating body with the absolute power to Investigate the CSA,  Not CSA investigating CSA and do CSA cover up's or just being able to refuse to give out any information to other investigating department.

The Ombudsman's office does a pretty good job investigating complaints. Have you read any of the Ombudsman's Office CS reports and particularly their Annual Report?


Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
 
taylor said
Willfred said
 Capacity to earn should be a standard definition applied to both payers & payees

  I don't agree especially when it comes back on the self employed. I have equity in my house where by I withdrew $5k to pay for medical bills and the SSAT deemed that as an income added back as a capacity to earn. How can it be an income when its the banks money. ?

Other items for your notes SPCA is the transparency for the self employed. Drawings from a business is the income for self employed and not depreciation,bank loans, fees and bank interest added back on top off drawings/wages.
In respect to transparency for the self employed. I have been at the policy group for some years to develop a FACT sheet. The current view from Government is that it is the responsibility of Self Employed Payers and Payees to seek guidance from an accountant or accredited financial advisor. I have not been able to convince the CS Policy teams that a proper guide for the self employed is required that sets out the details and rational behind depreciation and deductibility and as well share sales where large losses are added back to income. No one understands it or can get to a position of a repeatable and consistent application of policy.

All I can offer at this stage is that there are two separate taxation systems in Australia. One is administered by the ATO where everything is published, the rules are clear and able to be repeated. The other is a CS system where if you are a customer of the Child Support system and self employed then you need to spend a lot more effort, time and money getting proper advice about a system that is determined on every assessment.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
 
I have been out of the country and seem to have not caught up.  A review of CSA!

I would like the issue of transparency of where the payment is used in children care to be put on an agenda.  In my case I pay over $3400/month for my two children and they are continually sent back to me with holes in shoes, no clothes (because I can buy them).  

I would also like to see the self-employment issue become more transparent.  Certainly self-emplyed reserve some rights etc, but in my case I have now unearthed significant methods that were 'lost' in translation at tax time. 
I would like to see CSA administered by the ATO as Sleepy has suggested before. Then it would be handled according to legislation and not opinion/bias, and this would result in consistency of  child support assessments.
I would also like to see child support payments "unhooked" from actual care so that if a parent has orders of any sort, then the care in the orders dictates the payments. This would stop parents from with holding care so as make financial gains.
It would also encourage more parents to get orders which would hopefully lead to more stability and routine for their kids.
I'd like to live long enough to see rules of evidence applied to CSA decisions. I'd also like to see their exemption from judicial review for Part 6A decision scrapped entirely.

I think that the Ombudsman's Office is reliable and will thoroughly investigate CSA based complaints, but to what end? They can't sack people. They can't even recommend reprimands or discipline failed staff. They can't force CSA or payees to return ill gotten takings. Other than compiling evidence for further reporting, their findings usually result in little more than a request for an apology. Overpayments are NOT adequately compensated by apologies.

Having taken a back seat from FL and CS issues recently I can now effectively summarise my thoughts on how to reform CSA properly;

The problem, holistically, is one of organisational culture. CSA has an obvious anti-male, anti-payer mentality and their behaviours and decisions reflect that. Having been witness to cultural change within the ADF (females in combat etc) I can say with confidence that the way to affect gender based cultural issues is with an iron fist.

For this reason (and some others) I think that the most effective way of reforming CSA as we now know it is to have their decisions reviewed externally and bearing consequence for errors.

In a perfect, logical and cost effective world I stand firmly by my theory that the ATO is a far more capable and refined entity and should be appointed to commandeer all financial responsibilities from CSA and see to it that their staff are sent packing faster than an evicted separated father.
I agree that the ATO would be well placed to deal with CSA.

I can't agree with you BDouble about Orders dictating care. My husband recently had his youngest son move in with him full time. When he reported this to CSA, they went to confirm it with the mother who told them that the care was still in line with the Orders - meaning that she maintained majority care.

So my husband has his son 100% of the time, but was forced to pay CS as if he had less than 25% care because of her dishonesty and the existence of those orders.

Care levels change and not everyone bothers to update their orders - particularly after the child turns 14.
I should have specified that change in care would be swiftly followed by change in orders. I agree the scenario above is not fair.
We were denied access to one child completely (and had take the other parent to court) thus increasing our CS.
I think where there are orders and the parent is denying access then the CS should be in line with the orders.

But that becomes challenging too, doesn't it, when the child is 14 and decides that they don't want to do 50/50 anymore for example. The parent that they choose to live with shouldn't be penalised for that choice by having to wear full costs with no assistance… but then what if they were undermining the relationship?

Its all too complicated.
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