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Parenting Plan Affect On Child Support

What if a parenting plan sets a % of care that isn't being met?

In the next few months I will have to come up with a Parenting Plan as part of my divorce.  At the moment it is purely an understanding that we have.  I am the resident parent for our two boys (3&5).  She is currently paying the fixed amount of CS ($86.01p/f).  Our agreement is that the boys would spend every 2nd weekend with her (with that certainly not being a maximum).

Now that just isn't happening.  She hasn't seen them for almost 6 weeks now (not that I can possibly understand not wanting to see your kids for 6 weeks) and the last visit she picked them up at 10am on Sunday and they were back here just before 3pm the same day.  It appears that the boys interfere to much with her new party/drinking based lifestyle.

My question is, if we formalise the agreed to arrangement does that mean a reduction in CS as she will be 'seen' to be having 14% care even though she never actually meets that target?

Because when we formulate the plan I would like to ensure she is given a fair right to see the boys and don't want to cause a conflict, but I don't want to penalise myself and the boys financially because she isn't living up to her end of the agreement.  This would result in me having effectively 100% care, but only be assessed as having 76% of the associated costs.  Just doesn't sound right to me.

Is CS calculated on actual time spent as opposed to what is written down in the agreement?

As a side note, I don't have any issues with her paying her child support.  Every fortnight she pays exactly what she is required to.  It's just as a single dad working part-time every dollar makes a big difference to us.
In brief the latest agreement, be it verbal or written will be used, unless evidence of actual/likely care satisfies the CSA that this should be used (my understanding is that this is rare, {apparently a parent even taking a child to the CSA office each day was not considered sufficient evidence to satisfy the CSA that the parent had the care, instead they apparently threatened the parent with action based upon child abuse}).

Here's what the CSA guide says :-

The CSA Guide - Section 2.9.2: Resolving Care Disputes said

2.2.9: Resolving care disputes

Version 2.0, Last updated 24 December 2008 10:30amInformation in this version of The Guide applies from 1 July 2008
Refer to the previous Scheme Guide for information until 30 June 2008

Context

CSA encourages parents to resolve between themselves any disputes they may have about the care arrangements for a child. However, it is recognised that sometimes parents do not agree on the care arrangements for a child and as a result CSA cannot work out a care percentage to be used in an assessment. In these cases the CSA might choose to use information about past care to form a judgement about likely future care. CSA will obtain all relevant evidence to make a decision.

Legislative references

Sections 47A to 55 Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989

Determining a percentage of care

Disputes about a child's care

Documentary records

Statements from third parties

Review of care decisions

Determining a percentage of care

Generally, a carer's percentage of care will be determined by the most recent care arrangements agreed upon by the parents (or the parent/s and non-parent carer/s). This agreement might take the form of an oral agreement, written agreement, parenting plan, or court order in relation to a child's care. See Chapter 2.2.5 for more information on how percentages of care are worked out.

If the parents or carers provide conflicting information about the care arrangements for a child CSA will attempt to clarify the position so that a care percentage can be calculated.

Disputes about a child's care

When a parent makes a request to change the care records of a child CSA will seek to confirm the information with the other parent. If the other parent does not confirm the information, CSA will ask both parents to provide details of the care arrangements.

CSA will make a decision on the basis of the information provided by the parents to substantiate their claims.

Documentary records

Parents may be able to support their claims by providing a copy of a diary or other record of contact. CSA will consider a wide range of evidence including records of visits to health care providers or other services. CSA may also have records of past customer contact that is relevant and can utilise Centrelink information.

CSA cannot treat information from Centrelink about the percentage of care it has used in working out a parent's rate of Family Tax Benefit as conclusive evidence. The care is often measured over a different time period and Centrelink's criteria for working out the amount of care of a child for Family Tax Benefit differ from CSA's criteria.

Statements from third parties

CSA can consider statements provided by third parties and may contact a third party to clarify their statement if necessary. CSA will advise the third party and the parent who provided the statement that the other parent will be told the source of the information and given details of the information contained in the statement so that they can comment on the information. If the third party or parent providing the information does not want the details provided to the other parent, CSA will not consider the statement when making a decision.

CSA will respect the privacy of the parents and the children involved. It will not obtain, or have regard to, information from children. It will not contact third parties without the consent of the parent concerned and will not imply that any person is obliged to provide information to CSA. If a parent provides a statement from a third party CSA will infer that they have consented to the third party being contacted.

CSA will attempt to determine the percentage of care of a child on the basis of the information provided and obtained. However, if the evidence provided by parents cannot be reconciled, CSA cannot be satisfied that the percentage of care has changed. In these circumstances, CSA will assume that the state of affairs known to it at the time the assessment was made are continuing and it will not amend the assessment.

Review of care decisions

See Chapter 2.2.4 for more information about the review of care decisions.


Here's a link to the relevant section the the guide.

Note! The guide is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the legislation and you may therefore wish to follow references to the actual legislation.
MikeT said
Determining a percentage of care

Generally, a carer's percentage of care will be determined by the most recent care arrangements agreed upon by the parents (or the parent/s and non-parent carer/s).
  So basically if I agree she can have a certain amount of care I get slammed with that as a percentage even if she doesn't actually meet those obligations.  Perhaps I need to phrase the parenting plan along the lines of 'from time-to-time as mutually agreed'.  That way they have no choice but to use actual figures when determining the percentage.

Cheers.
Considering that the other parent appears to be paying the fixed assessment amount, unless the other parent has 35% or more care (in which case the other parent would pay $0 as that level of care is considered as providing sufficient support), then the level of payments would remain as it is.

However if the other parent were to report a taxable income greater than the standard Parenting Payment Single (PPS), or if the other parent were on income support, then the level of care could be relevant.

If the other parent were then on income support then a level of care of 14% or more would be considered as providing sufficient support and the minimum payment (about $6.51 per week per a case {not per child like the fixed assessment} would otherwise apply).

If the other parent were reporting a taxable income greater than the PPS, then at 14% level of care, a reduction of 24% would apply (from 35% level of care this increases to a 25% reduction and progressively increases at an additional 2% for each 1% of care). In this situation the parent's percentage of the combined child support income (PIP Parent's Income Percentage) is also a factor and is used as the base for who pays what.

Note that this is a very simplistic overview.

So considering your current situation where a fixed assessment applies and that it is unlikely that the 35% threshold would be crossed (this is also the threshold at which the other parent can start to claim FTB), then the level of care is not significant (although it could be in the future).

Last edit: by MikeT

Mick, as you're a new member you may also be interested in the CS Calculators that we have on this site.

You could use them run through various scenarios.

There are two calculators available (Simple and Advanced) and a link to them can be found on the home page. However currently there is an issue with the advanced calculator so it doesn't work (I'd normally recommend using the advanced, it provides more comprehensive underlying information and can cope with all CS scenarios, although it is more complicated to use). However there is a working copy of the Advanced Calculator here.

All tests have indicated that both calculators are accurate.
Thanks.  That one makes a lot more sense to me than the first one.  Greatly appreciated.

I want to protect our interests without making it a source of conflict at the same time.  Not always an easy thing to do.

At least I know at this stage wording the plan in a specific way won't dis-advantage us.  It may later on if her income increases, but then I can ask them to consider actual care % anyway.

Thanks again.
Hi, from my understanding and experience, CSA would prefer to go off the legal documents ie court or consent orders.  We are in the process of getting clearer orders that will reflect the amount of time we are having and hopefully match our willingness to participate in the childs life. (access stopped initially and the unfortunate games began after the new policies were introduced) Unfortunately if one of the party's breaches the orders, the other party has the legal recourse to take them to court for breach of orders. I believe they are tightening on the penalties for this. I dont know how this affects CSA assessments if you tell them the orders are not a true reflection of care, but I would say keep your own records and use them for a change of assessment if they do not reflect the orders.  and yes it is costly unfortunately.  Also mediation is available if both parties are willing to cooperate resolutions for the sake of the kids…unfortunately, ours wasnt.  I wish you luck as all of these paths, any of them require alot of soul searching and consideration to do what is right for your children and then yourself.
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