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CSA's Role In International Child Support Case (USA)

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Help would be appreciated!!

I have unfortunately only just found this site now and am impressed with the amount of knowledge and advice everyone has to offer!

Here's some background info: I have an international Child Support Order that was approved by a court in 2007 in the USA. I moved to Australia with my (2nd) wife (of 8 years) about a month after this and was initially unemployed. I was granted approval to work early '08 and began doing so by mid '08. Not too long after this CSA contacted me that they had accepted my case from the USA and would be collecting on behalf of the ex in the USA. By this time approximately $5k ($AUD) in arrears had accrued and they were asking $570 a month for my two children over in the USA. I immediately began paying and have consistently paid over a little more than $50 extra every month since (that's all I can afford). Initially they said that would be fine, and that so long as I was paying as much extra as I could, everything would be fine.

Since then they have contacted my employer quoting a statute that according to their own laws does not apply in situations where there is an international agreement. After they forced my employer to give up all the info they have on me, they also threatened that if I do not complete an ALF form, they will garnish an extra $200 a month in addition to my regular $570 payment. I have, from the beginning, voluntarily paid via Bpay and requested NOT to have them take it from my pay. I quoted to the rep that the statute they are going by doesn't apply according to their own rules, and he agreed but explained it was in my best interests to give him all of my personal info. :ninja:

All that being said, what are my rights (if any) that you know of? I notice everyone commenting that they are just a collection agency - that being said, exactly what are they allowed to do and what can't they do?

Any help/advice would be so greatly appreciated!

Thanks so much!

Makka O_o
Makka said
Since then they have contacted my employer quoting a statute that according to their own laws does not apply in situations where there is an international agreement.

Could you please be more specific, what is the statute that they have quoted? Again what is an ALF form? OK found this, so no need to answer it's an Assets and Liabilities Form.

With regard to information the CSA are bound by the Privacy Act and as such must have a reason for the use of the information. A person's best interest is not a valid reason, as I don't believe that there is legislation that gives the CSA the powers to look after a person's best interest. If you had evidence of what was said then perhaps you could take this up with the Privacy Commissioner. If a CSA worker requests information in contravention of the Privacy Act, or any other legislation, then they would also be in contravention of the APS (Australian Public Servants) Legislation and the guidelines therein.

Makka said
All that being said, what are my rights (if any) that you know of? I notice everyone commenting that they are just a collection agency - that being said, exactly what are they allowed to do and what can't they do?

That's a bit of an over exaggeration and also I believe not what is said often. I will openly show/admit my dislike for the way that the CSA shows great bias against the payer, with individuals often abusing the power they hold, especially when it comes to the change of assessment process. However that is just one area of the CSA, as is collections, who are driven by targets as to how much should be collected per individual per month, how many garnishees per month and so on (perhaps relevant in your situation). However there are areas in the CSA that are trying to assist others, personalised services (hope I got the name correct) are one such area, where they have been known to intervene and get contact resumed. Perhaps Secretary_SPCA could expand upon this and perhaps provide other examples of where the CSA acts in the interest of others.

In some ways it could well be beneficial if more people put forward the good stories from the CSA, because unfortunately statements such as "it's only a collection agency", are so easily refuted and used against those who say such things and it then goes to reinforce deogatory terms such terms such as "Deadbeat Dad".

I believe if you want changes then you have to put forward a substantiated solid argument, one reason why I'm trying to get change of assessment decisions.  

Last edit: by MikeT

Thanks for your fast response - I appreciate it. My comment referring to the amount of times I have read the CSA being referred to as 'just a collection agency' was followed up with - exactly what are they allowed to do and what can't they do? I was seeking clarification.

MikeT said
 
Could you please be more specific, what is the statute that they have quoted? Again what is an ALF form?
The Section that they requested the information via was Section 120 and I have taken this directly from the comlaw.gov.au website:

120  Obtaining of information and evidence



              (1)  The Registrar may, for the purposes of this Act, by notice in writing, require a person:


                      (a)  to furnish to the Registrar, within a reasonable period, and in a reasonable manner, specified in the notice, such information as the Registrar requires;


                      (b)  to attend before the Registrar, or before an officer authorised by the Registrar for the purpose, at a reasonable time and place specified in the notice, and then and there answer questions; and


                        to produce to the Registrar, at a reasonable time and place specified in the notice, any documents in the custody or under the control of the person.


           (1A)  A court having jurisdiction under this Act may, in a proceeding instituted in the court by a payee of a registered maintenance liability under section 113A to recover a debt due in relation to the liability, exercise all the powers of the Registrar under subsection (1).


              (2)  The regulations shall prescribe scales of expenses to be allowed to persons required to attend under this section.


              (3)  A person who refuses or fails to comply with a requirement made under subsection (1), or by a court in accordance with subsection (1A), is guilty of an offence punishable on conviction by a fine not exceeding $2,000.


              (4)  Subsection (3) applies only to the extent to which the person is capable of complying with the requirement.


              (5)  Subsection (3) is an offence of strict liability.


              (6)  This section does not apply in relation to a person:


                      (a)  in respect of whom an international maintenance arrangement applies; and


                      (b)  who is a resident of a reciprocating jurisdiction.
Part (6) details my sitiuation. The form I was referring to is the Assets and Liabilities Form, that CSA informed me (via a telephone call) that was in my best interests to complete otherwise they would go by the information they forced my employer to provide (i.e. my income excluding my expenses) which is completely unreasonable.

I have been paying on time every month, both the minimum as well as an extra amount toward the arrears, ever since they contacted me. According to their website, they are not allowed to use Section 120 to verify income, however that is exactly why they requested the info - to verify what I told them was true. (http://www.csa.gov.au/guidev2/TheGuideMaster.aspx?content=6_2_4) I have never given them incorrect information nor a reason to believe I wouldn't continue to pay on time, every month. I was completely embarassed explaining to my employer why they were sent the letter. Everything I have read suggests they have no reason or grounds to assume I am going to do anything but pay my obligation.

If I had a good story to share with you, believe me, I would be glad to share!
Makka,
         I assume that you are basing what you say, about not being able to request the information on 6(a), however you should note that it says and at the end and therefore the exclusion is not an exclusion without the conditions of 6(b) also being met. The determining factor is if you are a resident in Australia, this would depend upon your visa if you are not a citizen, if you are a resident or citizen in Australia then they can use section 120 to obtain the information, if you are a resident in a reciprocating jurisdiction (these are listed in schedule 2 of the Registration and Collection Regulations) then they cannot use section 120 to threaten you with a fine for not providing the information.

If you are resident in a non-reciprocating jurisdiction then I am pretty sure they also can't, as they can't collect from such a jurisdiction.

Makka said
According to their website, they are not allowed to use Section 120 to verify income,
What the guide actually says is :-

CSA Guide - 6.2.4 (an extract) said
CSA must not use the powers contained in the Registration and Collection Act to obtain information to verify an estimate of income.
There is a large difference between asking for one's income and verifying an estimate of income.

You may be interested in PEA (Protected Earnings Amount) which for 2009 is $1322.08 per month, unless they obtain a notice by the way of section 72A of the registration and Collections Act, they must not take more than the PEA. If you want more information regarding this then click on Web Guide at the top, then on Child Support (on the left) and then on Employers.
section 72a does not offer PEA.
They just pulled that one on hubby after accepting an offer of 0.10 in the $. for debt.
plus monthly amount.
Now suddenly he's back working a week and we are to be paying 0.15 in the $. according to the section 72A we received in the mail today…..
There is a threshold issue here.  Seems the CSA has crossed the line again out of their ignorance about what constitutes sound administration.  What they should have done is had a conversation with the payer and asked him to provide the information.  If he provided the information thay could then do their processing.  If he declined ONLY then should they have gone to third parties.  

Just a minor long standing principle of natural justice.  Perhaps he should raise it with them as a formal complaint - in writing.
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