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Frustrated stepmother

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blindsided by CSA

Hello.  I'm new to this.  Yesterday my husband came home for lunch and informed my that he had been contacted by CSA (never a good opening)  He said that they had been reviewing their system and foud that he owed his ex-wife $1200 from before 2008.  That a lot of money for us.  it seems to happen periodically that we recieve correspondence from CSA indicating that there has been an adjustment to our case which results in random amounts oweing.  In the past, we have simly paid the amount and tried to be the bigger person, etc.  I am getting really tired of it.  We have 2 children of our own to support, and while we have no problem supporting our other child, we feel these random amounts are over the top.  I am on the verge of leaving my husband.  I am at the end of my rope.  Is there any option for us to stay together and be happy while constantly being attacked by CSA? 
How old are the children he has to pay CS for. Did they give you an explanation on how this happened?
His child is 13 years old.  they said it was really complicated(their words)  That the case had been reviewed by the top technical advisor and that there was a technical error 'before 2008'.  I'm assumng its a result of this new system they have rolled out?  we did have a very complicated case as she and he both remarried and had more children.  also she has been divorced again and has multiple cases.  I love my husband, he's a good man.  
I think you need to demand some kind of proof on the 'technical error' and for them to show you the actual figures from 'before 2008' to prove it was miscalculated.
I have asked for access to the records, but apparently I have to make a written request under the freedom of information act which I am in the process of doing.  I'm not sure why I have to site freedom of information to get access to our own records, but I guess the harder they make it for me, the more likely I'll just give up and fork over the money.  we have filled out forms so many times and filed so many objections and requests for changes of assessment.  Never has CSA found in our favour.  I'm just tired.  It seems like CSA must have some kind of collection quota, and they pick on us because they know we'll pay.  I'm not a conspiracy theorist, just at my wits end.  Guess I'll wait to see what happens with FOI.
I'd suggest that you make a complaint that the are not being informed of the details required to adequately determine whether you have grounds upon which to object to the decision or decisions, objection being a right enshrined in the legislation that you are being deprived off.

I do know that the system has been unable to properly cope properly with multi-case scenarios. Of note is that if the other parent is on benefits or has/had an income that is less than the SSA then multi-case will have no effect as the cost of the multi-case children would have been $0. Also multi-case allowance/cap has only been in effect since 1st July 2008.

In making the complaint I suggest that you involve your local federal MP, the ombudsman and the MP for the DHS (Brendan O'Connor, Parliament House Suite M1.24,Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600, Phone: (02) 6277 7200, Fax (02) 6273 4406, Email: minister@humanservices.gov.au), as well as the CSA. I'd suggest doing so in writing or via CSA Online and also that you insist on being given a written reply. You should also insist on the explanation including references to the section(s) of the legislation under which the decision or decisions were made.

There is a calculator (the advanced calculator), available from the home page that can work out multi-case scenarios (PM if you you have problems inputting the information). The calculator can perform previous years calculations and is the only calculator that is publicly available that can perform multi-case calculations. However, currently, it cannot do 2012 calculations. If you need this then another copy of the calculator that has been updated for 2012 calculations mat be found here Alternative Advanced CS Calculator.

Note that the calculator doesn't take into consideration the date when a child turns 13. You'd have to do a calculation for when the child was 12 and then 13. Then divide each result by 365.25 and then multiply by the respective number of days that the child was at the respective age in the child support period being worked out.

Note that by clicking on "show calculations" you will given intermediate values. For multi-case there can be quite a lot of information.
OK asking for FOI = another complaint. You have a right as previously stated to have all information that was used in making the decision (asking for all records is perhaps not the right thing to say as some such as the other parent's personal information is protected), however the CSA employee should have determined, from your records or reason for contacting them as to why you were asking and thus pointed you towards what you needed. Don't accept their BS and attempts to obfuscate the matter.

PS For multi-case there is no need to know the income of the other parents of the multi-case children. The calculation only takes into consideration the income of the relevant parent for which the multi-case allowance/cap is being calculated for. If they try BS about not giving the income of those parents say that you understand that this information (the income of the multi-case children's other parents) is not required.
This is better information than I have recieved in the 9 years I've been involved in this situation.  Thank you.
Samba, grow up. Many relationships struggle to survive in financial stress and I do not know about you, but I would sure struggle if every so often a $1000.00 bill arrived that I did not expect.

Also he has 3 kids, not one, and note she called them all their children
Wow. A bit angsty there.  As I stated eaerlier, we have no problem fullfilling our obligations, financial or otherwise.  CSA randomly reviewed our case and seemingly invented a $1200 mistake.  We pay our support regularly and on time.  My husband is a good man.  

It's this issue alone which constantly causes financial and emotional upheaval in our household.  We've done everything in our power to ensure stability for our family and all of our children.  

Last edit: by MikeT

I know what you must be feeling. MikeT gave really good advise. I would watch your statements as well, in case they apply late payment fees from now until you pay. It's unbelievable that they can do this, but I have heard this way to often and I am worried that we will face this as well later on. I know how straining it can be to deal with CSA. We are actually moving to a smaller place as we can't afford the constant changes. I am lucky that I do not have children yet.
Just to add to the above.

Put everything down in writing. Do not phone them or accept phone calls from them. Inform the CSA that you wish to be a write only client. This will offer you some protection from 'misheard and misunderstood' conversations on the phone.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on the site (Look for the Avatars).   Be mindful what you post in the public areas. 
Gogarty note that MikeT is refering to the advanced child support calculator on this site just in case you might have gone to the CSA site.

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
 
gogarty said
Wow. A bit angsty there.  As I stated eaerlier, we have no problem fullfilling our obligations, financial or otherwise.  CSA randomly reviewed our case and seemingly invented a $1200 mistake.  We pay our support regularly and on time.  My husband is a good man.  It's this issue alone which constantly causes financial and emotional upheaval in our household.  We've done everything in our power to ensure stability for our family and all of our children.

I really feel your pain - I really do.  I know its no consolation but the CSA system is very complex and it can seem like you get your case randomly reviewed and the extra you get charged are random amounts but is not really the situation.  CSA gets information from all sorts of sources and when it arrives often can not be predicted.  That will cause an automatic reassessment and application of the legislation as it was at the time the information applies to eg they could have got updated income information from many years ago and that will recalculate new amounts.  I know it is no consolation but the CSA system is very very complex and it does not surprise me an error could have occurred.

That said I believe you should have it clearly explained why you owe the money - exactly what the technical glitch was and how they calculated the new amount.  I wouldn't pay anything until that is done and if you are not happy take your objections as far as you can to the Social Security Appeal Tribunal and Administrative Appeals Tribunal.  This is not only to ensure you get a fair shake but make sure CSA is aware of their obligations to get it right.

Old boy - she can't take this to the AAT. Get up to date before giving advice!
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