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It looks like I may have to appeal to SSAT. I had never heard of this process until now. I lodged an objection to a decision that CSA had made without my knowledge stating I had been invited to a phone conference and the decision was made without me being present. I asked for an extension of time of 2 weeks to finalize my paperwork, in writing to CSA 2 weeks before the objection date via express post keeping the tracking code. They received the letter the next day. I then recieved a letter telling me that they had made a decision on the original date, refusing my objection and if I want to appeal to go through this SSAT process. What is their function and are they just as bad as CSA. It all sounds like "pass the buck onto the next pencil necked geek Department".
Assuming that this is regard to a change of assessment (payer, payee or registrar initiated) the decision that was made was acceptable if the decisions was that the matter is too complex or that the decision is that there is to be no departure (i.e. actually no decision has been made). For any other decision then Both parties are entitled to a an importunity to attend a conference to ensure that there is procedural fairness. If the SCO has denied you this opportunity then they have not competently enacted the legislation that they are paid enact. As such you would likely go to SSAT with the complaint that a decision has been made without adhering to the legislated requirement that procedural fairness is afforded to the involved parties. Obviously you have to object first. I would also advise complaining about the invalidity of the decision and the conduct of the SCO.


Here's what the CSA Guide says about the Change of Assessment process:

CSA Guide - 2.6.5 (note 2.6.6 is similar except for registrar initiated change of assessment) said
Change of assessment application must be in writing

A person cannot apply for a change of assessment by phone. CSA requires that a change of assessment application be made in writing on the appropriate form (sections 98D and 150A).

The form (Your Application: changing your child support assessment in special circumstances) is available from CSA offices or on CSA's website at www.csa.gov.au. The form can be lodged by mail, in person or by facsimile.

In order to make a valid change of assessment application, the person must complete and sign the form.

CSA may refuse to make a decision on the application without taking any further action if:

    * The application does not disclose any of the 10 change of assessment reasons (section 98F(a)); or.
    * A change of assessment reason exists, but it would not be just and equitable or otherwise proper to make a decision to change the assessment (section 98F(b)).

It is therefore important that an application contains enough information to allow CSA to be satisfied about those matters.

The form asks the applicant to identify the period for which a change is sought. CSA has limited powers to make a retrospective change of assessment decision.

Parties to a change of assessment

The parties to a change of assessment application are the liable parent and the carer entitled to child support (section 98B(2)). Where there is a non-parent carer, both parents will be parties to the application in some circumstances.

Copy of application to the other parent

When CSA receives a change of assessment application, it must send a copy of the application and any documents that accompanied the application to the other party (section 98G). However, CSA is not required to send a copy of the application or supporting documents to the other party if it decides to refuse the application without a conference (section 98G(1)).

Right to respond to application

CSA must give the other party an opportunity to respond to the application (section 98G(2)). CSA does this by sending the other party (the respondent) a form (Response - changing your child support assessment in special circumstances) when it forwards the application to them. However, CSA is not required to give the other party an opportunity to respond to an application if it decides to refuse to change the assessment (section 98G(1)).

If the respondent completes the response form, CSA must send a copy of that response and any documents that accompanied it to the applicant (section 98G(3)).

Each party entitled to a conference

CSA must give each party an opportunity to have a conference with the Senior Case Officer (SCO) making a decision on the application for a change of assessment (section 98H). However, CSA can decide to refuse to change the assessment without giving any party a conference (section 98G(1)).

CSA will offer the applicant and respondent a personal or telephone conference. This can be a joint conference with the other party if the parties agree (section 98H(3)). CSA can also conduct separate conferences for each party, either personally, or by telephone.

Unlike a court hearing, the CSA cannot take evidence under oath, or cross examine a party about the evidence they give at conference, or in their application.

No party can have a representative appear for them at their conference (section 98H(5)).

CSA not obliged to conduct investigations

CSA can make a change of assessment decision on the basis of the application, the other partys response and any supporting documents that the parties provided (section 98H(1)(a)).

CSA can conduct further enquiries, but is not obliged to do so (section 98H(1)(b)). If CSA requires further information from a party, or from third parties, it can issue a notice requiring a person to provide that information (section 161).

The prescribed change of assessment application form requests that an applicant provide documents in support of their application. The response form also requests supporting documentation. The SCO will examine and weigh the evidence presented by the parties, which includes their written and oral statements, as well as the supporting documents. The SCO may request that the applicant or respondent provide further information or documents before making a decision on the application.

CSA will require a person to provide evidence in support of a claim that they cannot work, or have a reduced to capacity to work, because of a medical condition. The usual acceptable form of medical evidence is by way of a written report or medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner. The evidence provided needs to establish that the person is suffering from a medical condition that will affect the persons ability to work. It should state the manner and the period for which that condition will affect the persons capacity to work. CSA may also require medical evidence of a childs special needs; or of the medical condition of a person for whom the applicant provides care, or has a duty to maintain.

Procedural fairness

CSA must deal with a change of assessment application in a way that is procedurally fair. A decision-maker must ensure that a person is aware of any adverse information and that they have an opportunity to be heard and make submissions in support of their case. In addition to providing each party with a copy of the other partys response or application and supporting documents, CSA will also advise each party of any additional information that it intends taking into account in a way that is adverse to them, and invite them to comment upon that information. This would include information provided by the other party at a separate conference, or by a third party after the conference.

Agreements made during a change of assessment

Parties can make an agreement while CSA is considering a change of assessment application (section 98T). CSA must accept the agreement if it is satisfied that it is a child support agreement (section 98U(1)). However, if the agreement is not a binding agreement, CSA can only accept the child support agreement if it is satisfied that it would be just and equitable to do so (section 98U(2)).

If an agreement is accepted while CSA is considering a change of assessment application, the assessment will be based on the agreement and a change of assessment decision will not be made. The change of assessment process may continue for the purpose of determining the notional assessment amount (used to determine the receiving parents entitlement to Family Tax Benefit)."

WA ex-nuptial cases and applications made prior to 6 January 2009

The Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Further 2008 Budget and Other Measures) Act 2008 amended sections 80E and 98U from 6 January 2009. Those amendments do not yet apply to WA ex-nuptial cases.

In relation to WA ex-nuptial cases, CSA can not accept a limited child support agreement that is made while CSA is considering a change of assessment decision unless the agreement is for at least the amount of the child support assessment. Properly made binding child support agreements (agreements made with independent legal advice) may still be accepted.

Those rules also continue to apply generally to any application for acceptance of an agreement made prior to 6 January 2009.

CSA must give written notice of the decision

CSA must give the parties written reasons for the decision to change an assessment, including the reasons for establishing that special circumstances existed in the case (section 98S(4)). This allows the parties to have a clear understanding of the meaning and effect of the decision. CSA will also document its reasons for the type and duration of the decision in the notice of decision. If CSA fails to give written reasons to either party this does not affect the validity of the decision (section 98S(5)).

CSA must also amend the administrative assessment to give effect to the change of assessment decision and give the parties a written notice of the assessment (sections 75 and 76). The assessment notice must include, or be accompanied by, information about the parties right to object to CSA's decision, and to apply to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal if they are aggrieved by CSAs decision on the objection (section 76(3)).

If CSA refuses to make a change to the assessment, it must also provide the parties with written reasons for that decision.

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