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Child Support Agency sues father who lavished cash on daughters

Child Support Agency sues father who lavished cash on daughters


Noel Towell

Reporter for The Canberra Times

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The man has been sued because he gave the money straight to his daughters, rather than putting it through the government system.. 

he Child Support Agency launched a court case against a man who had just lavished more than $17,000 on his daughters because the money did not flow through the federal government agency.

The father "who simply could not say no" to his children was sued for $16,000 with taxpayers footing the bill for two barristers and high-end legal firm Minter-Ellison, despite the CSA's knowledge that the money had been handed directly to the children.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon says millions of dollars in unnecessary legal costs are being incurred by taxpayers.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon says millions of dollars in unnecessary legal costs are being incurred by taxpayers. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Now the man, who spent the money on university fees, books, a laptop, a car, clothes and "significant costs" for horses, vets' bills, polo crosse and medical expenses for his two daughters, is facing bailiff's action as the agency resorts to tough tactics to get what it says it is owed.

Fairfax Media understands the taxpayer-funded lawyers hired by the CSA to pursue the West Australian father, who cannot be named, has passed $100,000.

CSA's parent department Human Service did not respond to questions before deadline.

But the agency is going to have to defend its handling of the case in front of Senate estimates next week as well as answering questions about other disputes where hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent pursuing small or questionable debts.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon says he will use the case to pursue his reform of the "inflexible system" which, he says, is failing children, their mothers and fathers.

The case comes in the wake of another matter, which was also aired in the Senate, where the Child Support Agency spent more than $600,000 trying to recover $6000 until federal ministers called a halt.

Senator Xenophon said this latest case simply confirmed his determination to seek reform.

"This is yet another example of how inflexible and sometimes cruel the system can be," he said.

"There must be a better way because there are probably millions of dollars in unnecessary legal costs being incurred by taxpayers with this approach."

"I will be pushing for legislative reform"

The South Australian said he wanted, in the short term, a more sensible approach than simply suing fathers who were willing to pay their child support over simple disputes."As an intermediate step would be to allow people to sit back and rationally look at the issues and see if a sensible compromise can be reached without expensive and sometimes traumatic litigation," Senator Xenophon said.

In the West Australian case, a magistrate agreed that the father was "the author of his own misfortune," and that he "simply could not say no to his daughters."

But the payments to the girls could have been counted as official child support if his ex-partner had given official notice, but their "unstable relationship", characterised by abusive text messages, made it difficult.

In the end Magistrate David Monaghan ruled the CSA could enforce half of the $16,500 it was seeking, saying it would be an "injustice" to for the father to repay all of the money.

"He couldn't say no to his children when they requested financial assistance from him and he couldn't communicate properly with (his former partner) to ensure that he received credit against his existing child support liability, thus leaving himself unable to meet his legal child support responsibility," the magistrate wrote in his judgment



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