Reference source: Herald SunFiona Hudson
April 27, 2008 12:00am
SINGLE mother support groups are being flooded with furious calls from women facing a drop in child support payments as mortgage rates and petrol costs bite.
Many single mothers will receive between $10-$50 less each week from their former partner under a system shake-up.
The Child Support Agency has started sending revised payment assessments to 1.5 million parents ahead of reforms to take effect on July 1.
The changes will also affect some lone fathers who are primary carers.
Council of Single Mothers and their Children project worker Jess Permezel said women were getting a rude shock when they opened their assessments to discover they could be out of pocket from July 1.
Sole Parents Union president Kathleen Swinbourne saidNotifications issued so far showed many single parents looking after children would be worse off.
We're getting a lot of calls from women asking, 'How can this be?' Some payments have gone down so far, it's laughable,
The complex new child support payment formula takes into account the age of the children, the time each parent spends caring for a child, and whether there are other children from another relationship.
Jess Permezel saidChanges to the Family Tax Benefit scheme would help offset some of the reduced child support payments, but not completely
The Child Support Agency has fielded 85,000 phone calls so far from parents seeking clarification about their revised payments.
More than 50,000 of the assessments have been reissued because they were incorrect or didn't take into account the right information.
At least 43 parents have lodged formal legal complaints with many more expected to follow.
Family law specialist Melissa Cantwell, of Hogg and Reid saidI have advised clients who will be as much as $1000-a-month worse off under the changes.
People are receiving the letters and saying, 'Oh my God'.
I think we are in for a very busy period.
Law Institute of Victoria family law section chairman David Schetzer saidFor every client who was furious, another was thrilled.
A lot of people are pleased and an equal number are not pleased
Lone Father's Association president Barry Williams saidMost men would be better off under the new system.
But the group had received many calls from men complaining their assessment was wrong. Teething problems are causing a lot of headaches.
Child Support Agency deputy general manager Samantha Palmer encouraged parents to check their new assessments as soon as they arrived and to contact the agency immediately with any queries or concerns.
Child support lawyer Simon Bacon, of Manby & Scott saidIn an unusual case one of his clients faced losing her house because she would pay more under the new system.
The woman brought up her son alone until he was 13 and didn't receive maintenance.
The son recently moved interstate with his father and the woman would have to pay $397 a month under the new system.
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