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Post #51989 by SP2 on February 10th 2015, 7:33 PM (in topic “SSAT hearing pending, guidance/ support needed - never done this before”)

SSAT hearing pending, guidance/ support needed - never done this before:

Thanks Mike.  

I requested the recording of the original phone call last week.  The first operator I spoke to didn't have a clue if or how this could be done.  So it took a couple of days but I found someone who could action my request and they have said it is now in the post to me.

It is already private collect for me, but CSA collect for her (due to past issues).  She has been very fair to me in all of this.  I have emails from her where she doesn't have any issue with me objecting the decision or proceeding to SSAT, however, she won't answer their calls or be a party to any of it.

I have gone back through my notes and expanded on them (now 9 pages worth).  There are so many errors in the objection reviewer's decision document, some were grossly inaccurate.  In one instance they say I had phoned and detailed the conversation.  I did not phone on this day, in fact the phone call was made a year earlier on the same day.  But because it was an earlier redundancy they have confused it with the most recent one.  So I've made comments against each of their items.

I've quoted section 60 of the act detailing my right to have made an estimate election on that day.  They accepted YTD earnings and recorded those in the system but they did not proceed to ask me for any of the other income components required to fulfill an income estimate election (all of which I had available at the time) because it was their view that "it wouldn't make any difference".  When it clearly has made a difference to me when the care suddenly changed and I went from payee to payer.  I've had a big read through the legislation.  I thought there would be a clause on if they are incompetent/ negligent but I can't find anything related to this.  So I guess I just base my argument on their failure to apply the legislation (section 60), denying me my right to lodge an estimate.

I'm very nervous about the hearing.  It will be a phone hearing they have advised, so less confronting for me I suppose.  

Because it is private collect, if I am successful at the SSAT (and post their decision) could I then apply for the compensation you have outlined.  Or must I express my intention to do this in the SSAT paperwork first?

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Post #51917 by SP2 on February 4th 2015, 1:03 AM (in topic “SSAT hearing pending, guidance/ support needed - never done this before”)

SSAT hearing pending, guidance/ support needed - never done this before:

Hi MikeT,  Thanks for your reply, I really appreciate it.

To answer your questions, I've not been done on capacity to earn.  They have acknowledged in the objection review/reply that my unemployment was legitimate and that I notified them straight away (they acknowledged the note about my unemployment in the system also).  At the time of my unemployment I was the payee (both girls in my care as they had been for 8+ years previous).  I already have the receipt number for the phone call where the note was made in the system, but not a recording of the phone call.  I will call them tomorrow and request it, thanks, I didn't realise that I could ask for it.

I'm disputing having an assessment for a period of time where I was unemployed, yet they have used a 2 year old, almost 6 figure income for me.  It was only a short period and has been rectified moving forward, but I can't afford to pay it and aside from that I don't feel I should have to.  I was unemployed and had informed them of this two weeks earlier, so the assessment was not a true reflection of the situation.

The objection was rejected on the grounds that I did not satisfy the requirements of making an income estimate on the day I called them to say I was unemployed.  Which by the legislation I agree they are correct, I did not make an estimate on that day.  However, I tried to numerous times during the phone call.  My whole reason for calling them on that day was to tell them I was unemployed and to have an income estimate registered.  I was transferred to the estimates teams to make the estimate.  The person I spoke with refused to let me make an estimate because she believed that as I was the payee it wouldn't change anything.  I argued (if you can call it that … I'm not a fighter so I protested as best I could) but she wouldn't let up and let me register an estimate.  So as a last resort I asked for in the very least that a note be made about my unemployment, which she did.  So I objected because the only reason an estimate was not made on that day was because they wouldn't allow me to make an estimate, which then resulted in me being assessed to pay child support on an almost 6 figure income when I was still unemployed, a couple of weeks later when my eldest dropped the bombshell that she was leaving.  I didn't know any of this had happened until mid September when they sent all the paperwork out.

So I'm not too sure how this is going to go at the SSAT because by the legislation, I didn't make an estimate on that day, I'm not disputing that.  But I feel like I was refused the opportunity to make an estimate/ coerced because I was the payee at the time. Do you think they will even give any consideration to my attempts to make an estimate?  Or at the SSAT stage is it black and white, legislation wise (therefore, I haven't a leg to stand on)?  Also, it says to supply the SSAT with any other information prior to 14 days before the SSAT hearing.  Do you think I should give them a copy of my bullet points?  They are all factual only and reference the objection review decision comments which I am disputing.  Or is this something I only bring up at the hearing?

In regards to them using a two year old income… I always complete my tax return at the turn over of the financial year.  The accountant submitted my 2013/14 return to the ATO on the 10th July 2014.  So whilst the above was all happening, they acknowledged that they had my previous years income in their system already which was much much less than two years previous.  However, even though they had it they said that legislation dictates that they can't apply it until 1st August.  So I'm stuck with them assessing me on a two year old income for a period of time I was unemployed.  If it had of been the previous years income, the situation wouldn't be so bad.  I understand that their hands are tied in regards to this, not that I agree with it at all, since they had my most recent taxable income figure in front of them.

Prior to lodging the objection, I was told by CSA I could put in a change of assessment but that it would be thrown out because the period was too short to bother them with it.  In another phone call with the CSA was when they told me I could lodge an objection which I did and it was rejected.

In terms of them excluding a relevant child in the assessment (I lodged a separate objection for this) but it was for the same period of time as the above objection (ie. I was unemployed, assessed at near on 6 figures and my youngest daughter that was in my sole care disappeared out of the CSA's system completely) so it all compounded and resulted in an assessment where I had to pay more money per day than what I earn a day even now (which is why I can't afford to pay it now).  I received a letter late today withdrawing the second objection but they have now added her back into the assessment.  I am completely shocked that I had to lodge an objection to have this rectified and that they wouldn't fix it over the phone.  How on earth do they lose a child that has been in the system for so long and who's care has not changed at all in well over 8 years (still in my sole care today).  Apparently what happened was that when my eldest daughter left they reversed the child support case without checking if other kids were involved so the reverse case overwrote the previous case where there were two children.

Thanks kindly for those links I will have a read of them now.  The thing that makes this even more frustrating is that my ex-partner agrees that it is unfair and is more than happy for it to be changed to reflect my actual situation.  I told CSA about this, but they said they don't care, the assessment is the assessment regardless if she agreed it should be changed.  They added, don't bother trying to submit an agreement for that period since the agreement can't be less than their (ridiculous) assessment.  So the other party has no interest in contesting my objection/ SSAT case.  Should I include her emails in the paperwork to SSAT or will they not even look at them?  Cheers, SP2

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Post #51914 by SP2 on February 3rd 2015, 7:03 PM (in topic “SSAT hearing pending, guidance/ support needed - never done this before”)

SSAT hearing pending, guidance/ support needed - never done this before

Hi guys,

I guess I'm just chasing some advice/ support/ guidance.  I have an SSAT hearing pending and I've never done this before.  

Bit of background… I am father to two girls and I was sole carer to both of them for well over 8 years (shared care prior to that following separation with their mother).  To summarise, after our separation their mother went on to have 3 more kids to 2 more different fathers (separated from all of them now, she left the 3rd child with his father also).  My girls and the 3rd child were also abused in her care about 7 years back now and she has shown no interest in maintaining a relationship with them ever since.  She has lied about the abuse ever since it happened and said that my eldest was a liar (not true).  So it was a massive shock when my eldest left to live with her, but I don't blame her, her hand was forced as she is only trying to create a relationship that her mother never bothered to.  In her mothers words, "if you want a relationship with me, you have to come to me".  So without any warning, my eldest daughter turned 13 and within two weeks left to live with her absent mother.  

In the two years prior to my eldest daughter leaving I suffered a number of redundancies and were pretty much only able to get casual work.  Their mother has had that many other multi-cases that I never received much in the way of support from her for our two girls.  I also have a degenerative back defect that will floor me within the next 10 years.  Have had a few scary ambulance rides, not a great outcome when you just find a new job.  But basically, my job prospects are pretty bleak at best, my line of work doesn't gel well with back issues, but still I want to work as much as I physically can.  In the year prior to my daughter leaving I had a drastic income drop due to a combination of redundancies and back hospitalisation, but my girls and I made do.  My income a couple of years prior to that though was fairly decent nearing 6 figures (they were good times and much better health), but it's been a thing of the past for a couple of years now.

As payee I have always phoned the CSA if there was a change in my circumstance, even though it makes no difference to her minimum payment.  They were aware of all of the redundancies over the past two years and each time I started a new job etc.  In May 2014 I luckily picked up a casual fill in job while another bloke was off on compo as he'd smashed his knee up real bad.  It was only a few weeks work (nearly destroyed my back, but I was desperate).  When it finished up I called CSA to say I was out of work again.  They transferred me to the estimates team where I wanted to make an estimate.  I was told that there was no point because I was the payee and it would make no change to the assessment, I said but it says on all the brochures and letters to advise you if my situation changes, which it has.  Whether I'm payee or payer I thought it was the same rules?  The person further argued why not to make an estimate.  As a result I was not asked for any of my income information, pending final payments etc.  I was getting tired of arguing so as a last resort I at least asked if a note could be made in the system of my unemployment which they did.  

About two weeks later out of the blue my eldest daughter dropped the bombshell that she was leaving, my youngest daughter who is very close in age to her and I never saw it coming and are still trying to come to terms with it now.  Since I'd been the payee for 8+years I had no idea what that would mean other than that I would be rightly paying support for my eldest daughter living at her mothers.  My youngest daughter (also my ex's) remained with me.  This all happened in mid to late July.  Not long after she left, I got a new casual job and rang CSA.  This time they took an income estimate (presumably because I was the payer now??).  I had low hours to start with but within a month it increased to an amount that will feed my daughter and I (about $26k pa), not ideal, but I'm not in a position to be fussy and am still on the look out for a second job.  Every time I got more hours I called and told CSA.

In September, two months after my daughter left I received a stack of paperwork and assessments.  I nearly had a heart attack when I read it.  I had thought it was all ok as two months had passed.  For the first week she was gone they were firstly completely excluding her sister who lived with me (completely left out a relevant child who had never left my care for 8+ years) and secondly I was assessed to pay based on a two year old taxable income of nearly 6 figures for a period of time when I was unemployed.  I called CSA and they said there was nothing they could do about either issue and I had to lodge an objection, which I did two separate ones.  The results of the first objection (unemployment) were that legislation was on the CSA's side (which I completely agree it was).  They acknowledge that I was unemployed and advised them of this when I was the payee and they acknowledge the note in the system, but it's all based upon the fact that in my calls to them "I did not make an estimate on this day".  They also acknowledge that they had already received my previous financial years income and knew how low it was (no where near 6 figures like 2 years earlier), but even though they had it, due to legislation it couldn't be applied until August or something so they would be assessing me at almost 6 figures while I was unemployed.

I feel completely cheated by the system.  I try to take emotion out of it because at the end of the day I know I'm a good dad, I've always done the right thing by my girls and I'm still heartbroken my eldest left.  But I cannot afford to pay that amount of child support without starving myself and my other daughter.  I was also assessed at the fixed rate when I started my new job even though I was genuinely receiving a low income because I was on probation.  Apparently they do this because I was not earning enough in that period yet I wasn't on income support (how could I be on income support? Isn't that for stay at home parents of young children, my kids are teen/preteen and I had a job so I wasn't entitled to income support?).  

I'm just really disheartened by the whole thing.  If anyone can offer some guidance for the SSAT I would be so appreciative of it.  I firmly believe that I was coerced into not making an estimate on that day.  I rang to make an estimate, was transferred to the estimates team, they refused because I was the payee, I forced the issue and got nowhere so at least had the note made in the system.  I've prepared a page of notes, bullet points to dispute statements made by the assessor of the objection, and I've stuck to facts only, no emotions (eg. where they've said I "did not provide income information" I've said "I was not given any opportunity to provide income information, it was not requested from me").  Will this cut it?  Will they even consider my side?  Or am I wasting my time?  Cheers, SP2.

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