Child Support – What Is It?

In an ideal world, separating parents would calculate the needs of their children and agree on how, now and into the future, to co-parent and finance the childrens’ shelter, clothing, food, education and anything else required to give the kids a good start in life. Obviously in many cases of separation, the communication between parents is not sufficiently calm or reasonable to agree on such important decisions.

Enter “Child Support” – a Government service intended to play the role of ensuring the kids’ futures are taken care of. It makes perfect sense such a scheme should exist, to most people. You should both care for and provide for your kids. You have a right to help them grow, and a responsibility to enable them to do so.

In Australia, the Child Support legislation was enacted at a very different time (the late 80’s to be exact). Some reforms were made to the legislation in 2006-2008 (changing the way they calculate and collect child support payments). Some feedback from those with a vested interest in Child Support remaining confusing and above the law have provided feedback those reforms have been a positive step. Many “customers” on the other hand, question how anyone could have designed a scheme so prone to mistakes and encouraging fraudulent behaviour by both providers and receivers of Child Support. A summary of the changes from those old reforms appears here.

Child Support are constantly under fire for operating above the law. Their agency tasked with collecting payments has been accused of misapplying and confusing the application of the 2 Acts that govern their operations. Examples of extreme and illogical punitive behaviour have appeared in the media (such as spending $600,000 in legal fees to retrieve a $6,000 debt).

The Government saw reason to conduct a Parliamentary Inquiry into Child Support operations. The results were tabled in July 2015, giving the Government and Child Support operations six months to respond.  Nothing has happened since.

The following resources offer a reasonably clear outline of Child Support (you’d be surprised how difficult this is to find!):

“Parents have a primary duty to financially provide for their children. A child support assessment works out the amount of money to be paid to the parent with primary care of the child by the other parent. Child support agreements can be worked out between the parents.”
– Fitzroy Legal Service Inc.

This site goes on to explain :

  • Child Support Scheme
  • Child Support Assessment and
  • Child Support Agreements.

    Read more here
    The site also covers How to Change Child Support

    “A change in circumstances may affect the amount of child support paid. Either parent can apply to the Department of Human Services (Child Support or CS) for a change of child support assessment or the department may initiate a change of assessment” including :

  • Tax Returns
  • Estimates
  • Change of Assessment
  • Errors
  • Objections
  • SSAT (note this is now defunct)
  • AAT (Administrative Appeals Tribunal)
  • Application to Court

Read more here