Men's Rights Agency ~ Child Support

CSA Update: Wednesday 24th September, 1997.

The following proposals have been accepted in principal by Cabinet, but at yesterday's party room meeting many MP's expressed their discontent. As there was insufficient time for further discussion another meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow morning.
NOTE: Partyroom meeting postponed from 25/9/97 to Tuesday 30/9/97 to give Ministers time to consider their position!!!!

At this meeting the group of back-benchers who have been pushing for reforms hope to encourage more positive recommendations, including tax deductibility of CS payments; to not include overtime payments in income assessment, allowing a reduction in CS for any time the children spend with the paying parent and the introduction of a card system to be used for purchases relating to the children. (A monthly account showing where the money had been spent would then be forwarded to the non-custodial parent.) Costs to introduce this card scheme could prevent its implementation, but a more positive result is expected on the first three issues.

Recommendations as at 24/9/97

Fair for Payees

$260 Minimum Payment

The Minimum child support liability for all payers (including those receiving income support) will be $5 per week ($260 a year)

Broaden Income Base

Net rental property losses and exempt foreign income will be 'added back' to the parent's taxable income used to determine child support liability. This is more consistent with Department of Social Security policy for determining income for Family Payment.

Family Violence

The Child Support Agency will introduce case management to assist parents at risk of family violence to commence or continue child support collection wherever possible, and will amend their legislation to allow for parents to end assessment or collection where family violence is proven.

Family violence cases will be reviewed by Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency Social Workers to ensure that customers no longer at risk of family violence have the opportunity to obtain child support.

Fair for Payers

Increase Exempt Income

The self support component of the payer income (exempted from child support formula calculation) will be increased by 10%. For example in 1997 - 98 the self-support component for a single payer would increase from $9006 to $9907 a year.

Lower Payee's Disregard, Allow for Childcare Costs

It will now take less payee income to reduce a payer's child support liability. The payee 'disregarded income' threshold will now be pegged to a different measure of AWE - and consequently the level will be reduced, for example, in 1997-98 from $37,424 (plus child care add-ons) to $29,598 (with no fixed child care add-ons, but payees may seek reassessment where they actually incur high child care costs). To ensure these changes arte not unfair for payees and payers the withdrawal rate of payer income above this new disregard level will be halved

Deduct 50% Child Support Paid from Family Payment Income

Payers with second families will now be able to claim 50% of any child support paid as a deduction from the household income used for determining the family's entitlement to family Payment and Childcare Assistance.

Fair for All

Revise Objectives for Child support Scheme

The objectives of the Child Support Scheme will be revised to recognise that both parents are responsible for the support of their children and that Government involvement should be minimised.

Increase Exempt Income for Shared Care

The exempt income amount for each parent with shared care of a child will be increased by adding additional amounts in the child support formula for each shared care child.

Treatment of Arrears Payments

The Family Payment maintenance income test will be applied to child support arrears received with the first payment of regular child support (other arrears payments are already income tested).

Treatment of Non-Agency Payments

The Family Payment maintenance income test will be applied to payments (commonly referred to as non-Agency payments) that have been made directly to payees by liable parents who normally deal through the Child support Agency. This will help ensure that all child support payments arte treated in the same way under the Family Payment maintenance income test.

Require Private Collection

This initiative will allow parents to move from Child Support Agency collection to private collection by agreement at any time. Some parents will also be required to undertake private collection once the Registrar is satisfied that regular payments will continue.

Use Most Recent Taxable Income Assessment

The most current available taxable income will be used in a child support assessment and the assessment will be updated immediately a more current income becomes available.

Reduce Duplication CSA/CSDA

Administrative procedures between the Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency and the Child Support Agency will be streamlined to reduce the time it takes to register and therefore collect and pay the first payment of child support.

The start date of liability will be amended to be the date of lodgement of an application for assessment rather than backdating by up to 28 days as at present.

Registration will be further improved by enabling one application process for customers applying for child support at the same time as applying for Family Payment, rather than the current double handling of forms and keying of data by both agencies.

Disbursement to CSA

Payments collected by the Child Support Agency will be transferred direct to payees instead of through the Social Security System.

Child Support customers will be given a wider range of options for receiving their payment in the future, including electronic transfer of funds.

Objection and Appeal Rights

A range of decisions made under the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 which are now only reviewable by the Family Court will be subject to an internal Child Support Agency review mechanism.

Variations to Assessments

The process for parents' applications to depart from an administrative assessment will be enhanced to enable the assessments to more accurately reflect a parent's capacity to pay.

Simplification of Legislation

The Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 and the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 will be amended so that they are integrated, consistent provide for appropriate flexibility and able to be more easily understood by the legal profession, administrators and clients.

Better and Fairer Administration

New services will be introduced to assist parents to better understand and manage arrangements for their child support. These include Mediation, Self-Help Package, Education and Payer Support.

Other changes include amending Child Support legislation to reduce the administrative complexity of the Scheme, and improving the flexibility of the Scheme in dealing with parents' individual circumstances.

The Child Support (Assessment) Act will also be changed to provide more equity for parents in determining the amount of child support payable. End.

Remember - this is only at discussion stage. It does not mean that any or all of these recommendations will be adopted into proposed legislative changes.

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