AUGUST 12, 2015: A REPORT presented in Parliament House yesterday has recommended a number of changes to the Child Support Program to make the system fairer for both fathers and mothers and ultimately, the children caught up in relationship breakdowns.
I presented the report in my role as Social Policy Committee Chair, following an initial tabling last month.
‘From Conflict to Cooperation’ identifies a number of ways the Child Support Program can be improved to provide a fairer system to deal with complex and very personal circumstances when relationships break down.
We have recommended the government consider allowing paying parents keep more of their income by increasing the self-support amount that is used in the child support formula and we have also asked for consideration of child support income management where there are substantial allegations of payments not being spent on meeting the needs of the child.
Importantly, we have recommended that the government consider bringing in enforcement measures.
We have further asked the government to really restrict the ability of bureaucrats to arbitrarily determine that a person’s income should be higher than what they currently earn, as they can do in the current child support program.
The committee, which heard from close to 12,000 individuals and groups across the country, has also recommended that the Department of Human Services allow more time before adjusting the amount of child support payable when care arrangements changed due to a breach of court orders or parenting plans.
This is currently set at 14 weeks, but when the care situation changes because a parent breaches a court ordered custody arrangement, it doesn’t allow enough time for the other parent to begin court proceedings, let alone have those proceedings concluded.
A greater focus on mediation and improved communication with clients were also flagged, and there is a recommendation that a specialist family violence unit be created.
A full copy of the report, as well as a short summary of findings, can be found at www.aph.gov.au/childsupport