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Thu 2nd April 2015

How to have a working Child Support system.

Filed under: Child Support — Vman @ 5:14 pm

I have been on both sides of the NZ child support system. It is a system that has completely failed by any useful measure. It is an income tax on some people based on their marital status which has nothing to do with supporting children.

However the problems with it run much deeper than that. Most importantly, it is a completely failed system by any objective measure. Successive attempts to keep the system working have only seen it side further into failure.
Imagine any other tax system that was such a complete failure as NZ child support! The legislation would be scrapped within weeks. I am in fact amazed the entire system hasn’t already collapsed under it’s own weight of failure.

I have given this a lot of thought and realised our failed system comes from failing to comprehend the fundamental nature of parenting.

The entire basis of the NZ child support system is fundamentally flawed.
We need to move away from the current system – designed to re-distribute wealth – to a system that allows parents to make their own parenting decisions.

We need to consider that most parents respond positively to being treated positively as parents.

The current system is by any measure a complete failure. The most recent changes are yet another tinkering with the same fundamentally flawed system. We need to be realistic and have a system in place that actually works rather than one based on ideology. We need to stop trying to fit a system into some people’s idea of “fair” when the current system is plainly quite unfair to many and more importantly, is a total failure.

In particular we need to create incentives for parents to share the care of their children, wherever possible. And where not, to at least empower them to have some influence on their children’s lives.
Removing or diminishing parents power to influence their children’s lives results in poor outcomes for most children. Worse than that it promotes a negative spiral for future generations. It removes or diminishes incentives to take a positive attitude to supporting children and creates incentives to make less than ideal parenting choices. Children experience these poor choices and hence have a less than ideal experience of parenting to pass on to the next generation.

We can have a workable system, if we are prepared to be realistic about what is workable and if we treat all parents as parents with the power to make parenting decisions. The difficult task is that we have to place this outcome above an ideology. Something that will require political backbone.

First we need to accept that in reality there are 2 parts to supporting any child.

Part A.
First there are the very basic necessities that are not already provided by the state.
This first part needs to be split between separated parents. For example, one of the biggest costs is housing. Even if the child is only with one parent a few weeks out of the year, this housing has to be provided for the child in both households. Whereas in that situation the food bill is obviously going to be worn mostly by one parent. In other cases the care and hence basic costs are shared more or less evenly regardless of other circumstances in the household.

This first part should be the compulsory part. These are the costs of very basic needs of the child. This basic cost should be split by some variable percentage depending on how the care is divided between the two households.

This compulsory part, is not intended to be a lot of money. It is not intended to refund the state for whatever policies the government of the day has implemented. It is not intended to be some “fair” redistribution of wealth. It is simply there as a backstop to ensure the child gets the basics not already provided by the state.

Part B.
The second part is a voluntary part.
In this part we have to acknowledge that parents make parenting decisions, every minute of every day. Sometimes they make parenting decisions that are not ideal for the child. Often these decisions are entirely debatable. Who is to be judge and jury of every parent’s every decision? Let the perfect parent cast the first stone. Parents certainly need flexibility to deal with everyone’s ever changing life situations. The child is affected by both good and poor parenting decisions. That is the very definition of parenting.

The state has proven throughout history to be the worst parent of all. We have to dump this idea that the state can make a parenting rule for all and then expect good outcomes for most. It simply doesn’t happen. All we can expect from the state is a backstop to prevent the worst of outcomes. We are kidding ourselves if we think the state’s forced intervention can do more than that.

Hence the amount paid in the voluntary part – part B maybe a suggested amount based on some formula. However it must be entirely voluntary to allow each parent to make their own parenting decisions. Good or bad.

It must also be noted that the overwhelming evidence is that: the more both parents are actively involved in raising the child and making parenting decisions, the more likely they are to pay for all those extras for the child. Hence if we really want to share the costs of child raising then we need to give parents every incentive to share the day to day care of children.

There will be some parents who object to this voluntary part. They may genuinely have a case that one parent only pays the compulsory part for the basics and also has no interest in being involved with the child. This is unfortunate for the child. However we need to acknowledge that it is not the state’s job to resolve people’s relationship issues, poor lifestyle choices, or less than ideal parenting decisions. The state certainly can’t resolve these issues by attempting to transfer wealth for everyone who lives in different households with all sorts of family arrangements. That simply creates more problems than it attempts to resolve.

Further more, forcing one parent to distribute wealth to another parent does not mean that money will be spent on the child. It is virtually impossible to ensure that discretionary money will be spent on the child. The current system makes absolutely no attempt to do so, even allowing the payments to be forced directly to some other use. The state simply can’t force people to make “ideal” parenting decisions. Only parents can do that.

Both of the situations above simply reinforce that it is impossible for the state to set an ‘ideal’ or ‘fair’ level of child support beyond the basics. It can make suggestions based on it’s own ideology or policies of the day but the state must leave that decision up to parents.

The state does not prescribe how much a married couple must pay for their children. We would agree that was absurd. Likewise the state has no business and is not able to prescribe how much a separated couple must pay for their children – expect to define the absolute minimum. We have to accept this or we will never have a system that actually works.

The law is not there to make sure your domestic life is absolutely “fair”. The state simply can’t do that. The state can only provide for the children receiving the basics. The state can only try prevent the worst outcomes – and often fails to even do that much. Anything else is a parenting decision.

You have to choose wisely if you want the other parent to always make good parenting decisions. If you choose poorly or the other person changes, that is unfortunate but it is not something the state has the power to resolve for you.

In addition there will be some who say it is not the tax payers role to pay for people’s children when they separate. This may or may not be a reasonable position. The problem with it, is 3 fold.
Firstly in practice the money collected goes into general government coffers – not directly to fund a particular policy.

The second problem is that if one group of tax payers should have to fund specific government social policies then shouldn’t that apply to all? What is happening is that some tax payers who are seperated have to pay extra money to the state in extra taxes. Why discriminate against them based on their martial status to fund one particular government policy that they may not even agree with? Where does that end? For example: Why should companies have to pay higher income tax to fund policies that don’t benefit their workers, or their business when a company can’t even vote? The list could go on and on.

The biggest problem with this is more practical. Most parents don’t object to funding the basic care of their children. However if that money does not go directly to their children but rather into general government coffers then they do object to this since it then has no relation to parenting. This is not a normal government funding issue. Anything that relates to a parent’s children is likely going to generate strong emotions. The net result is a negative reaction by the paying parent and no tangible benefit to the child. This works against having a functional system and undermines it’s intention. Ultimately this becomes counter productive for even the tax payer.

Either we have government social policies for single parents or we don’t. However forcing only one segment of tax payers to pay extra tax towards this particular and very personal intrusion into their lives is counter productive. It ends up costing tax payers as much or more than what is gained. There are more constructive ways to raise government revenue for social policies that the government may wish to fund.

The good news is that most parents are willing to provide for their children. The more they are involved in the child’s life, the more likely they will provide well for their children. Forcing them to make a wealth distribution works against their ability to exercise parenting decisions and is counter productive to most children.

The state can suggest a figure for the voluntary part B of child support but it is up to the paying parent how or even if they make that payment.

For some totally unexplained, irrational reason we think the state can write a formula or a book on the ideal way to fund parenting for all separated couples. Nothing could be further from the reality. The only model that has ever worked is for individual adults to make individual parenting decisions for the particular needs of their individual children within the context of everybody’s constantly changing situation.

The solution is to have Part A – compulsory only the very basics divided by carers and Part B – voluntary to highlight the fact that children have other needs, desires and interests that need to be determined and funded as a voluntary parenting choice.

If we had such an approach at least we would have a working system and we are far more likely to have positive outcomes for children in the long run.

28 Responses to “How to have a working Child Support system.”

  1. A dad says:

    Make 50/50 care arrangements the default situation for separating parents, then there will be NO need for child support.

    Imagine a situation where most kids with seperated parents see there parents equally. Each parent can then decide to work part time, full time or not at all; it only affects their household, not someone else’s as well.

    If a parent does not want 50/50 then they will pay child support. One that considers what is fair and not based on income. And regardless of whether the receiving parent is on benefit or not, the money goes to THEM and NOT the government like it currently does. The same for any penalties applied for late payment. If you don’t pay a reasonable penalty is applied and that is passed onto the receiving parent since they are the one who should be compensated NOT the government.

    It might help to setup a new agency to promote 50/50 arrangements and administer the cases where it’s not. IRD is definitely not the agency that should be anywhere near child support.

    There, I’ve simplified the system.

  2. Man X Norton says:

    Ah yes, 50/50 care. But then women won’t be able to rely on the men they ditch for years of money to support their lifestyles. Feminist governments will never go for that.

  3. goose says:

    I would def agree to this, so would alot of other fathers, 50/50 care as a minimum, then you have a personal choice if you can uphold this or not.

    50/50 care can be achieved for parents that live in other towns or cities by either a 6month / 6month or 12month / 12month arrangement if they live in different towns. if they live in the same towns its fairly easy to juggle school hours or daycare hours if you work full time, reduce down to 30hours per week, work from home, most employers are more than happy to accommodate for parents

  4. The Logical Song says:

    anything other than 50/50 care is child abuse and kidnapping.

  5. Allan Harvey says:

    Hi Vman and others,

    I suspect that Bill English and others in government consider Child Support works quite well. To them it’s primary purpose is benefit recovery! How else do you explain section 9 of the Act requiring beneficiaries to apply?
    Unless you address this issue then your proposals will not gain any traction with policy makers.

    You can argue that benefits are a social security matter and as such should be part of all taxation. Under that argument we all as taxpayers share this expense and CS paying parents pay twice. Personally I think this argument is not winnable politically and I have never used it.

    I do accept that parents should be responsible for the financial care of their children. However what I have never understood is how WINZ can provide between $99.34 to $106.54 a week for the additional benefit to care for a child and yet IRD’s formula for the cost of caring for a child is much higher. When people separate the “clean” break situation is better for everyone and each adults cost of care should be their own individual responsibility.

  6. MurrayBacon says:

    Dear The Logical Song,

    quarter of a century ago, when I was trying to deal with familycaught$, I would have thought that most fathers would have been happy with 50/50 shared care. I certainly would have been.

    However, since then, I have spent many hours listening to a large number of men and women discuss their parenting and familycaught$ situations, at North Shore Men’s Centre. To my great surprise, I learned that many were very happy to just have every second weekend or similar. To my horror, I saw that quite a few didn’t even want that much!

    However, in its dullness, it seemed that most fathers were forced to accept the every second weekend, unless the mother agreed to allow the father more access. What a waste!

    So, I try to campaign for a negotiating environment that protects children’s equal access to both parents and encourages mothers and fathers to go as close as possible to 50/50, by good faith, honest negotiation.

    Being practical, many men and sometimes quite a few women are not willing or “unable” to have 50% care of their own children.

    I don’t see any single “rule” working well for all children and all parents.

    Surely, to get the best from life, we have to respond sensibly to our individual situations, rather than working by a single “rule”. I don’t see any point in me trying to force 50/50 onto parents who feel that some different arrangement suits them better, at this point in time.

    I guess I would favour some degree of pressure, where one parent has had much less than 50% care, that in the future they should be pressured to bring the total balance back to closer to 50/50. This allows for individual situations, but the children’s interest to have a significant relationship with both parents should be protected.

    Of course, this would apply where one parent denied access, then later the other parent should be given a full opportunity to bring the balance back toward 50/50.

    Having said that, the dumbest thing of all, is to restrict children’s access to father, to protect the mother’s “best” financial deal from child [and spousal] support! I certainly don’t see that as serving the children’s best interests. How could anyone ever be stupid enough to think that?

    Reading NZ’s legislation and using common sense (the rarest stuff on Earth), I would see the familycaught$ role to incentivise good faith, honest negotiations between parents. If one or both parents was dishonest, manipulative or destructive toward the other parent, then I see the familycaught$ role to apply discipline and to put wasted costs back onto the party that caused them.

    Once parents see that good discipline is maintained, miraculously stupid games just don’t seem to happen. (I think this is why the familycaught$ judges do the opposite. It is by fomenting relationship vandalism, dispute, mistrust and manipulation that they maintain their own gravy train!)

    Best wishes,
    MurrayBacon.

  7. Joseph says:

    A few simple calculations will show that Child Support is a massive wealth transfer from men to women.

    There are about 110,000 single parents of which 85 % are mothers as custodial parents. This means there are 93,500 custodial parents receiving on average $ 23,000. This means 93,500 x $ 23,000 = 2.1 Billion dollars of wealth transfer by the State, to support women raising children at tax payer expense. The average man pays about 20 % child support, which is therefore $ 400,000,000.

    However, about 80 % of tax is paid by men, because they work in fulltime paid employment at a ratio of 1.5 to 1, and work far longer hours than women, so in fact, there is a transfer of about 2 billion dollars from men to women.

    Once you release the scale of the wealth transfer, then you can understand the fierce opposition to any meaningful change. Vested interest will prevail, which includes lawyers an judges who are making a killing from this feast.

    Anyone who would like to correct these rough figures, please feel free to do so.

    Anyone who thinks this current of wealth is going going to change anytime soon, think again.

  8. Doug says:

    Good calculations Joseph. I wonder what proportion of that amount never makes it to the children and is kept by the state, must be a huge amount even excluding penalties. No wonder the state don’t want anything meaningful to change. The custodials in these cases might not get any cash but they get their nasty little revenge. No wonder the custodials don’t want anything meaningful to change.
    Meanwhile real lives are being ruined. Way to go NZ!

  9. Downunder says:

    When you look at the above article alongside this one how many people are now making lifestyle decisions based on state interference and governance of a person’s financial affairs.

    It was previously leave the country and get away from it; now we have citizens changing job, declaring bankruptcy to avoid the State, and refusing to enter relationships because of the financial risk.

    So much for the land of milk and honey – it goes a bit sour after you’ve been milked by your honey!

  10. tracey says:

    Too tired
    You advocate this way of avoiding or reducing your obligations.Interesting.So how many couples raising children in NZ have lots of spare cash.I suspect not many.It’s a costly business raising children regardless of if you live with them or not.The attitude that you should avoid contributing in a meaningful way financially is sad.The custodial parent often has many obstacles against them to earning a good consistent income.Time off for caring for sick children,cost of childcare and after school care,extra curriculum activities,transport,school fees an material s…
    the list is endless.The more the non custodial parent pays the more likelihood that the custodial parent can go to work and become not so dependent on the enforced generosity of the general taxpayer.This must be a good thing I would think?
    In the end the child/ children grow up and child support payments will end.The relationship with the child/ children will hopefully continue.Best that this avoidance of paying support to them doesn’t become a long standing issue to create disharmony and other issues.

  11. too tired says:

    To Tracey,

    I don’t advocate this, I think it is great that it is being made public!, The system makes you make dumb choices and quitting a well paying job to take one paying half as much would never happen if the system was fairer.

    I advocate for the DownFall of this shit system!!!!!!!

    Stop steeling off workers, the money does not reach the kids! Tracey if you believe for a second that the current IRD rules makes anything better than you are mistaken. My ex has come to ask me to pay less!!! that’s right it seems that if I pay her too much they will take more benefit money off her than she can handle. Now does that sound like she is motivated to get a job? And if I refuse to play her game who suffers? My kids!

  12. JohnPotter says:

    Cameron Slater has just made a post on this over on Whaleoil: Fairfax joins in pimping dead beat dads

    We often write on this site about the anti-male agenda being driven by the feminist left-wing, but Slater and his commenters often display similar attitudes from the opposite side of the political fence:

    If it wasn’t bad enough that Simon Collins at the NZ Herald takes delight in pimping stories of dead beat dads, it no looks like Fairfax thinks it is a good idea too.

    These guys are scumbags of the highest order. They’d rather do almost anything than pay for the kids they have sired.

    What a bunch of useless half men.

    I mean who runs to the papers to tell the world they are a dead beat dad? Only blithering idiots.

    The media stopped pimping the poor and are now pimping deadbeat dads.

    If these blokes are looking for sympathy it is found in the dictionary somewhere between shit and syphilis.

    I don’t know why they think that taxpayers should pick up the tab for THEIR kids.

  13. tracey says:

    Too Tired
    If your ex wife is receiving a benefit she will not be receiving the Child Support you are paying.What you say makes no sense at all.

  14. too tired says:

    Tracey,

    You are obviously an idiot, if she was on the DPB she would recieve any money I pay above the money they gifted her, but you are right she isn’t on the DPB but she is in a Housing NZ house that is income based, recieves Child Tax Credits and Student Allowance, she told me herself she would lose the equivelent of $310 per week. She dosent work so it is all hand outs. Hopefully this clears things up. I dont advocate for not paying for your kids but I do advocate for the removal of the CHild Support System as I believe with all my being that it is EVIL!

  15. tracey says:

    Too tired
    I can see why you’re not with your wife.I am not an idiot …how rude! Read your post.You said your wife was on a benefit.
    If your wife was in the Dpb she certainly would not receive the Child Support you pay as this is used by govt to at least partly defray cost of dpb.
    If it was up to no custodial parents to voluntarily pay child support I believe matters regarding financial support of children would be in a far worse state.Yes people hate being forced to pay.Some people would always pay.Some would use the non payment as a threat,way to bully and manipulate…I could go on.You can’t say they wouldn’t do this because there is heaps of evidence on this site alone to prove this potential for this type of behavior and worse.In an ideal world where people really cared and took their responsibilit ird as seriously as they should and didn’t hate on their ex partners….didn’t have addiction to feed that they put before their children there would be no need to have a Child Support Agency.So go figure on that one! You are part of the reason this way of collecting support is in place.Welcome to your world.

  16. goose says:

    the new system is valuing children at different costs, for a child in my full time care i get a dependent subsidy of approx. $1400 a year. for a child NOT in my care, but I still have to pay contact costs + $2200 a year. this is what most blended families are complaining about. I have tried numerous times to setup a private agreement but each time she has refused, this way she can and does hold me to ransom, (i.e. if i don’t pay child support, she wont allow contact) – never ever has she missed out on a CS payment. she pleads her online that her son misses out, but guess what – he doesn’t! our son gets to have regular contact with his other siblings, family trips away, cellphone top’ups. She is jealous the CS payment is not a thousand-dollar a week payday to allow her to live like she would if she was with me. At anytime I have said to her if she is struggling and cant afford to support our son, I will take over being the CP but she doesnt want this as she thinks she will have to pay CS, but I dont care about CS. I will support our son like I do with my other boys without asking for any financial assistance from the government or the other parent.

  17. Mits says:

    Tracey, if Too tired’s ex was on the dpb she would be receiving his child tax as it would paying into the dpb which she would be receiving.
    As she is not
    Are the tax credits, student allowance and housing assistance not benefits?
    I see child tax as a way for the CP to threaten the NCP and bully and manipulate…. I could go on also.
    Some parents don’t pay or pay enough for their children even if they are both together so why do you think this should change if they are apart, and Im also sure there are cases of the adiction you always mention where the child tax is being diverted from the children to support the CP.
    Yes welcome to our world where we are made to pay with not one check or balance in place to even attempt to ensure that the child tax is spent on children
    Mits

  18. too tired says:

    Goose I have done the same thing, and have the same situation. I have excellent contact but only because I pay my Child Support, she has told me right form the beginning that if I didn’t there would be no contact. She lets me take them overseas for holidays but wont let them come live with me full time even though they are asking her and are much older now, when they hit 16 they will most likely just walk out. And then it will be up to me if I charge her the support or not.
    I still pay for extras all the time, Soccer boots, Braces, Clothes etc.
    She chooses to live on benefits and Handouts and it worries me that the kids see this. I just want to have my money to spend on them as I’m the one that earns it.
    She holds them ransom and captive and theres nothing I can do without making a huge mess.
    This system is wrong.

  19. goose says:

    Hi @too tired.. I think the cycle needs to end, it started with our generation – it has to end with our generation. We need to tell our children all the “what if’s” so they don’t get them self into the same situation we have. I was at a 21st the other day and saw an argument going on and the mother was swearing at the partner and saying that he is a drop kick and can never turn up on time, etc. The dad works approx 12 hours a day and lives / travels around auckland so expecting him to turn up at a specific time is really difficult. she is expecting him to be at her at all her 24/7 but doesn’t want to live with him, not really fair on anyone.

    it should be the same system that handles child support payments that organises contact agreements, if your demanding CS then it should be a right for the dad to have regular and easy contact with his children without any sort of ransom demands.

  20. too tired says:

    Too Right Goose,

    If they wont sort out who has what contact, give children a 50/50 care arrangement as standard operating procedure, and give the separated couple some time to come to an agreement before stealing money off people then they shouldn’t have a Child Support System. I for one would rather a system that let me pay the same amount into a fund for the children that paid for the things they needed. Refunded to me any over payments upon their turning 18. My daughter needs braces soon, that’s $6-8k according to her dentist. Well if I have to pay this support system I cant afford the braces, and I’m expected to just go get a loan and into more debt.
    My children will be well educated on this crap system before they settle down.

  21. Downunder says:

    Cameron Slater is as thick as he looks. Even two short planks don’t look that thick.

    Capitalises THEIR – was he trying to make a point?

  22. Hornet says:

    I have ample evidence now to support the horror that is child tax!!!

    http://frameblame.org/child-support-a-scam/

  23. MurrayBacon says:

    Costs to achieve slight improvement in fairness just too great
    Officials advised abandoning child support reforms

  24. hornet says:

    FAIRNESS is the Corner stone of Justice – for without FAIRNESS we can have no TRUST in a system and if there is NO TRUST then there is no Justice – to say there is a COST related to providing FAIRNESS is absurd – for if you put a cost on being FAIR = then you are saying FAIRNESS is then directly relevant to FINANCE and MONEY.

    In the last discussion I had with Child Support – they felt I should feel LUCKY I was paying less under the new rules – even if they could NOT and would not enforce contact orders !!!!! – my response to that was – they have MISSED the POINT entirely – its NOT ABOUT money – its about SEEING your OWN CHILD. Thats why most conflict escalates – parents are deliberately deprived time with their own kids.

  25. MurrayBacon says:

    Fairness: Oaths and Declarations Act 1957 18 Judicial oath

    The oath in this Act referred to as the judicial oath shall be in the form following, that is to say:
    I, [specify], swear that I will well and truly serve Her [or His] Majesty [specify as above], Her [or His] heirs and successors, according to law, in the office of [specify]; and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of New Zealand, without fear or favour, affection or ill will. So help me God.

    Please don’t take the legislation too seriously, you may do yourself some harm.
    Be pragmatic and learn what goes on in the real world. Make your real world plans accordingly.

  26. hornet says:

    PENALTIES TO BE WIPED for PARENTS – Finally some good news – this has to be a positive step in the right direction to help PARENTS move away from the previously draconian system of PUNISHMENT – I hope my recent complaints to the ombudsman have in some way influenced this common sense approach to this issue…….

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/budget-2015/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503822&objectid=11452710

    frameblame.org

    Now all we need is Fairness as to allocation of costs per child and improvement of access rights demonstrating Equality between mum and dad……

  27. MurrayBacon says:

    From our better half, our more life loving Australian cousins:
    (There is nothing new under the sun!)

    List of recommendations by Parliamentary Committee

    2 Child support in context

    Recommendation 1
    The Committee recommends the Australian Government take steps to
    collect comprehensive demographic information on all clients of the
    Child Support Program, and use that information to ensure that child
    support tools, practices and procedures are culturally and linguistically
    tailored for the range of Child Support Program clients.

    Recommendation 2
    The Committee recommends that the Australian Government make
    anonymised statistical information on the Child Support Program and its
    clients available so that the effects of the scheme may be better
    researched, evaluated and understood.

    Recommendation 3
    The Committee recommends that the Australian Government provide
    additional funding and training to Family Relationship Centres to assist
    separating or separated parents to negotiate child support arrangements,
    including:
     the use of mediation at the initial stages of new child support
    cases,
     the provision of financial counselling and training in the
    mediation process to assist people to understand and plan for their
    likely child support liability, especially those on variable incomes, and
     the strengthening of mediation agreements to include appropriate
    enforcement and review provisions.
    The Committee notes that mediation is not considered appropriate for
    families where domestic violence is present.

    Recommendation 4
    The Committee recommends that the Australian Government provide
    additional funding and training to Family Relationship Centres to trial
    the provision of mediation services in cases involving child support
    objections or change of assessment processes, where these are in dispute.
    The Committee notes that mediation is not considered appropriate for
    families where domestic violence is present.

    3 The program

    Recommendation 5
    In conducting a review of the child support formula, the Committee
    believes that the Australian Government should have regard to a range of
    guiding principles including the best interests of the child/ren involved,
    whether fair and amenable private shared parenting arrangements have
    been successfully entered into, and whether any family violence is
    present in the family dynamic.
    Taking into account the framing principles of the Child Support Program
    which aim to ensure that the system operates in the best interests of the
    child, the Committee recommends that the Australian Government
    review the Child Support Program to ensure the adequacy of calculated
    amounts and equity of the program for both payers and payees with
    respect to:
     the current self-support amount and indexation mechanisms;
     the cost of children table and indexation mechanisms;
     the use of gross income levels for child support payment
    calculations; and
     consideration of child support income management where there
    are substantiated allegations of child support payments not being
    adequately spent on the needs of the child.

    Recommendation 6
    The Committee recommends the Australian National Audit Office
    conduct a performance audit of the cooperation between the Australian
    Taxation Office and the Department of Human Services to address the
    non-lodgement of tax returns by clients of the Child Support Program.
    The recommendations of the audit should be incorporated into the next
    memorandum of understanding between the Australian Taxation Office
    and the Department of Human Services relating to this area of
    cooperation, negotiations of which should not commence until the audit
    has been presented in Parliament.

    Recommendation 7
    The Committee recommends the Australian Government amend current
    policy to ensure that the penalties applicable to the non-lodgement or
    late-lodgement of tax returns are enforced for all clients of the Child
    Support Program. The penalty should allow for defences where the
    individual has a reasonable excuse for non-lodgement, such as
    circumstances outside their control. Consideration should also be given
    to the annual indexation of the penalty. A working group comprising
    representatives of the Australian Taxation Office, the Department of
    Social Services and Department of Human Services should be established
    to recommend the size of the penalty.

    Recommendation 8
    The Committee recommends that the Australian Government amend
    legislation to enable a greater period of time before determining when to
    adjust the amount of child support payable in interim care
    determinations. The Committee considers that the current fourteen week
    period, after which Department of Human Services changes the child
    support payable to reflect the care taking place at that time, does not
    provide sufficient time for relevant legal proceedings to be completed or
    for prior agreed arrangements to be enforced by a court or for revised
    arrangements to be agreed upon. The best interests of the child must be
    paramount in any amendment made.

    Recommendation 9
    The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider
    international models for enforcing contact/parenting orders through the
    child support program and how these models may be applied to the
    Australian context. The Committee notes that where family violence is
    present, these models may not be appropriate.

    Recommendation 10
    The Committee notes that the intent of the “capacity to earn” criteria is to
    prevent payers deliberately avoiding their financial responsibilities in
    respect to shared parenting. However there are also genuine instances
    where a person’s earning capacity may decrease due to decreased market
    demand for certain skills, the need to retrain, health issues or other life
    changes. A greater degree of flexibility is required. The Committee
    therefore recommends the Australian Government review “capacity to
    earn” as a rationale for initiating Changes of Assessment under Reason 8.

    Recommendation 11
    The Committee recommends that the Australian Government seek to
    develop a clearer system for resolving disputes about the payment of
    school fees as Non-Agency Payments.
    Recommendation 12
    The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider
    matters pertaining to:
     the hurdle for courts to set aside Child Support Agreements made
    before 1 July 2008, and to set aside all Binding Child Support
    Agreements, and
     the amendment of section 56(2) of the Child Support (Assessment)
    Act 1989 to allow the Registrar to take into account amended tax
    assessments.

    4 The agency

    Recommendation 13
    The Committee recommends that the Australian Government institute an
    ongoing internal audit of the consistency of advice and decision-making
    by Child Support Program staff, with results published regularly and
    summaries provided in the Department of Human Services Annual
    Report.
    Recommendation 14
    The Committee recommends that the Australian Government introduce a
    Centrelink policy to actively ask all CSP clients with an FTB entitlement
    which FTB calculation method they wish to use, at least every six months,
    thereby reducing unintentional financial hardship.

    Recommendation 15
    The Committee recommends the Australian Government expedite the
    conclusion of the Department of Human Services videoconferencing trial,
    and prioritise the provision of videoconferencing services to all Child
    Support Program clients, for non-routine or significant Child Support
    Program processes.

    Recommendation 16
    The Committee recommends the Australian Government address the
    Child Support Program’s issues of complexity and proliferation in
    communications by seeking advice on how to incorporate insights from
    behavioural economics and best-practice in the communication of
    financial information.

    Recommendation 17
    The Committee recommends the Department of Human Services appoint
    dedicated and suitably trained ‘information officers’ in the Child Support
    Program to clearly explain how advice or a decision was arrived at in a
    particular case. Such officers:
     should be senior APS-level officers (APS 5-6),
     should be experts in child support legislation, policy and
    procedures,
     should proactively contact clients with a history of disputed
    decision making when any decision is made,
     should consult with individual decision makers as necessary to
    fully comprehend a case before contacting a client,
     should be able to explain any documentation created by the Child
    Support Program,
     should be provided with comprehensive interpreting facilities for
    culturally and linguistically diverse clients, and
     should not be tasked with collecting any information from clients.

    Recommendation 18
    The Committee recommends the Australian Government create a
    mechanism for Child Support Program clients to nominate preferred
    communication methods, including restriction to phone calls or letters, to
    ensure that communication by the Child Support Program does not cause
    harm.

    Recommendation 19
    The Committee recommends the Australian Government conduct
    ongoing statistical surveys of the rate of actual payment for Child
    Support Program clients using Private Collect, with results published
    regularly and summaries provided in the Department of Human Services
    annual report.

    Recommendation 20
    The Committee recommends the Australian National Audit Office
    conduct a performance audit of the Child Support Program’s Legal
    Enforcement service, including the extent of the Child Support Program’s
    public criteria for pursuing litigation.

    Recommendation 21
    The Committee recommends the Australian Government seek to amend
    the legislation governing Departure Prohibition Orders (DPOs) such that
    DPOs are only issued by a tribunal or court on the application of the
    Registrar and after providing an opportunity for the subject of the DPO
    to be heard. In cases of urgency, the Registrar should have a limited
    power to issue an interim DPO, for a non-renewable period of no more
    than 30 days. Whenever a DPO or interim DPO is considered in relation
    to a person who resides outside of Australia, the tribunal, court or
    Registrar must give special consideration to those circumstances

    Recommendation 22
    The Committee recommends that the Australian Government ensure
    equity in the collection of child support debts and of overpayments, in
    particular that the same flexibility that applies to the collection of
    overpayments is applied to the collection of debts, especially where the
    debts were unintended. In implementing this recommendation the
    Government should at all times take into account the best interests of the
    child.

    Recommendation 23
    The Committee recommends that the Australian Government respond to
    Australian Law Reform Commission Report 117 Family Violence and
    Commonwealth Laws – Improving Legal Frameworks as a priority.

    Recommendation 24
    The Committee recommends that the Australian Government recognise
    the importance of specialist response and support to separated families
    where family violence has been present. Accordingly, the Committee
    recommends the establishment of a dedicated family violence response
    unit within the Department of Human Services. This response unit
    should be responsible for ensuring that the safety and wellbeing of the
    child are paramount and should be tasked with:
     providing a one-stop point of contact for all enquiries and support
    services
     providing a means of intermediary communication between
    parties
     coordinating access to services across Australian Government
    Departments

    Recommendation 25
    The Committee recommends that the Australian Government:
     examine the social and economic impacts in other jurisdictions of a
    limited child support guarantee system,
     conduct modelling to assess if there is capacity to apply such a
    limited guarantee to the Australian context, and then
     consider the feasibility of conducting a trial of a limited guarantee
    for either vulnerable families or for a random sample of Child Support
    Program clients.
    ______________________________________________________________________________

    The Australian recommendations appear to be a much more detailed version of similar proposals that have been made (and ignored by Government in NZ), by people ranging from Bruce Tichbon 15 years ago, to more recently Mark Shipman and myself.

    Many of the recommendations would have considerable cost to implement, as they require an intense programme of research.

    At present, we are incurring far, far greater social costs to the quality of upbringing of our children, through vandalised relationships of our children.

    Actually, the research is the long term cheaper and nicer option. The longer we delay, the deeper our children sink into the social quagmire.

    But the paramount interest seems to be short term money, basically other people’s money…..

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