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How To Make A Fair And Workable System For Child Maintenance

Families Apart Require Equality (FARE) Family Law Bulletin January 2003 Page Three.

Author: Bruce Tichbon Contact details and information about FARE.

This Column Shows How Child Maintenance Should Be Done. This Column Shows How The Child Support Act Currently Works (and why it is so unfair)
Financial responsibility versus care of children The requirement for parents to be financially responsible for their children would be matched by a system that takes equivalent measures to protect the child and the parent's rights to frequent and ongoing contact with each other (ie shared parenting). The Child Support Act is a very powerful system that forcibly extracts money from liable parents. There is no equal system that protects the liable parent's right to be a loving parent and have a meaningful relationship with their child. In fact the Family Court mostly has the opposite effect.
Parental equality Biological parents would be treated as equals. It is neither necessary nor desirable to use different terms for parents in the same biological family, or to treat parents differently. The Child Support Act deliberately creates inequality between parents. It creates the terms 'eligible custodian' and a 'liable parent', and treats them very differently.
Assessing parents Both parents would be assessed for their income and commitments, and each would pay in proportion to their income and commitments. Only the liable parent is assessed and made to pay. The income of the custodial parent is ignored.
Amount to be paid The amount of child support to be paid would be directly related to the cost of supporting the child. This is something that people can clearly understand and relate to. The cost of supporting the child would be based on the incomes and commitments of both parents. Standard costs for supporting children would be published for all to see The amount of child support is based on the liable parent's 'capacity to pay'. It is virtually impossible to know what someone's 'capacity to pay' actually is, because the term is practically impossible to define.
Spousal maintenance and alimony Child support, spousal maintenance and/or alimony would be clearly and explicitly separated. If the liable parent has to pay alimony, the amount will be charged separately.
Child support and alimony are effectively bundled into the amount of child support paid (ie they are lumped together). Thus politicians and officials don't have to admit the liable parent is paying alimony, or how much they are paying. On top of this liable parents can be made to pay additional spousal maintenance and get less than half the matrimonial property under other Acts.
Custodial parent accountability The custodial parent would be made far more accountable to spend the maintenance money on the child, because everyone knows what the child is costing, and therefore can expect to see that amount of money spent on the child.
The custodial parent has no accountability for spending the maintenance money they receive on the child, because the Government does not acknowledge what the child should be costing.
Change in payments when custodian's circumstances change Because both parents' incomes would be assessed, the liable parent would pay proportionally less as the custodian earns more.
The government reduces its DPB payments as the custodial parent earns more money or re-partners. But the liable parent gets no such relief, and pays the same amount regardless of the custodian's income or circumstances.
Reduction in payments if child spends more time with liable parent The reduction in the amount paid would be proportional to the amount of time the child spends with a liable parent.
The liable parent gets no reduction in payments if the child spends more time with them, until a threshold of 40% of nights is reached (and very few liable parents are allowed to achieve this threshold). 
Anomalies in the Child Support formula  The simple approach of assessing both parents, and proper adjustment of the formula, would ensure anomalies in the amount allocated to children in different households are avoided.
There are huge anomalies in the Child Support Act formula. For instance a liable parent on a good income gets a tiny reduction in payments if they have a child living with them, but must pay many times more for a child not living with them. The formula was never properly tested.
Keeping liable parents in the work force The impact of child support payments on the employment incentives of liable parents would be acknowledged, analysed and adjusted so that liable parents are not forced from the work force.
The Child Support Act puts liable parents on such high tax rates that a high proportion of them have little option but to leave the work force.
Custodian to find work and contribute financially Within say 5 years, custodians would be expected to be employed and making a financial contribution to the support of the child
No requirement exists for the custodian to find work or help to improve the standard of living of the child.
Assumption of liability The Agency will commence discussions with a liable person as soon as they are named. Reasonable expenses incurred by any accused parent proving they are not liable will be refunded (as will maintenance payments that should not have been incurred).
If the custodian of a child names a person as a parent then they are automatically assumed to be liable. The burden is on the liable parent to prove they are not liable. 
Paternity Simple, inexpensive and legally binding paternity tests would be made readily available to any father who wants to test paternity for child support. It would be unnecessary to use the courts or lawyers except in exceptional circumstances.
The Child Support Agency avoids giving fathers a simple way to test paternity, and forces them to use the courts, effectively preventing most of them seeking a paternity test.
Affirmative Action The legal system and the Judiciary should never be used for clandestine affirmative action programs 
Equity is written into the Child Support Act, meaning it is deliberately being used for social engineering, to change the social and financial balance between mothers and fathers.

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